Charlotte Kidd, M. Ed. is writer, professional gardener, garden designer and garden coach in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

She does horticultural programs for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Philadelphia International Flower Show. She’s a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Garden Writers Association. Contact her at

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False Cypress
by Charlotte Kidd       #Plant Profile

Compact Hinoki false cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ’Compacta’) is a tall, fast-growing, broad, conical conifer with outspreading branches. Hardy to Zone 5.
Photo by Charlotte Kidd

Chamaecyparis ‘Nana Gracilis’ foliage.
Photo Courtesy of Michael Colibraro, Colibraro

Say “cama-sip-a-ris.” Yes, this is a mouthful — and an evergreen conifer whose name is worth stumbling over. Every landscape would be more beautiful year-round for having several types of false cypress — from 6-inch alpines to 3-foot dwarfs to medium- and large-size trees.

Numerous false cypress forms include the Nootka cypress, Alaskan cedar, hinoki cypress, Sawara cypress and white false cypress. Explore. Take the time to visit nurseries and arboreta to choose which species and cultivars appeal to you and will enhance your landscape.

Fascinating foliage! My favorite — the dark green, undulating sprays of compact ‘Nana Gracilis’. Golden thread false cypress has yellow, drooping branchlets. Sculptural Sawara cypress ‘Boulevard’ is a silvery-blue, juniper-like pyramid.

False cypress takes many shapes — globelike or shrubby, compact or airy, pyramidal or pendulous, weeping or upright. Knowing the botanical name is important when buying exactly what you want. Site them in full sun with sufficient moisture and well-drained soil. Plant them with the mature size in mind. Giving them enough room to grow will ensure their beauty and health. And spare you time pruning to keep them in bounds.


Common Name: False cypress, Nootka cypress, hinoki cypress, Sawara cypress, white false cypress

Botanical Name: Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, C. nootkatensis, C. obtusa, C. pisifera, C. thyoides

Color: Evergreen with green, blue or golden yellow foliage

Type: Conifer species and cultivars

Size: Many sizes and forms. Alpine dwarf, dwarf, medium-sized garden specimen, pendulous, 20- to 60-foot landscape tree, 165-foot forest tree

Exposure: Sun. Some take partial shade. When young, provide protection from drying, freezing winds. Most are Zones 5 to 9, some are Zones 6 to 8.

When to Plant: Fall or spring

How to Plant: Follow label directions for spacing

Soil: Well-drained

Watering: Ample

When to Prune: Minimal in spring for dead branch removal

In Your Landscape: Small specimens in alpine gardens, containers or mixed borders. Medium and large-size trees as specimens, hedges, windbreaks, screening or shading.



Posted: 12/09/11   RSS | Print


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