Chamaecyparis in Zone 4?

three_acres(4 Madison WI)April 27, 2011


I was wondering what kind of luck other zone 4 people have had growing Chamaecyparis. A local conifer nursery expert from Stonewall Nursery told me that Chamaecyparis obtusa varieties have a hard time growing here even if they are rated for zone 4 but that the pisifera varieties do better. Has anyone else found this to be true in your experience?

I planted 7 conifers in my front flower beds last fall (Abies lasiocarpa arizonica, Abies koreana, Taxus cuspidata, and multiple Tsuga canadensis) and the Chamaecyparis pisifera 'White Pygmy' is the only one that is struggling. I'm not sure if it is because it is a white tissue plant that may take longer to establish or if it is in too shady of a spot or if Cham. pisifera just don't grow well here. My local nurseries have a lot of new Cham. pisifera in stock and I'd love to pick up some more for some flower beds in the backyard that will get a stronger afternoon sun. I'm looking at:

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Pincushion'

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Cream Ball'

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Tsukumo'

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Squarrosa Minima'

Any experience with any of these?

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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

No problem for you. Abies koreana while listed as zone 5 is certainly hardy to zone 4. Move the 'White Pygmy' to full sun as it's not a shade plant. And, you won't be able to grow Chamaecyparis obtusa - not at all. It's not cold-hardy to zone 4.

Best Regards,


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 12:33PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

The guy at Stonewall seems to know his stuff as he has been in the confier business for 25 years.

Did you visit his nusery this year yet? I think he just opened up on Monday and I have to take a trip out there.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 2:14PM
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three_acres(4 Madison WI)

Thanks for confirming C. obtusa are out of the question Dax. I wanted more than one opinion before I cross all those beautiful plants off my list. Why do the local nurseries have to tease me with plants I can't have?!

Unfortunately, I don't have any full sun on our property but I can move it to a place with more sun and/or afternoon sun. That would be worth a try right? Otherwise I still have a warranty on the plant if you don't think it will survive in those conditions.

No I haven't made it out there yet whaas. I was just trying to find when he was opening for the year. Are you on some kind of e-mail list from him or something? I'm new to the conifer world but I can already tell that nursery is a dangerous place for my wallet. My list above if just from Jung's and The Bruce Co. do you have any other recommendations in the area for conifers?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 2:53PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Take a field trip to Rich's Foxwillow Pines in Woodstock, IL. That will really tease you.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 12:18AM
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three_acres(4 Madison WI)

That's on my list of places to see! I'm hoping I can get there this summer or fall. I loved there display at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.

Just to clarify is is just 'White Pygmy' that can't handle the shade or will none of the Chamaecyparis pisifera be able to grow in 4-6 hours of morning sun? I have a lot of flower beds to fill and every varying type of shade but no full sun.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 11:13AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

You'll be fine with that amount of sun for any full sun plant coniferous or other.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 5:09PM
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three_acres(4 Madison WI)

Sorry I should have clarified some area in the front are in direct morning sunlight and others have only dappled morning light. Currently I have an Abies lasiocarpa arizonica 'Glauca Compacta' and Taxus cuspidata 'Nana Aurescens' in the direct light with Abies koreana 'Starker's Dwarf', Tsuga canadensis 'Jeddeloh', Tsuga canadensis 'Frostie', and Chamaecyparis pisifera 'White Pygmy' in the dappled light. Our house is angled northwest so the area becomes shaded somewhere between 12-1pm. I'm just trying to get an idea on what conifers I can even put there.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 10:37PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Here's what I know and the rest will be guesswork on your own part: 3 hours of direct sunlight will provide a plant needing "full sun" enough light to do OK. dappled light till mid-day is really a tough call. Some will survive and some won't. If you stick with hemlock and arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) those two will do fine in all your situations, and there are a lot of colorful plants within these two Genus (Thuja and Tsuga are the Genus).


    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 7:58AM
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three_acres(4 Madison WI)

Thanks Dax. I've been trying to stay away from Thuja because we live in the country so there are deer around. So far they haven't touched any plants I've planted but I also don't try to tempt them. I was considering using Thuja occidentalis 'Golden Tuffet' though because of it's low spreading nature. I figure it should be completely buried in snow most of the winter. Of course that plant needs more sunlight than most Thuja to get the brighter golden colors so I would probably find a spot with some direct sunlight for it.

I'm also hoping to find some Abies balsamea to try in that space as I hear they are also shade tolerant.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 10:43AM
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My sister has been growing a chamaecyparis obtusa for over 10 years now that I put in that many years ago. It looks great. They live in Owatonnna, MN which is considered zone 4. I don't know why it grows but it does and its not right up against the house or anything like that either.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 5:41PM
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So busy taking care of my garden haven't had much time to take part on this forum. Coincedentally I have all of those Chamaecyparis planted in my zone 4 gardens, got them as Iseli fancifull gardens starts. I've had the white pygmy and golden pin cushion for 5yrs., and the others for two. Up to this point all are doing just fine. I have all on a north side,shade type planting as our winter sun is just brutal. But I'm always of the opinion, if the plant is cheap enough what's the worst it can do except die.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 4:27PM
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Just to show you what they look like, chamaecyparis obtusa 'Butterball' in the back ground and Chamaecyparis pisifera 'White Pygmy' in the fore ground

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Pin Cushion"

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 5:04PM
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