Hedging my bets.
July 8, 2009 9:20 AM   Subscribe

Can I plant a cedar hedge -- with the cedars lying down?

I've just purchased a number of emerald cedars to start a privacy hedge across the front of our property. I was discussing the hedge with a friend who suggested planting them in this fashion:

1) Dig trench

2) cut the branches off one side of each cedar

3) bury the root ball horizontally, laying the flat side of the cedar down on the fresh dirt.

4) Water & repeat.

The idea is that the cedar will "root" along the cut side, and grow vertically along the other, resulting in a more full and uniform hedge in a few years (and, I'd need fewer cedars). I'd like to try it, but I need more than one person's advice on the matter -- and my Google-fu is weak today.

Any greenthumbs able to weigh in? Is this ridiculous, or ridiculously awesome?
posted by liquado to Home & Garden (4 answers total)
This would work if you were planting a willow hedge, and even then the best bet is to cut the trunk up into pieces, but but I've never heard of someone doing this with a cedar. Also cedar branches for the most part only grow at the tips.

Besides your trees would end up too close together. Planting cedars much closer than the recommended interval doesn't really give you a fuller hedge, the trees just end up not getting enough light and being weak and weedy as a result.
posted by Mitheral at 9:39 AM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We used to root red cedar from cuttings for hedges and fence rows, and it works but is neither easy nor consistent. From what I remember they grow pretty slowly. There are a bunch we planted 20-30 years ago that are still small-ish trees.

It seems like it would take a LONG time for the hedge planted like this to really fill out, and Mitheral is right about over-crowding - spindly is a word that comes to mind when they are too close.

If you are going to do it, be sure to weight the trunk down with a brick or stone along the length. Cedars don't like to root this way, so you need good contact with the soil along the length of the trunk. You may end up with trees that either just die from the abuse, or grow in weird directions, not having rooted at all along the trunk.

If you really want to try to root them, here is how we would do it:

-Tear large but not very old branches from the trunk of a tree. You want a rough edge where the branch used to join the main trunk. We made sure the crotch of the branch was semi-intact.
-In the rooting beds, we had 5 gallon buckets with no bottom in them sunk up to the lip to contain the root-balls.
-Root this in a bed with the others you removed. You can try using rootone (I think that is the brand name of a rooting agent) or just get by with well-tilled soil and water.
-After a year or two, dig these and plant them as you would regular trees.
-The shape is never as perfect as a tree from seed - there was always something a little askew about them.

Like I said, cedars don't seem to like to root this way and it is inconsistent, so don't expect abundance. You may just end up with dead or misshapen trees.

What you may want to try is to plant the cedars from the nursery the regular way and then try rooting some branches over time to fill in spaces as you need them. That way you aren't doing all of this experimentation right off the bat and possibly losing money.

Oh, and just because I like to talk about Ohio River Valley folklore, there is an old saying about cedars and death we had back home:

"Be careful not to think of anyone specifically when you plant a cedar tree - by the time it is big enough to cover a grave in its shadow that person will die."
posted by Tchad at 10:26 AM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, I forgot: I was writing about Juniperus Virginiana. You may want to ask the nursery if your tree (I think it is called Thurja Occidentalis) responds the same way to rooting, etc.
posted by Tchad at 10:55 AM on July 8, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah, I'm feeling convinced that it's not my Google-fu that's weak -- it's this idea.

Thanks, MeFi -- back to the nursery I go, to get enough plants to do my hedge the right way.
posted by liquado at 1:30 PM on July 8, 2009

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