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TREES & Plants

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.

Botanical name: 
Chamaecyparis pisifera
All Common Names: 
Sawara-cypress, Sawara Falsecypress, Japanese Falsecypress, sawara cypress
Family (English): 
Cypress
Family (Botanic): 
Cupressaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
Growth Rate: 
  • Medium
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Tolerances: 
  • Occasional drought
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Pyramidal
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Massing
Time of Year: 
  • Early winter
  • Mid winter
  • Late winter
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

Inconspicuous

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.