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How to Grow: False Cypress
full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Grown for its deep, evergreen green foliage
Mature Height x Spread
50 to 70 feet x 10 to 20 feet, with some dwarf versions
The false cypress can become a large evergreen tree in the landscape. However, like other evergreens, such as cedars, there are many variations on the theme. There are many slow growing, shrub versions of false cypress and some dwarf tree types. Most false cypress trees have a tall, conical shape. These look striking against a large building. The foliage is arranged in an upward facing, horizontal pattern around the trunk giving it an interesting form. Some needles are blue-green or golden in color. I think this carefree evergreen is underused in yards. It’s a good choice for those looking for alternatives to the regular spruce, cedar and pine trees for a hedge or mixed evergreen border.
When, Where and How to Plant
False cypress is hardy to zone 4 or 5 depending on the selection. Look for the hardiest varieties if growing in colder parts of New England. Purchase trees from a local nursery. Plant from spring to early fall in moist, compost-amended, well-drained soil in full sun. Depending on the selection, space trees 5 to 20 feet apart.
Keep false cypress trees and shrubs well watered. Create a mulch ring around plants grown in lawns to keep the soils moist and prevent damage from string trimmers and lawn mowers. Fertilize in spring with an evergreen plant food.
Regional Advice and Care
Grow false cypress trees in a natural form and not pruned, unless using them for a hedge. Shear shrub versions by pruning in spring after a flush of new young growth. Grow false cypress as a hedge. Shear the plants regularly in summer being sure the top of the hedge is narrower than the bottom to prevent the lower branches from dying due to lack of sun.
Companion Planting and Design
Plant full sized, false cypress trees in an open area where they can grow to full size, unimpeded by power lines or buildings. Grow false cypress as a hedge plant to block a view or create privacy. Plant dwarf and shrub versions as foundation plantings and in a mixed evergreen border with dwarf spruce and cedar. Grow false cypress dwarfs in containers or a rock garden.
‘Filifera’ is a Japanese false cypress (C. pisifera) that grows 25 feet tall and has string-like, graceful, cascading branches. ‘Filifera Aurea’ is a golden foliaged version. ‘Golden Spangle’ and ‘Aurea Nana’ are slow growing, rounded, dwarf versions that only grow 4 feet tall. ‘Soft Serve’ is a slow growing conical Japanese false cypress that grows 8 to 10 feet tall. Hinoki false cypress (C. obtusa) normally grows 70 feet tall. However, the most popular Hinoki cypress is ‘Nana Gracilis’ that grows 6 to 10 feet tall with dark green, wavy branches.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.