Foliage of Sawara-cypress

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


  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Foundation,
  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Specimen,
  • Utility

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 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil

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, color and form.

Tree & Plant Care

Best grown in full sun to part shade in average, moist fertile soils. Avoid wet poorly drained soil. Site out of direct wind. Prefers a humid climate.
Rarely needs pruning

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

Cream Ball Sawara-cypress (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.

Soft Serve® Sawara-cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Don Whiting'): a narrow, columnar, upright habit reaching 10 feet high and 6 feet wide; needles are green with steel-blue undersides.

Golden Mop Sawara-cypress  (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. 

Location of Chamaecyparis pisifera (Sawara-cypress) at the Arboretum