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Emerald Sentinel Red Cedar Is a Trouble-Free Evergreen

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Virtues: This rugged eastern red cedar is a quick-growing conifer suitable for a relatively narrow space in the garden, or it can be planted in multiples to create a low-maintenance, wind-blocking evergreen screen. It is deer resistant, disease free and adaptable to dry soils and urban sites. Consistent deep green color and a densely branched columnar habit set this cultivar apart.

Emerald Sentinel red cedar easily copes with urban pollution and dry soil. This one is growing in New York City's High Line Garden.

Emerald Sentinel red cedar easily copes with urban pollution and dry soil. This one is growing in New York City's High Line Garden.

Common name: Emerald Sentinel eastern red cedar

Botanical name: Juniperus virginiana 'Corcorcor' or Emerald Sentinel

Exposure: Full sun

Foliage: The needle color is an exceptionally dark green that generally stays true through winter, developing perhaps a touch of bronze, while other red cedars can take on a grayish or brown appearance. This cultivar holds onto its oldest needles for a long time, which helps to give it a dense appearance.

Fruit: This is a female cultivar that can bear a heavy crop of dusky blue juniper berries. These cedar-scented fruits ripen in late summer and remain into winter. Birds enjoy the berries.

Habit: Emerald Sentinel red cedar has a narrow pyramid shape, growing 15 to 20 feet tall and 7 to 8 feet wide at its base. This cultivar is more free branching that the species, so it looks very dense. 

Origin: Juniperus virginiana is a species native to much of the eastern half of North America, where it grows in open fields and at wood edges. Emerald Sentinel, or 'Corcorcor', is a cultivar that Clifford Corliss selected in 1967. It was growing as a chance seedling among seeds planted at Corliss Bros. Garden Center and Nursery in Ipswich MA. It was patented by Conard-Pyle under the name Emerald Sentinel in 1983.

How to grow it: Site in full sun. This long-lived, medium- to fast-growing conifer can put on 12 inches or more of new growth per year. It adapts to dry or moist conditions, but it cannot cope with standing water. Good drainage is a must. Aside from that, it can take any type of soil and any pH. Its natural shape makes it unlikely to need trimming, but if necessary this should be done in late winter to earliest spring. USDA Zones 3–9.

Image credit: Josiah Lau Photography/CC BY-ND 2.0

Recommended related reading:

Adrian Bloom's Gardening With Conifers remains the essential guide to choosing, placing and caring for coniferous trees and shrubs, often the key to year-round interest and structure in a garden.

Find other excellent options for natural screening in Shrubs and Hedges by Eva Monheim, which also covers maintenance tasks like pruning and design strategies for putting shrubs to best use.