False cypress are a hardy variety of plant that can add unique colours and textures to your garden. Here’s some advice for picking and caring a variety that’s right for you.
1. Choose between large or small false cypress
- The larger trees, which can eventually reach 30 metres (100 feet), are ideal for screens, boundary markers and backdrops for shrubs and smaller trees.
- The slow-growing dwarfs, up to 1.8 metres (six feet), are fit for foundation plantings, terrace edgings, shrub borders and rock gardens.
2. Pick out a species you love
There are many varieties of false cypress. These are some facts about the most popular kinds:
- Nootka cypress is very long-lived, growing for up to 1,000 years. This species is hardy to Zone 5, prefers a moist climate and resists damage from ice, winds and occasional flooding.
- While most false cypress species form a stiff pyramid, the dwarf ‘Compacta’ forms a globe. The ‘Lutea’ and ‘Aurea Densa’ have a unique cone shape.
- The most elegant is the nine metre (30 foot) ‘Pendula.’ This variety features weeping foliage that hangs in long streamers.
- Lawson’s cypress (C. lawsoniana), native to western North America, is widely grown in moderate to mild climates.
- ‘Ellwoodii,’ a slow-growing Lawson variety, matures to a nine metre (30 foot) column of grey-green that turns blue in cold weather.
- Most Lawson’s cypress are hardy to Zone 6. They may need protection from winter wind.
- Hinoki false cypress, hardy to Zone 5, is a conical tree with horizontal branches carrying thick sprays of deep green foliage.
- The ‘Nana Gracilis’ is a slow-growing variety with dark green, slightly curving leaves.
- Sawara false cypress forms a narrow pyramid but is a looser, more open plant than other types.
- Two varieties with golden leaves that have a strong presence in the landscape are ‘Gold Spangle’ and the feathery ‘Plumosa Aurea.’ Both are hardy to Zone 4.
3. Plant them with care
- Plant small specimens by keeping the soil ball intact to avoid root injury.
- Keep the soil around the roots moist the first year. Plants should endure drought thereafter.
- Apply an eight centimetre (three inch) layer of organic mulch to retard evaporation from the soil.
- In warm climates, site plants on a northern exposure or plant in partial shade.
4. Keep them pest-free
- False cypress are virtually free of pests and disease.
- Sap-sucking spider mites occasionally infest them in hot, dry weather, causing inner foliage to die.
- Dislodge damaged leaves and mites with a strong spray of water from a hose.
No matter where you live, there’s probably a false cypress well-suited to your garden. The trick is regular care and picking the right variety. Once you’ve done that, your false cypress can grow and flourish.