Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

Hardy Plants for Waterwise Landscapes

Calocedrus decurrens
California incense cedar

Calocedrus decurrens form (V. Lohr) Calocedrus decurrens twigs (V. Lohr)

Plant form

Dense, narrow, columnar evergreen, that some people think looks like an arborvitae. These are used individually as vertical accents in the landscape. Planted in a row, they make a good screen or backdrop.


30 to 50 feet tall, and 8 to 10 feet wide. In its native habitat, it can reach over 100 feet tall.

Leaves and stems

Dark green, small scale-like leaves are arranged along twigs with reddish, peeling bark. Older twigs and branches lose the red color.


The cones are less than 1 inch long. Their reddish-brown color makes a subtle contrast to the green leaves.

Native area

This tree is native in the western United States, including Oregon, California, and Nevada.

Water use

Moderate or low.


Full sun or light shade.

Culture and maintenance

This tree is tolerant of a wide range of conditions. These naturally columnar trees do not need regular pruning.


USDA Zone 5-8.


Although it is not thought to be native in Washington state, it has been widely planted in the state and good specimens can be found in both western and eastern Washington.
Calocedrus decurrens (V. Lohr)


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