What Is a Dwarf Blue Atlas Cedar?
The blue Atlas cedar, Cedrus atlantica, is a large majestic tree native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco that will attain a height of more than 100 feet and spread of 30 feet. Generally speaking, any form of this tree that matures to a height less than 12 feet will be called a "dwarf." The term is relative, and any variety that does not grow to massive proportions may still be ambiguously called a dwarf blue Atlas cedar.
A dwarf blue Atlas cedar is an evergreen large shrub or small tree with short needles, to 1 inch in length, that may slightly curve. They are four-sided and colored an alluring blue-green or silvery blue. Thirty to 45 needles form each whorling rosette atop short spurs on the gray-barked branches.
As a conifer, this plant does not produce flowers, but rather makes cones. Mature plants produce erect, cylindrical male-gendered cones in autumn that are light brown in color and shed pollen. On other branches on the same plant, more oval or barrel-shaped female cones appear and receive the pollen. The green female cones then ripen over two years and become brown, then break apart to release the seeds to the ground below.
In general, a dwarf blue Atlas cedar grows well in USDA Hardiness zones 6 through 9, where the winters are not long or too cold. In western North America, where the Sunset Climate Zones are more popularly used, this species is well-suited in Zones 3b through 10 and 14 through 24. It does not fare well in gardens that are exposed to dry or cold winds.
Plant dwarf blue Atlas cedars in a full sun exposure, where they receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. A moist, deep soil is best, although it will tolerate dry, sandy soils once its roots are well-established. It tolerates moderate drought as well as loam and clay soil, again as long as it drains well and never is soggy.
Since this conifer species is slow-growing, dwarf selections remain under 12 feet in height for many years before reaching very old age maturity possibly over the 12-foot "dwarf conifer" threshold. Depending on the plant's genetics, that may take 20 or 100 years. The weeping culativar Glauca Pendula may be regarded as a dwarf even though it becomes very wide in old age. Also, Horstmann and Uwe are two varieties often regarded as dwarf blue Atlas cedar choices.
- "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants"; Editors Christopher Brickell and H. Marc Cathey; 2004
- North Forty News: Dwarf Conifers Can Solve Problems