Himalayan Cedar: Cedrus deodara ‘Karl Fuchs’

May 15th, 2010

My recent post about what a real cedar is was not a coincidence, I have been looking at buying one, and today I did.

I have wanted a cedar for years, even since I saw Paul James’ on his show. Paul has a weeping Blue Atlas cedar, Cedrus atlantica, and it is absolutely gorgeous… and not hardy in zone 5. No matter how often I now see HomeDepot or Lowes carrying it, it is not hardy here. Now… perhaps in a microclimate it might survive, a courtyard, or if you give it serious winter protection, but it really needs zone 6.

However in doing some research I discovered another variety, Cedrus deodara the Himalayan cedar, that is more cold hardy and one specific cultivatar, ‘Karl Fuchs’ definitely so. It is blue, which I wanted, not as blue as the atlas, and the needles aren’t quite the same, but I’ll make do. It is my only choice really, so I have to don’t I?

Anyways, I really like these true cedars. They have very short and tightly packed needles so you really see a lot of the tree structure. As my gardening tastes have evolved I find myself attracted more to the form or structure of plants such as in Japanese gardens where the stem or trunk and branching is as important and beautiful as the foliage.

So the cedars, with their short needles that cling in clumps to the trunk and branches, really show off the form, and it is a unique look for the garden. I wanted one specifically for the spot in which I planted it. In that area of the garden I’ve got a Japanese maple with red foliage, some yellow heucheras, and all sorts of green plants, but not a single plant with blue foliage. The closest plant with blue foliage was probagly 40 feet away, and using contrasting foliage colors in the landscape is always a good idea, so I needed something.

They do need some care to make sure they survive, even if they’re supposed to be hardy. The reason evergreens can survive the winter isn’t just because they handle the cold, but because their needles have adapted to handle the dryness. Winter is the dryest season, cold winter sun, drying winter wind, air without any humidity to it, it all takes a toll on plants. Most evergreens have a waxy coating on their needles or foliage to help prevent moisture loss and it is this that allows them to be evergreens. When an evergreen gets dried out it is called winter burn and you’ll notice it as a browning or bronzing of the leaf tips or exposed sections of the plant.

Well, cedars are less able to deal with these stresses than other evergreens, they just evolved where the winters aren’t so cold and dry.

So they need protection from the winter sun, and need protection from the winter wind. I have a very sheltered backyard with the house to the west and big trees pretty much all the rest around the perimeter. So my backyard is relatively low on wind, and I planted this Cedrus deodara on the north side of a large spruce which should protect it fully from the winter sun. I may also do a loose burlap wrap this winter to help it too. You might think that a plant that is marginally hardy in your area might do better with a southern exposure, and in most cases you would be correct, because it is warmer on a southern exposure, but for evergreens, especially Cedrus, the sun is more damaging than the cold.

If I have any problems with the tree in the future I will be sure to post an update, if anyone has any tips for growing one in z5, please leave a comment.

11 Responses to “Himalayan Cedar: Cedrus deodara ‘Karl Fuchs’”

  1. Joseph Tychonievich  Says:

    Wow… it is gorgeous. I love cedars, but I didn’t think any where zone 5 hardy! I’ll be interested to see how yours does.

  2. Gardening Tip  Says:

    I used to live in an area full of these trees, I definitely miss it now living more in the city. I am considering planting one in my backyard, any planting suggestions?

  3. Karl in Baltimore  Says:

    Check with the city (Department of Parks). Many times they have city friendly plants available – some will even give you the tree for free. For a fee they will usually dig up the concrete and even plant it for you if streetside or necessary. Once it is planted it is usually up to you to water and maintain the tree. A warning: because of the adverse conditions in the city (higher temperatures, people and pet abuse, road salt, bumped by vehicles, concrete confines etc.) trees are usually semi short lived. An option is to take a small tree or prune a shrub into a tree form. In Baltimore a Crape Myrtle is good for this – not sure what zone you are in or how big your backyard is – this all makes a difference. You can also look for city garden clubs on-line often they are very helpful.

  4. Karl in Baltimore  Says:

    Many shrubs pruned into trees can be planted in large pots.

  5. Ernest Carter  Says:

    Your cedar will grow quite well in zone five. I live in central Michigan and have no less than 15 of these trees planted on a two acre lot, the oldest now ten years old. We experienced at least minus twenty twice in that time period and none of these trees has had any damage. My cedars are growing fast and soon I will, with regret I will have to cut the oldest one down, now thirty feet tall. This is because listening to all the misinformation on their ability to take the cold winter I planted the tree to close to the house believing they need a lot of protection, THEY DO NOT.

  6. Administrator  Says:

    Thanks for the comment, nice to know it will do well.

    I didn’t plant mine close to the house, but I did plant it in the shelter of a large spruce, I do worry about them competing for room.

    What kind of sun exposure do you have for yours?

    I’m in Lansing by the way.

  7. Ernest Carter  Says:

    The deodars I have planted are in the as much sun as they can get. I have copious amounts of shade from the oak maple canopy and this limited where I could grow a cedar. They appear to like to cook in summer as long as possible. So install the tree in as much light as you can and do not worry about exposure, these trees are native to the windswept slopes of the high, cold and dry Himalayas. To be absolutely honest the less i mess with these plants the better they look. good luck!

  8. Matt  Says:

    I live in colorado on the front range north of Denver. I planted a six foot Karl Fuchs four years ago in my backyard. So far it has endured not only -23 f but also the driest winter on record. It came through a hailstorm that hit last spring with close to baseball sized hail. It is now fourteen feet tall and going strong. It is in full sun but gets some protection from NW winter winds. I would say no winter burn here where green giant arborvitae gets south burn and grows out of it this gets none. I would say it transplants better from a container than from b&b. It is an amazing plant. My neighbor has a 3″ autumn blaze maple planted just south of it and the cedar is outgrowing it vertically.

  9. Cynthia  Says:

    Thinking of getting a Karl Fuchs, glad to hear about the heigh of the one in Denver, what about the width? Thanks.

  10. Alyssa  Says:

    I just planted a Karl Fuchs in zone 5 and am wondering how often and at what duration to water until it is established?

  11. Administrator  Says:

    they are remarkably drought tolerant. The standard rule of thumb is an inch a week, but I bet it’d do fine with half that.

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