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Calocedrus decurrens - Growing Guide

Growing Calocedrus decurrens

Incense cedar

Confusingly this coniferous tree was previously called Libocedrus decurrens and is still listed under this old name in older reference books.

This is a native of Oregon and California which grows slowly but surely into a narrow columnar pencil-like shape similar, in effect, to a Lombardy poplar. The tallest trees in the UK are over 150 years old and well over 100ft in height but with a spread of only around 20ft.

The leaves are flat and scale-like set in fan-like sprays on erect branchlets so that both sides of the leaves are equally exposed to the light and are equally green on both surfaces. The cones are rounded and pendulous; about 1in long and yellow brown at first ripening to red-brown.

As a result of its columnar habit this is a standout and easily recognisable tree in a parkland or woodland context. It is completely hardy and, like the plant at Caerhays, it is perfectly happy in dappled or partial shade. Thirty-five years after planting the Caerhays specimen is still only just over 20ft in height and has some way to go to be visible by those out to sea as was the original intention.

L. decurrens will root slowly from semi-ripe new growth cuttings taken in the summer. Seed can be sown in the spring.

L. decurrens ‘Aureovariegata’ has irregular bright yellow shoots which vary in size through the tree and gives it a curious, but attractive, spotted appearance. A tree seen recently in the Model Village at Godshill on the Isle of Wight had more yellow branches in greater profusion than on any other tree of this sort which I have yet seen. It was growing (slowly) in full sun in a well-drained and poorish soil. That may explain why the Caerhays plant, in rather better growing conditions, has far less yellow ‘flecking’.


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