David Farrell has over twenty years experience in gardening and works at a garden center.
Blue Atlas Cedar
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 drape back to the ground. It looks pretty manageable, but knowledge of its growth habits is essential for becoming 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. Ensure that it has proper room to grow, expand the flowerbed to accommodate the tree, and 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 essential to regularly prune it 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. Your weeping blue atlas cedar will be an asset to the landscape for many years through proper culture and care.
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
Question: 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.
Answer: 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.
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: We recently bought a weeping blue atlas cedar. How long does it take for its branches to grow like a waterfall?
Answer: 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.
Question: How close to a fence can I plant a weeping blue atlas cedar? I prefer to have it as close as possible. Also, I've read it can be a specimen plant in a container. What's the smallest sized container you would plant it in?
Answer: You can plant it within 1-3 feet of the fence if you are OK with it growing into the fence. As long as the fence doesn't shade it. If you want it to grow more freely, plant it farther out. I would not recommend planting it in a container as that exposes the roots to the winter cold a lot more than if you plant it in the ground.
Question: 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.
Answer: 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.
Question: Will the roots of my weeping blue cedar tree harm my sewer line over time?
Answer: It depends on how close it is, as it is a smaller tree I would not worry unless it is planted within say 10 feet of it.
Question: I am planning to buy weeping blue atlas cedar, can I plant to near to home in the front or should I plant it in the open yard?
Answer: I would recommend planting it in the open. If you prune it regularly, you may be able to plant it by the house, but I would recommend planting it a few feet out. Left to itself without pruning, it will get too large to be by the house.
Question: Our tree has not grown since purchased about three years ago. I realized it is in a windy spot. I am planting to keep it in pot. Is there anything about growing Weeping Blue Atlas Cedars in pots that I should know about?
Answer: I would recommend not keeping it in a pot as that exposes it to the winter cold more, but if you have had it three years in a pot, it has managed to survive the winters... but could have to do with why it is not growing. A pot has a limited amount of soil and nutrients, so a regular feed schedule is necessary. The wind can also be affecting it adversely.
Question: I planted a weeping blue atlas cedar in my front yard about 4 1/2 years ago. It refuses to grow. It gets full sun, has plenty of space and the plants around it are thriving. This plant hasn't changed since the day we bought it. We bought one on the small side because of how expensive they are, but now it just looks pathetic, after 4+ years. I've tried Miracle Grow which didn't help much at all. Should I give up? How do I get it to grow?
Answer: It should have began to grow vigorously by now. This could be due to a number of problems, and is hard to pinpoint it without seeing the area myself. I would recommend reading up on it more. Maybe the plant does not like the soil or the area? Maybe it was damaged, but if so I would think by now it would have recovered and started to grow.
Question: Can you propagate a weeping blue atlas cedar from cuttings?
Answer: Blue Atlas Cedar can be propagated under the proper conditions, with the proper methods and times. My recommendation would be to research for academic/scholarly/professional web content to see what studies and observations have been done, and what has and has not worked for other growers, and go from there.
David Farrell (author) on March 06, 2021:
You would need to get the seed out of the cone, get it to sprout, and nurture the seedlings until they are able to fend for themselves. Look for the big cones, get the seed from the cone, and you probably need to keep the seed near freezing temperature for some time to stratify it before it will sprout. And there is no guarantee the seedlings will be true to color and form. The tree can also be propagated by cuttings but getting them to root can be challenging as you need to have the right conditions for that. Lastly, your neighbor can buy a tree from a garden center. There ae two basic varieties on the amrket I am aware of, the upright and the weeping. There may be different cultivars of each, and after 15 years you probably no longer have the tag that says your tree's cultivar. So his best bet would be to take note of specific characteristics of your tree such as habit and foliage color and buy a tree that is very similar.
MandM2 on June 06, 2020:
My Atlas is over 15 years old and is quite hardy. The tree has some cones, large and small. Can these be used to grow a tree in my neighbors yard?
He loves the tree and wants one with good genes.:)
Mary on May 03, 2020:
can you grow a Serpentine Blue Atlas Cedar in a large container plants?