Why Cedar Trees Won’t Grow Back (What To Expect)

Himalayan cedar or deodar cedar tree with female and male cones

Have you ever wondered about the brown inner parts of your cedar tree and what would happen if you trim them? We’ve got that and a lot more covered in this article! In reality, there’s a few simple reasons as to why cedar trees won’t grow back.

Cedar trees grow new growth from their old growth or dead zone. This means if you prune your cedar and cut into the dead zone, your tree may not come back. If you only prune the new growth, about a third of the way back, your cedar tree will keep growing.

Evergreens are prone to natural browning and seasonal needle drop, but sometimes this can be a hint at a bigger issue. Keep reading to learn more about what this means and why your cedar tree won’t grow back!

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Will Your Damaged Cedar Tree Grow Back?

The first question to ask yourself is, what damaged your cedar tree? Is it because of the seasons, drought or water stress, pathogens, infestations, or something else?

If your cedar tree is damaged and turning brown in certain spots, it could be because of a variety of things. If it’s seasonal, it is natural for your cedar tree to be dropping needles.

When this happens, around summer to fall, your cedar tree will drop yellow and brown needles to make way for new ones. However, it may be difficult to tell the difference between this or other damage to your cedar tree.

Next up is drought or water stress. If you notice brown needles around the base of the tree, this can easily be attributed to dry conditions. It doesn’t always mean this is the issue, but if you don’t notice any bug damage or other signs of stress, try soaking it at least once a week and see if it helps.

On the other hand, if your tree is too water-logged, or in an area that stays too wet, it can be susceptible to root rot. This is often devastating to any tree.

If your tree turns brown on one side of the tree, this could be root rot. Armillaria root rot is a root disease specific to evergreens, including cedars. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this and your tree will not come back.

If you have a pest infestation, you might notice your cedar tree turning a dreaded brown. Pests like spider mites are common amongst cedar trees. Fortunately, you can use insecticidal soaps to rid your tree of infestations.

Most of the time, if your cedar is turning brown and has some slight damage, your tree will grow back. However, if it seems to affect your entire tree, there’s a good chance it could be on its way out.

The best thing to do in this situation if you are unsure is to contact tree professionals who can assess the situation properly!

Did you know many cedar trees have blue needles? They’re absolutely beautiful and super interesting to learn about.

Will My Cedar Tree Grow Back After Trimming?

Sunny cedar forest background, old rare trees, sunrise with rays of sun light coming through the branches

Since cedar trees grow from new growth, you have to be especially careful when trimming or pruning them. 

Cedar trees have an inner area of the tree made up of deadwood called the dead zone. Fresh growth grows from the ends of the branches in the dead zone. This means new buds formed the previous year on the ends of branches. 

When trimming and pruning cedar trees, stay within the green portion of the branches. Do not stray into the old/brown/dead area you’re trimming, otherwise, your branches will not come back.

Will Deer Eaten Cedars Come Back?

Fallow deer fawn eating a leaf

So, there is a conflicting argument about whether deer will eat cedar trees, and if cedar trees are so-called “deer-resistant”. But like everything else, if the deer are hungry enough, they will eat whatever they can.

So while deer may not always choose to eat cedar, if it’s there in the winter, when everything else is gone, there’s a good chance they’ll eat it.

If you notice chomping on your cedar trees, the short answer is yes, your cedar tree will come back. However, this depends on the age and health of your cedar tree. If it’s a newly planted sapling or small cedar, or if it’s more mature, taller, and the majority of it is out of the deer’s reach.

If it’s a relatively young plant, there’s a good chance your tree might not come back because of the additional stress put on a young tree that’s already trying to adjust.

If it’s an older plant and the deer chow down on the dead zone area, those branches will not come back, but your tree will most likely survive. Established and healthy plants have a leg up in this situation.

You can combat this by using a deer spray, and one that works! Liquid Fence HG-70109 Animal Repellent works to repel deer. It can be used year round, even! The caveat to this though, is you will most likely have to alternate between it and the Repels-All Animal Repellent Concentrate.

Alternating between the two is one of the best ways to keep the deer at bay using products. Both deer repellents have quite the rough smell, which is why it works!

Should I Prune My Cedar?

Close up of man hand with hedge trimmer cutting bushes of white cedar to ideal fence. Male gardener, wearing in overalls with protective glove working with professional garden equipment in backyard.

This is probably the most important question to ask. Should you prune your cedar tree? The short answer is yes!

Pruning is a great way to give your tree the boost it needs by removing the unnecessary branches, meaning anything that is dying, dead, and turning bad on the tree. This will not only prolong the life of your tree, but it will also increase airflow, stimulate growth, and help protect it from pests and internal issues.

If you decide to do any trimming other the above, it will probably be to enhance the cedar’s shape. While this is okay to do, follow the above and do not trim into the dead zone or the brown interior area of the tree.

If you get close to that point, stop! If you’re trimming your cedar so it doesn’t look wild, only trim back about a third of the green growth. This will ensure your cedar grows back.

The next most important thing is when to prune your tree. Like most trees, you want to prune your cedar tree during the late winter and early spring to help prevent any infestations or diseases. Pruning during cooling temperatures ensures the tree will heal before insects emerge.

If you decide to prune your cedar tree, you’re going to need the right tools.

This list includes hand pruners, loppers, and a handsaw or pole saw. Don’t worry though, we’ve got some recommendations for you that are sure to have you pruning with ease.

Hand pruners are something you’ll want to keep in your landscaping tool chest. They are excellent for cutting branches less than ½ inch in diameter. The FELCO F-2 068780 Classic Manual Hand Pruner is a great option for hand pruning your cedar tree, especially if you want to shape it.

Felcos are known for their durability and performance! They have steel blades and can cut branches like a champ. Although the price point is a bit steeper than some other hand pruners you may find, they are worth it!

Loppers are another great thing to have on hand. They help you reach those branches just a little higher up and the ones too thick for your hand pruners.

Loppers cut branches that are between ½ to 2 inches in diameter. The Fiskars 394801-1003 PowerGear2 Bypass Lopper is a wonderful set!

These cut branches like you’re cutting through butter! No, seriously! Loppers are the preferred method of pruning and trimming trees since they can help you get the job done quicker and more efficiently than regular hand pruners.

Pruning saws can be used for any larger diameter branches. The Fiskars 15 Inch Pruning Saw with Handle is another tool to have for any outdoor work. This pruning saw also cuts things with ease and makes outdoor work way easier.

Another tool we recommend having in your outdoor tool chest is a pole saw. You can’t beat the Fiskars Chain Drive 7–16 Foot Extendable Pole Saw & Pruner, which extends up to 16 feet high! Because of its steel pruner blade, it can cut branches up to 1 ¼ inch thick in diameter.

Because it’s extendable, you won’t have to always be dragging out the ladder when you want to reach those high-up branches. Because it is Fiskars, it also has a full lifetime warranty.

That’s A Wrap!

There you have it! Let’s recap why cedar trees won’t grow back and what you can expect!

Pruning is a great way to prolong the health and wellness of your cedar tree and give it the boost it needs. By removing the unnecessary branches, or anything that is dying, dead, and in poor shape.

This will not only prolong the life of your tree, but it will also increase airflow, stimulate growth, and help protect it from pests and pathogens.

Similar to most evergreens, when you prune a cedar tree, you have to be careful about how far back you’re pruning. Cedar trees grow new growth from their old growth, or what is referred to as the dead zone.

If you prune back into the dead zone, you’re cutting off the area where the new growth stemmed from, meaning your tree probably won’t come back. If you only prune the new growth, or the green part, before you get back into the brown, dead zone, roughly about a third of the way back, your tree will keep growing.

There are a variety of reasons your cedar tree could turn brown. Some of which are natural, from which your tree will come back. However, a handful of those reasons, like a pest infestation or Armillaria root rot, might mean your cedar tree is on its way out.

Additionally, if deer are chowing down on your cedar trees and start eating into that dead zone, anywhere they didn’t reach will continue to grow, but the parts in the dead zone are probably history.

That’s a wrap! Thanks for sticking around and learning why your cedar trees won’t grow back, and what to expect.


Alban, David H. “The influence of western hemlock and western redcedar on soil properties.” Soil Science Society of America Journal 33, no. 3 (1969): 453-457.

Engle, D. M., & Kulbeth, J. D. (1992). Growth dynamics of crowns of eastern red-cedar at 3 locations in Oklahoma. Rangeland Ecology & Management/Journal of Range Management Archives, 45(3), 301-305.

Prescott, C. E., & Preston, C. M. (1994). Nitrogen mineralization and decomposition in forest floors in adjacent plantations of western red cedar, western hemlock, and Douglas-fir. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 24(12), 2424-2431.

Ribbons, Relena R., David J. Levy-Booth, Jacynthe Masse, Sue J. Grayston, Morag A. McDonald, Lars Vesterdal, and Cindy E. Prescott. “Linking microbial communities, functional genes and nitrogen-cycling processes in forest floors under four tree species.” Soil Biology and Biochemistry 103 (2016): 181-191.

Zou, Chris B., Dirac Twidwell, Christine H. Bielski, Dillon T. Fogarty, Aaron R. Mittelstet, Patrick J. Starks, Rodney E. Will, Yu Zhong, and Bharat Sharma Acharya. “Impact of eastern redcedar proliferation on water resources in the Great Plains USA—current state of knowledge.” Water 10, no. 12 (2018): 1768.

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