The Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus Virginiana) is a member of the Cypress Famiily. It is a medium-sized evergreen that can grow to be 66-feet tall. The tree is noted for its pyramid shape, its fibrous and shedding brown to grayish bark and its green to blue-green long, needle-like leaves. The tree’s female cones ripen during the months of September and October and each cone will contain between 1 and 3 seeds. The seeds are round, brown and are generally between 2 and 4 mm in diameter.
Plan to collect seeds from Eastern Red Cedar trees in your area from September to early December. You can pick the fleshy cones, sometimes referred to as berries, directly from the trees or you can gather them by laying a tarp or blanket beneath the trees and shaking the tree branches vigorously so the cones fall.
Remove any debris such as leaves and twigs from your collection. You can do this by hand or by placing a fan on medium speed and allowing it to blow over your collection.
Mix one gallon of water and one teaspoon of lye together in a bucket. Place the cones into the lye solution and allow them to soak for two days. After two days, rinse the cones well with water. If they are still sticky, repeat the process until they are no longer sticky to the touch. When the cones are no longer sticky, place them in a single layer on newspaper and let them air dry for two to three days.
Rub the dried cones on a stiff piece of screen. This will separate the seeds from the pulp. Be advised that some pulp may remain on the seeds.
Place the seeds in a bucket of water and allow them to soak for 24 hours. Empty seeds that are not viable and any pulp that was stuck to your seeds will float to the top. Skim the bad seeds and pulp off of the water and discard them.
Use a large container such as a bucket, jar or a large freezer bag and place your clean seeds in it along with sand or peat moss. Place the container into a refrigerator for 8 to 12 weeks. Check the containers every 14 days and moisten the sand or peat moss if it is drying out.
Locate a planting spot for your seeds in the spring. Planting areas that work the best will be ones that have good draining soil and partial shade during the afternoons. Red Cedar seeds will have a higher and more successful germination rate in these areas because the soil will remain moist and cool.
Plant the seeds by gently pushing the seeds ¼ inch into the soil. Space your seeds 8 to 12 inches a part. Be sure the seeds are firmly covered by soil and that they are not visible.
Water the area.
Apply a 1-inch layer of pine needles or decaying leaves over it.
Thin out the weakest, smallest seedlings when they reach a height of 6-inches. You can discard these seedlings or transplant them to another growing area.
Take your healthiest and largest seedlings and transplant them so they are spaced at least 6-feet apart.