Chamaecyparis are a genus of evergreen conifers native to Japan and Taiwan and the Eastern and Western edges of the United States. The name translates in Greek to “ground cypress. ”Of the six existing species, four (C. thyoides, C. obtuse, C. pisifera, and C. lawsoniana) are highly valued ornamental plants. They are among the tallest and the longest-lived trees on the planet. One C. lawsoniana was measured at 1755 years old in 1965. So much so there are hundreds of cultivars available in nearly every shape and color, from under a foot high to 230 feet fall. They are indispensable for adding colorful interest year-round, but especially in the winter landscape. The highly scented wood is prized in Japan for use in building temples. Hardiness is typically from USDA zones 4-8, depending on variety.
Planting False Cypress
False cypress will grow best in full sun, sited in moist yet well-drained soil with a pH of 6-7. Dig a space as deep as the root ball and twice as wide, allowing full space from neighbors and structures for the plant to reach its mature width. Create a hollow or moat around the dripline of the plant to retain water in the first seasons. An organic mulch will help retain water.
Watering False Cypress
Best growth and flowering results from even watering. Once the roots are established, after the first two growing seasons, some drought and heat can be tolerated. At planting, it is helpful to add moisture by digging a small moat circling the plant at the edge of its silhouette. You’ll want to water deeply once or twice per week during those first years. During heat spells, water more. Containers will need watering more often, perhaps daily in very hot or dry weather. A mulch is beneficial to retain moisture.
Fertilizing False Cypress
False Cypress benefit from a slow-release fertilizer in early spring. Look for a type made for woody plants rather than annuals. Amend soil as needed with dressing of compost and organic amendments in fall.
Pruning False Cypress
If you want to create a hedge or prune up as a standard, start pruning when young. Chamaecyparis will not regenerate new growth from cuts on old wood, so pruning old wood results in bare patches. All plants will appreciate it if you remove diseased or broken branches in midwinter. For hedges, cut back twice annually in early fall and late winter before new growth begins.
Caring For False Cypress in Pots
Select a dwarf cultivar and an appropriate-sized pot with drainage, filled with high-quality soil that’s mixed with organic matter. Fertilize lightly with slow-release fertilizer made for woody plants. Keep well-watered. Consider mulching, especially before winter. If a freeze is expected, give a long drink to prepare the plant. Top-dress with compost or manure in fall.
Winter Care for False Cypress
Amend soil with compost and organic matter as needed in fall. If your area is subject to strong freezes, add a winter mulch to keep the roots moist. Water deeply before strong freezes, especially in containers. In mid- to late-winter, check for any dead or diseased branches and remove, without cutting into “old wood”.