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How to Train a Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar

Weeping blue atlas cedar can readily be recognized in the landscape, with its blue-grey to blue-green needle-like foliage, matte appearance and fountain-like form. To keep the weeping form upright enough to be enjoyed and appreciated, early and sustained staking is required. According to the University of Alabama, the tree will grow at a maximum rate of 1 to 1 1/2 feet each year. Training and caring for a weeping blue atlas cedar can be a decades or life-long project.

Identify a central leader branch on a young blue atlas cedar, being sure to select the fattest and strongest of the verticals that is also relatively straight. The central leader has to be capable of supporting the weight of many lateral branches that will continue to multiply on the tree over time.

Insert a wooden timber stake alongside the central leader, making sure it is at least as tall as the leader. Keep the stake snug against the side of the leader to offer the most support. Secure the bottom of the stake in the soil.

Attach the stake along the height of the leader in three or more locations. Use flexible garden ties to make the connections. Don't use twine, wire or any stiff material, which could gouge or girdle the woody tissue over time.

Prune away the other vertical limbs that emerge from the soil. Leave any of the growth that emanates horizontally or laterally from the central leader in place. This begins to establish the basic T-shaped structure of the tree. Multiplying lateral branches will continue to develop near the top of the central leader over time, becoming a very top heavy T-shape. Eventually, the T-shape will be disguised by the weeping lateral branches that will drape down over and around the central leader.

Allow new branches to grow from the main lateral and do not trim them. Continue to remove new vertical growth that competes with the chosen leader. Replace the stake and ties with a longer stake and a few additional ties as the atlas cedar grows taller. Refresh the staking every year or two to make sure it is sturdy in the soil and properly supporting the tree leader.

Remove the stake only when or if the tree's trunk is wide and strong enough to support the tree in the trained position. This may take several decades, or staking may always be required.

Swap out the wooden stakes on established weeping cedars for metal rebar for a less conspicuous staking option or when multiple stakes are desired to prop up and spread out the weeping limbs as the tree ages. Heavy lateral limbs can be secured to the tips of the rebar verticals with garden ties, expanding the horizontal spread of the tree.

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