General Information: This
broad, sweeping, conical-shaped evergreen has graceful, flattened, fern-like branchlets which gently droop at branch tips.
Falsecypress reaches 50 to 75 feet in height with a spread of 10 to 20 feet, has dark green foliage, and attractive,
shredding, reddish-brown bark which peels off in long narrow strips.
The easiest false cypress to keep alive is the Hinoki cypress, C. obtusa. Many report great
success in growing it, but unfortunately, it seems to be one of the most difficult to keep in proper bonsai form due to the
whorling fan patern of the foliage. Boulevard cypress (C. pisifera 'Boulevard') and Chamaecyparis thyoides 'Andelyensis Conica',
Andelyensis cypress, seem to be the varieties which cause the most grief.
Lighting: Full sun, in all
but the hottest climates, is ESSENTIAL. Without proper lighting, lower and inner branches brown and die, which is a serious
problem because Chamaecyparis will not bud back on old wood. Many books recommend putting these trees in the shade, but this
seems to be a strategy to avoid having the soil dry out completely (see watering, below).
Temperature: Zone 5 - 8A.
Most Chamaecyparis species are hardy to -10F, but are in danger of die-back from cold, drying winds. Some degree of frost/wind
protection is advised. Lesniewicz claims that C. pisifera 'Plumosa,' C. pisifera 'Nana Aurea,' and C. pisifera ' Squarrosa'
can be grown indoors, in a bright, airy location away from any heat sources.
Watering: Touchy. Many varieties,
especially Boulevard/blue moss cypress, are very vulnerable to root rot. However, unlike most genera that like it dry, false-cypresses
tend to drink a lot of water, especially when in an active growth phase. And Chamaecyparis can never be allowed to dry out
completely. Also, drying winds can cause foliage die-back. The best strategy is to use very fast-draining soil, water moderately,
allow it to dry somewhat between waterings, and supplement watering with frequent misting. Also, an older couple in the Buffalo
Bonsai Society with some very nice Chamaecyparis advised me to water only in the morning to early afternoon, to avoid having
the trees stand in water overnight.
Feeding: Every two weeks,
from early spring to midautumn. Use Miracid, as Chamaecyparis is a lime-hater. An extra tip from Brent: for blue varieties
(Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Boulevard, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Minima Glauca') water occasionally with 1 teaspoon/gallon epsom
salts. This will provide added magnesium which turns the foliage an intense blue.
Pruning and wiring: The
major styling challenge for false cypress is the fatal combination of rapid growth, die-back from lack of light, and refusal
to bud on old wood. If Chamaecyparis isn't pruned constantly, inside and lower branches will die and never grow back, making
bonsai maintenence a headache. The tree is best shaped through constant pinching of new foliage - never use scissors to prune
as foliage browns where cut. Hinoki cypress also tends to form awkward whorls of foliage if not properly pruned. There is
an excellent article by Kamajiro Yamada in International Bonsai 1995/No. 3 which gives detailed instructions accompanied with
photographs of how to do this. Most false cypresses are easy to wire, but branches may take a while to set and may need to
be re-wired several times to avoid cutting in to the tree. Can be wired at any time of year, but as wiring seems to sap the
vigor of the plant, it is best to wait three months after repotting to wire.
Propagation: Cuttings can
be taken from young wood in July or August. Hinoki cypress cuttings will root readily. Can be grown from seed, but needs cold
pre-treatment and may take up to a year to germinate. Veneer grafting can be used on Hinoki cypress in summer.
Repotting: Every two to
four years in early to mid spring for young trees, every three to five years for older ones. Your soil mix will depend on
your conditions: fast-draining is the best idea for most people, but a richer mix might be preferable in extremely hot areas
to keep the roots from drying completely. Hinoki cypress roots easily, and may need to be repotted every second year, removing
as much as 1/3 to 1/2 of the root mass. Avoid using pots which are too large, especially with Boulevard cypress, as this keeps
them too wet.
Pests and diseases: Pests: Juniper scale can be controlled by applying pesticides when the crawlers are active. The bagworm
webs dead foliage and other debris together to make a nest. The covering makes the insect difficult to control. The nests
can be picked off by hand.
Diseases: Blight can be a problem on young plants in nurseries
or old plants in landscape situations. In young plants, branch tips turn brown and die back until the whole branch or young
tree is killed. Trees over five years old are less susceptible. When older trees in landscapes are affected by tip blight,
entire trees are seldom killed. Tip blight can infect trees during wet weather. The disease causes sooty pustules on the leaves,
bark and cones. Scorch may look like a disease but is caused by excessive direct sun, freezing stress, drought or mites.
Some species suitable for bonsai:
- Chamaecyparis lawsoniana: Lawson cypress, Port Orford cedar - neither a cedar nor
a cypress, it is hardy in zones 6-8. Reddish brown bark and bright green foliage with purplish brown cones. There are several
hundred cultivars of this species.
- Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Ellwoodii Improved': Ellwood cypress - a slow-growing,
bluish shrub with small, tight foliage.
- Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Minima Aurea': A dwarf cultivar of Port Orford cedar with
yellow-green young foliage.
- Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Minima Glauca' - A blue dwarf cv. of Port Orford cedar.
- Chamaecyparis nootkatensi: Nootka cypress - Brownish-grey bark and thick, dark green,
drooping foliage. The Chamaecyparis of choice in cold climates, Thomas claims it is hardy in zones 5-7, while Mitchell says
it's native as far north as Anchorage, Alaska.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa: Hinoki cypress - supposedly hardy in zones 5-8, but Brent says
to -10F and I'd tend to believe him. Has reddish brown bark and dark green, fanlike foliage. Hinoki cypress foliage turns
reddish in the winter.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Blue Feathers' - very fine, aqua green foliage, more similar
to Sawara than Hinoki cypress.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Filicoides': fernspray cypress.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Kamaeni Hiba' - a lovely little false cypress, with graceful
foliage like ocean spray, tipped with yellow.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Kosteri': Koster cypress.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana': dwarf Hinoki cypress, dwarf Japanese false cypress.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis': Hinoki cypress - Hardy to zone 5. Immature
foliage is bright yellow.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Yatsubusa': Hinoki cypress .
- Chamaecyparis pendula - Has long, threadlike foliage, similar to mature juniper foliage.
Young growth is tipped yellow- green.
- Chamaecyparis pisifera: Sawara cypress - supposedly hardy in zones 5-8, but I'd stick
with -10F. It has reddish-brown bark and pointy foliage reminiscent of young junipers, which make it easier to style than
other Chamaecyparis varieites. Note, however, that the foliage shape on C. pisifera cultivars varies greatly.
- Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Boulevard' (often called C. pisifera 'Cyano Veridis' which
is technically incorrect): Boulevard cypress, blue moss cypress - grows more slowly than other false cypresses. Has a graceful,
arching habit and soft, blue foliage.
- Chamaecyparis pisifera compacta 'white' - a dwarf Sawara cypress with distinctly
ivory tipped fronds.
- Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera': threadbranch cypress - has drooping, threadlike
Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Nana Aurea': Sawara cypress.
- Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Plumosa': Sawara cypress - light green, feathery foliage.
pisifera 'Snow': Sawara cypress - Fast growing, with green to yellow foliage.
- Chamaecyparis pisifera 'squarrosa': Sawara cypress.
- Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Tsukumo' - Soft, dark green foliage, more like Hinoki or
Shimpaku juniper than Sawara cypress.
- Chamaecyparis thyoides 'Andelyensis Conica': Andelyensis Conica cypress, Andelyensis
white cedar. Zones 5-8. A dense cone of blue-green foliage.
- Chamaecyparis thyoides 'Heatherbun'.