Need fast-growing trees to replace loss of large Western Red Cedars

Asked November 12, 2019, 3:28 PM EST

Hello, We live in SW Portland, where there has been a widespread issue of large western red cedars that have died. We just had 3 large cedars removed, and our neighbors around us, as well as in the surrounding larger neighborhood, have also had to remove their dying western red cedars. I just read the article on your website entitled "Drought hits Douglas-fir trees hard", and this seems to be the same situation we are all dealing with in this area. With the removal of these trees, we went from having a tree-covered, shaded property, to now having an open-sky view and a lot of light throughout the day, which of course is not all bad :-). But it has also resulted in an unpleasant view off the back deck of our home. We are located on a hillside, with houses down the hill below ours. The large cedars used to cover the view down the hill into the neighborhood/valley area below. We now see houses, sheds, and quite a few tall, topped/dead western red cedars that the neighbors down the hill didn't have taken all the way down to the ground. So, we are planning on planting a mixture of fast-growing trees, some deciduous and some evergreen. The arborist who removed the cedars suggested Leyland cypress as a fast-growing evergreen (he said a growth rate of 3 feet per year). A neighbor suggested poplar (he said 7 feet/year). One possibility would be to plant the poplars at the lowest point on our property down the hill to provide a screen and some fall color; then plant some Leyland cypress up the hill closer to the house. We also just received a recommendation for madrone, and after reading the OSU Extension article on that tree, it sounds like it might be a possibility, given the rough terrain here (no lawn, no paths, only rough hilly landscape that we rarely walk on). If you have other suggestions for fast-growing trees that sound like a good fit for our situation, this would be most helpful. I will pass along your information to our neighbors, who are also trying to make decisions for their replacement trees. Thank you in advance for your help.

Multnomah County Oregon

1 Response

It is important to assess the soil and site environment and your landscape management capability or preferences in order to select trees that will be suitable. You have many choices if you include non-native or horticultural varieties (such as Leland cypress or poplar), and relatively few choices with native trees. Would you prefer a native tree community or cultivated ornamental varieties?

My field is native tree species.Given that your cedars died, your site may have some challenges in the absence of irrigation, especially if it is a south facing slope. Natives such as Douglas-fir or bigleaf maple are fast growing and likely more tolerant of the stresses that hurt the cedar. For choices of natives, see Establishing and Managing Forest Trees in Western Oregon, section on “What species to plant”, p. 14-17

As stated before, you have many more choices if you include non-native species. The ones you mentioned are fast growing and should do well for at least 10 or 20 years. There are several varieties of Leland cypress (and many other cypresses), with different maximum height. Leland is fast growing and provides a quick screen, but may be relatively shortlived. Poplars will lose their leaves, produce a lot of litter and seeds, and also tend to lose branches when they get large.

See the resources below:

Selecting planting and caring for a new tree

Portland Landscape planting species list