Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara)

Deodar Cedar Himalayan Cedar

Deodar tree (Cedrus Deodara) serves as a perfect natural windbreak since it has a deep canopy and grows swiftly. The exquisite texture, durability, and rot resistance of the deodar’s wood make it an attractive building material. The height of this medium-growing tree can reach up to 20 to 50 feet. Due to their pointed tops, deodar trees resemble pyramids when they are young. Read on to learn all you need to know about growing and caring for these trees.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Cedrus deodara, the deodar cedar, Himalayan cedar, or deodar, is a species of cedar native to the Himalayas.

It is a large evergreen coniferous tree reaching 40–50 meters (131–164 feet) tall, exceptionally 60 m (197 ft) with a trunk up to 3 m (10 ft) in diameter. It has a conic crown with level branches and drooping branchlets.

The leaves are needle-like, mostly 2.5–5 centimeters (1–2 inches) long, occasionally up to 7 cm (3 in) long, slender (1 millimeter or 1⁄32 in thick), borne singly on long shoots, and in dense clusters of 20–30 on short shoots; they vary from bright green to glaucous blue-green in color. The female cones are barrel-shaped, 7–13 cm (2+3⁄4–5 in) long and 5–9 cm (2–3+1⁄2 in) broad, and disintegrate when mature (in 12 months) to release the winged seeds. The male cones are 4–6 cm (1+1⁄2–2+1⁄4 in) long, and shed their pollen in autumn.

It is widely grown as an ornamental tree, often planted in parks and large gardens for its drooping foliage. General cultivation is limited to areas with mild winters, with trees frequently killed by temperatures below about −25 °C (−13 °F), limiting it to USDA zone 7 and warmer for reliable growth. It can succeed in rather cool-summer climates, as in Ushuaia, Argentina.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

A planting site with full sun is best for this evergreen tree, though it can tolerate partial shade.

Temperature and Humidity

Of all the cedar trees, the deodar cedar has the best tolerance for heat and humidity.

Watering

A newly planted Deodar tree needs regular watering. Water the soil once a week and make sure it’s not waterlogged. Once established, Deodar Cedars are moderately drought tolerant, but you should still water them occasionally in sweltering and dry conditions.

Soil

Deodar cedar trees can be grown in various soil types, including loam, sand, and clay, as long as that soil is well-drained.

Fertilizing

Cedars don’t necessarily need fertilizer, but you can fertilize the ground around the tree in the spring months before new growth begins. Test the pH level. Cedars like acidic soil down to about 5.5. If the soil isn’t very acidic, use an acidifying fertilizer. Never fertilize the cedar more than once yearly, as too much nitrogen can cause root burn.

Planting Instructions

Plant a deodar cedar sapling in the early spring months, right after the ground has thawed, or in the fall once the plant has gone dormant in preparation for winter. If you plant the tree in the fall, it won’t need as much sun or water as in the spring.

How to Plant

Dig a hole at least three times as wide as the tree’s root ball when planting. Add 25 percent compost, peat, or aged manure to the soil to help it drain, put the root ball in the hole, and return the soil and organic mix to surround the tree. Tamp the soil lightly, and water it thoroughly.

Pruning

There is no need to prune your Deodar Cedar if you have the room to let it grow. The tree can be clipped, nevertheless, in the early spring before it starts to put on new growth. You can prune it to give it shape or stop it from creeping too closely on buildings or other trees. Always clean your pruning saw between trees after pruning. This can limit the spread of bacteria and fungal diseases from tree to tree.

Propagation

It is not easy to propagate deodar cedar trees from cuttings or grafting. Propagating from seeds is the recommended way to go.

To grow a deodar cedar tree from seed will take a bit of patience and time. Here’s how:

  • Collect the cones from mature trees (at least 40 years old) in the fall months before they turn brown.
  • Soak the cones in warm water for a day or two to make it easier to remove the seeds.
  • Dry the cones and remove the seeds from the scales. Deodar cedar seeds have wings, so use a dry cloth to rub the wings, which will then separate from the seeds.
  • Put the seeds in a zip lock bag and place in the refrigerator for two weeks.
  • Plant seeds in a potting compost container and place them in indirect light, keeping the container at room temperature. Water until damp and let grow to a decent height before transplanting outdoors.

Potting and Repotting 

You can grow deodar cedars from seed in planting boxes for several years until they reach transplanting height. The planter or container should have ample drainage holes; roots do not like soggy soil. Use a well-draining, slightly acidic potting compost.

Cedar tree roots require ample room to grow, so they may need repotting each year. Early springtime is the ideal time for repotting.

Overwintering

Cedar is a softwood. So, heavy snow or ice accumulation can put a lot of pressure and strain on tree branches, causing limb breakage. Young branches need protection since young broken limbs may not grow back, permanently misshaping the tree.

To protect young deodar cedars, loosely wrap them in burlap or use a plant-safe netting around stakes placed close to the tree. Never wrap tightly since it can harm branches and cause girdling. Only use wraps during winters with heavy snowfall or snow sticking regularly. Remove the wrap when it looks like the coldest temperatures, winds, and the threat of heavy snowfall is over.

Pests and Diseases

Common Pests and Diseases

Giant conifer aphids are known to attack the deodar cedar, though these infestations do not usually affect the tree enough to injure it severely. However, they produce a sticky liquid called honeydew which can fall to the ground and make everything tacky. To manage these aphids, spray high-pressure water to remove the pests and use insecticidal soap. In the spring, apply a systemic insecticide.

The biggest killers of deodar cedars are cedar bark beetles. Once you notice a deodar cedar is infested with beetles that leave extensive trails under the bark, it’s usually too late to save the tree. Another sign is leaking sap and dead branch tips. If the beetles are only localized to one branch, cut off the branch; early intervention may preserve the tree.

Honey fungus (a parasitic mushroom) may develop on this tree, but it can be controlled by burying a physical barrier, such as a heavy-duty plastic sheet, in the soil. It can’t be controlled with chemicals.

Root rot may occur if the soil is soggy, so ensure the tree is planted in soil that drains well. There may also be spots with sooty mold if honeydew is present from aphids. Cedar rust is another fungal disease that can create lesions in the plant.

Common Problems

If grown in the right environment, deodar cedars are easy to grow and hardy. However, several diseases, insects, and environmental conditions can cause problems for deodar cedars.

Discolored Needles Dropping Early

Deodar cedars are susceptible to excessive salts causing problems with unseasonal browning of needles and defoliation. This issue is particularly a problem where trees are used to line streets, and rock salt is used to melt snow and ice. These trees may recover in spring as the salts leech out of the soil.

Spider mites can also cause needle discoloration in the summer. If you notice branches bronzing or the presence of webs and tiny mites, spray water on these pests to wash them away. For larger infestations, use neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Tree Top Dying in Fall or Winter

If the tree crown or top part is dying or browning in the fall or winter, it can signify deodar weevils that attack most often in the colder months. Eventually, branches and twigs turn brown and die. Deodar weevils don’t infest healthy trees; they usually go after trees suffering from drought, disease, or wind or cold damage.

Applying an insecticide is not the best course of action. Beneficial insects and wild birds that prey on them, like woodpeckers, are the best control. Thinning or removal of the infested tree helps control its spread to the other nearby conifers susceptible to this pest.

Tree Top Dying in Spring or Summer

Cedar rust is a fungal disease that creates cankers or lesions that are easy to spot, often girdling branches, severing nutrient transport, and oozing resinous sap. The tree usually starts browning or dying from the top down. If you notice this condition beginning in the spring or summer, it’s likely rust. If you notice orange or yellowish jelly-like growths on branches, remove the branches to preserve the tree proactively.

A healthy tree can fight off the disease. However, a stressed, mature tree suffering from other mitigating factors may not survive and will probably die within a few years. Young trees will likely die within the year.

III. Uses and Benefits 

  • Construction material

Deodar is in great demand as building material because of its durability, rot-resistant character and fine, close grain, which is capable of taking a high polish. Its historical use to construct religious temples and in landscaping around temples is well recorded. Its rot-resistant character also makes it an ideal wood for constructing the well-known houseboats of Srinagar, Kashmir. In Pakistan and India, during the British colonial period, deodar wood was used extensively for construction of barracks, public buildings, bridges, canals and railway cars. Despite its durability, it is not a strong timber, and its brittle nature makes it unsuitable for delicate work where strength is required, such as chair-making.

  • Herbal Ayurveda

The inner wood is aromatic and used to make incense. Inner wood is distilled into essential oil. As insects avoid this tree, the essential oil is used as insect repellent on the feet of horses, cattle and camels. It also has antifungal properties and has some potential for control of fungal deterioration of spices during storage. The outer bark and stem are astringent.

Because of its antifungal and insect repellent properties, rooms made of deodar cedar wood are used to store meat and food grains like oats and wheat in Shimla, Kullu, and Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.

Cedar oil is often used for its aromatic properties, especially in aromatherapy. It has a characteristic woody odor which may change somewhat in the course of drying out. The crude oils are often yellowish or darker in color. Its applications include soap perfumes, household sprays, floor polishes, and insecticides, and is also used in microscope work as a clearing oil.

  • Incense

The gum of the tree is used to make rope incense in Nepal and Tibet.

Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara) Details

Common name Deodar Cedar Himalayan Cedar
Botanical name Cedrus deodara
Plant type Perennial
Hardiness zone 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
Growth rate Medium
Harvest time Spring
Height 30 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
Width 30 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
Soil condition Clay
Leaf color Blue