Growth Habit of Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar: What to Prepare for When Planting

Updated on May 1, 2019

Weeping blue atlas cedar is the prostrate form of blue atlas cedar. It is sold in garden centers trained to grow in a serpentine shape and then allowed to drape back to the ground. It looks pretty manageable, but knowledge of its growth habits is essential for it to become an asset rather than a liability in the landscape.

Left to itself, weeping blue atlas cedar tends to grow outwards. It eventually forms a spectacular mass of main trunks that sprawl out in many directions, each one with a curtain of blue foliage cascading downwards. It can grow up to ten feet high and over twenty feet wide. Not exactly the tame plant trained to snake up a bamboo stake that you see in the garden center.


Plant weeping blue atlas cedar as a large shrub and use as a focal point of interest. Make sure that it has proper room to grow, and expand the flowerbed to accommodate the tree, or simply duck when mowing. If you plant perennials around it to fill space, move them as the tree encroaches upon them. Weeping blue atlas cedar likes well-drained soil and is drought-tolerant once it has become established.


Weeping blue atlas cedar is used as a foundation plant fairly often. As a foundation plant, it will do well for a few years and then outgrow its spot. To maintain blue atlas cedar as a foundation plant, it is absolutely essential to prune it regularly to keep it in shape. Prune it back in early spring before growth begins. Make sure that you keep some young growth and not remove more than a third of the plant. As a foundation plant, you will have to restrict all lateral and upright shoots, so you will need to stay on top of the pruning. Eventually, the tree will get knobby and gnarled, but as long as there is enough foliage to cover all the pruning marks, it should still look good.


Because the tree is a free-form weeping plant, it can be trained creatively. Train to grow as an arch and drape down to the ground, or allow it to grow only sideways to make a wall of cascading blue fountain foliage. To train weeping atlas cedar, a strong stake or support is necessary, plus material to fasten the tree to the support without damaging or girdling the plant.

Enjoying the Results

By knowing the preferences and growth habits of weeping blue atlas cedar, homeowners can plant it accordingly and stay on top of maintenance. Through proper culture and care, your weeping blue atlas cedar will be an asset to the landscape for many years.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

  • We recently bought a weeping blue atlas cedar. How long does it take for its branches to grow like a waterfall?

    It will take a year or two to establish itself. During that time it will grow but not at full speed. Water it during dry periods as necessary until it is established.

    Blue Atlas Cedar is a fast-growing tree, especially when young. Now is the time to train the main branches that will become the waterfall so they grow the way you want them to. I would say it will take anywhere from 3-5 years to grow into the waterfall, but it will continue to grow with time.

  • I have a weeping blue atlas cedar in my yard that’s about four years old, and I’ve never pruned it or trained it because I didn’t know I was supposed to. Now that I know, I don’t know how to start. It is about 5 1/2 feet tall and droops to the ground. How do I start?

    I assume that you already have in mind what you want it to be like; what shape you want to train it into. Blue Atlas cedar generally is trained into the shape it is in at the garden center; from there it grows first by drooping down to the ground, then eventually growing wider and sprawling out.

    To prune it, I would recommend cutting back any branches that have outgrown your expectations for the plant; just make sure that you leave a sufficient amount of foliage on the tree. Also, make sure that there are still buds/growing twigs on the wood that you leave, so the tree can continue to grow.

  • We have a weeping blue atlas cedar that is about 15 years old. We didn't know it was trained to be weeping. The branches started growing upward approximately 3 years ago. It looks unsightly and I have about 4 or 5 bungee cords to try and reel in the unruly limbs. I hate the look of it. Is it possible to keep tightening up on the tension and bring the branches back in? We don't know what to do.

    My recommendation would do exactly that, keep tightening it but not too much too fast, lest the branch break. You can also do selective pruning to control the trajectory of new growth on said branches so that the growth you leave grows more in the desired direction. From what you have said, I am gathering that the limbs have grown too large to be able to be removed without affecting the tree, so the method you are employing is the best option. Just make sure that you don't girdle the branches with the cords and you should be good.

  • Is it all right if the ends of the weeping blue atlas cedar branches are lying on the ground, or should they be pruned, so they don't actually touch the ground?

    It doesn't matter all that much, and comes down to aesthetic preference. Branches lying on the ground will either crawl on the ground, get choked by weeds, or get in the lawn, so pruning them back will make for a more tidy tree.

  • I recently bought a 4 feet tall weeping blue atlas cedar trained as a snake shape for foundation. How far from a Japanese maple and the house should I plant it? I only have space 6 feet by 6 feet. I saw a tree that was 7 feet tall and the same shape tree like mine and it's not as big and wide as you say. I really like it, but I'm not sure that I have to plant it.

    While both trees will fit in the specified area with room to spare in their current sizes, you have to account for the mature sizes of each. Left to themselves, both plants will eventually become quite large in size. Most cultivars of Japanese Maple are known to get at least 6x6, and both, even if pruned, will still grow larger with time. A 6x6 space can contain one of the trees, with pruning as necessary to keep it within the dimensions of the space as the tree grows larger. I would say plant it a minimum 3-4 feet from the house and preferably 6+ feet from the maple. Otherwise, they will crowd each other.


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