When you think Afghanistan or the Himalayas, plant material is probably not the first thing to come to mind. Yet this is where one of the landscape’s most elegant and beautiful trees, the deodar cedar, originates. .
Columbus, Ga., has more of them planted than anyplace I have lived. We have specimens of all ages, including an abundance that must have been planted 15 to 20 years ago. These look like paintings in the landscape with their pendulous, silvery-blue green branches.
Deodar cedar, or just deodar, is known botanically as Cedrus deodara and is used in the landscape along with Cedrus libani, or cedar of Lebanon, and the Cedrus atlantica, or Atlas cedar. Deodars can reach more than 150 feet tall, but we typically see them maturing in the 50- to 70-foot range after 30 to 40 years. Lower branches bend gracefully downward and then up again. The stiff, needle-like, silvery blue green leaves are about 2 inches long and borne in dense whorls.
Most are sold generically, which is just fine, but keep your eyes open for cultivars. Argentea, my favorite, is fast growing and has silvery-bluish gray foliage. Aurea is smaller, reaching to 30 feet and has golden yellow new foliage. Pendula has long, weeping branches and grows no taller than 10 feet. The deodar cedar is cold hardy to zone 7, but Shalimar (released by the Arnold Arboretum) is known for superior cold hardiness for landscapes in zone 6.
The deodar is fairly fast growing for the first decade or two, reaching as high as 30 feet in its first 10 years. Between years 10 and 20, it will slowly broaden at the top. Older specimens generally show some top die-back, but don’t let this keep you from experiencing 10 to 20 years of deodar bliss in your landscape.
These beauties perform best in full sun and are drought tolerant once established. This tree likes well-drained locations. Most deodar cultivars will grow into large, handsome specimen trees that need plenty of room. Plant them in the back of a large landscape so they can be seen in their entirety.
Deodar is the most popular landscaping cedar in America, transforming the winter landscape like few other trees can do.