TREES & plants


Its pyramidal habit, loose open branching and scale-like, dark green foliage make the sawara-cypress a notable option for specimen plantings or in groups in a large landscape. Besides its remarkable foliage, this evergreen has handsome reddish-brown bark that peels off in strips and tiny, reddish-brown cones on short stalks.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name: 
Chamaecyparis pisifera
All Common Names: 
Sawara-cypress, Sawara Falsecypress, Japanese Falsecypress, sawara cypress
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Landscape Uses: 
  • Utility
  • Specimen
  • Massing
  • Hedge
  • Foundation
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet)
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet)
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil
  • Moist, well-drained soil
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter
  • Mid winter
  • Late winter
  • Early spring
  • Mid spring
  • Late spring
  • Early summer
  • Mid summer
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Narrow
  • Pyramidal
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
More Information: 

Size and Form

50 to 60 feet high and 10 to 20 feet wide; pyramidal form
Cultivars vary in size and form.

Tree & Plant Care

This tree grows best when sheltered from winter winds.
Needs a humid climate.

Disease, pests and problems

This tree does not tolerate high pH.
No serious pests.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Japan.

Bark color and texture 

Handsome, reddish-brown, peels off into thin strips.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate,  flattened, scale-like needles on horizontal branchlets.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size


Sawara-cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera)Sawara-cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera)photo: John Hagstrom

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Tiny, 5/16 inch reddish-brown cones appear on short stalks.

Cultivars and their differences 

Many of these cultivars are smaller, dwarf forms.

Boulevard  (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’):  12 to 15 feet high and 8 to 10 feet wide; silvery-blue foliage, narrow dwarf form.

Cream Ball (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Cream Ball’):  2  to 3 feet high and wide; rounded, compact, evergreen shrub with dense, soft, light-green foliage that occurs as flattened sprays tipped in creamy white.

Golden Mop  (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’):   2 to 3 feet high and wide;  low, mounded evergreen shrub with dense, soft, yellow scale-like foliage in thread-like sprays.

Golden Thread-leaved Sarawa-Cypress  (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea’):  15 to 20 feet high and 8 to 12 feet wide; densely mounded;  golden yellow, fine-textured foliage.

Plume Sawara-Cypress  (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Plumosa’):   30  to 50 feet high and 10  to 20 feet wide; pyramidal, with a soft airy texture.

Thread-leaved Sarawa-Cypress  (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera’):  8 to 15 feet high and 8 to 12 feet wide; upright to mounded form;  pendulous, thread-like, narrow foliage.