Japanese plume cedar and conifers with feathery needles

may_flowersApril 16, 2014

I've been doing a little reading on conifers, a subject I know little about, and I am beginning to feel the love.

I have a corner that needs an evergreen. The Japanese plume cedar seems suited for the spot--mostly sun, slightly acidic soil-- and I like its soft feathery foliage. Which other conifers might work? I have room for an 8-10' base and about 15' in height. I like a cone shape so it can hide a wood fence.

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davidrt28 (zone 7)

I like them too. (Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans')
I assume you are aware they turn a purplish-brown in winter, even in incredibly mild zn 10 climates like Eureka, CA. Might not be to everyone's taste. My little old lady neighbor asks me every other year "is that thing dead?"

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 3:32PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Boulevard' may do well for you or a number of Chamaecyparis lawsonias.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 4:03PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you will get much further. .in your research.. if you use google to find the latin name of a conifer.. and then use that.. to search ...

then you must understand..that ALL size estimates are at 10 years ... as trees.. conifer will NEVER stop growing.. in your lifetime ..

then understand.. that all named varieties.. have a predictable annual growth rate .. i converted to latin.. and added annual growth at the link for you ...

and i would bet this thing leans toward 12 inches per year ...

soooo .. depending on the size you buy.. and how fast it gets established... lets just say.. that in about 10 to 12 years.. it is going to zoom past your 15 foot requirement.. and keep on going ..

so you say.. what should i do ... well.. you would look for a dwarf of her ... as defined by a slower annual growth rate.. say something in the 3 to 6 inch annual rate... and then you could enjoy it for much longer.. in the space given ...

i will leave it to you.. to research out the junkies suggestions ...

good luck


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 4:27PM
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David, I am aware, and the winter color has been described as an attribute, but if it does seem more brown than purple, I'll need to reconsider that. Our HOA might bug us every year to remove it!

tsugajunkie, I have read about the need to tie Boulevard in snow and ice, and we can get ice storms. Is that the case with the other varieties?

Ken, thank you....you've helped me a few times. I do know the Latin names but can't always spell them, and my backspace key is glitchy, so in posting, I'm going with what's easy. ;)

I'll take your advice and stick to the dwarf conifers. I just recently found out that dwarf refers to the rate of growth, which explained why the dwarf alongside our driveway got so big after 15 years and had to go. Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans' does have a Compacta variety.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 6:39PM
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Oddly, despite the native ties, Lawson cypresses are not highly recommended for PNW gardens. This is due largely to the ease with which they develop root rots, of which we tend to get quite a lot in our overly rainy winters. And Boulevards just look messy after any length of time here, with excessive interior browning.

Crptomerias are excellent conifers for this area with several listed as Great Plant Picks. I'd include 'Sekkan Sugi' on my short list. And while not exactly as soft a foliage texture as the crypts, Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) are excellent choices for PNW gardens in a huge range of sizes, colors and textures.

Here is a link that might be useful: Great Plant Picks conifer listing

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 7:28PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Gardengal, is root rot only a problem in areas that are watered in summer? Or is the problem that your winters are wetter than its native range, with is apparently just south of the Willamette Valley? I ask because it's curious for a winter-wet species - at least one that isn't a forb or geophyte - to find winters not far away, in the grand scheme of things, to be too wet.
Now summer water causing problems I can certainly imagine, as this is apparently sometimes what finishes off Arbutus menziesii in cultivated & watered PNW gardens.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 7:56PM
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Lots of cool non-evergreen conifers with soft, feathery needles:
Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'North Light'
Taxodium distichum 'Peve Minaret'

Only other evergreen not mentioned would be Chamaecyparis thyoides, particularly 'Heatherbun'... It's interesting that all the soft needled conifers are either deciduous or turn purple/brown in winter...

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 9:41PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

There are several varieties of Cryptomeria j., 'Elegans' that don't turn brown in winter. One of mine turns a plum purple. I have one called 'Aurea' that turns a yellow green in the winter. 'Viridis' is supposed to stay green in the winter. A friend of mine, not too far away, has one that turns brown.
I'm not fully versed on these different varieties, nor do I have a reference library that goes into detail about the various forms.
Heck, maybe they all turn brown in areas with colder winters than Zone 8.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 5:54AM
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This has been very helpful. Aurea and Viridis are both lovely. So it appears that Sekkan Suki has a mature height of 30' and Aurea is 20', or are they the same plant?

I had forgotten about Hinoki Cypress. I like those too, and they say PNW to me. I didn't know about the varieties, so I'll do some research on them. Fortunately I don't need to make a decision until the fall, when it's safer to plant shrubs and trees.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 11:02AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

So it appears that Sekkan Suki has a mature height of 30' and Aurea is 20',

==>>> you arent getting it ...

they are trees.. THEY HAVE NO MATURE HEIGHT ... they will grow forever ... like forest trees ... [and yes.. maybe in a hundred years.. they will slow down .. but most of us wont be around to find out]

if you found height references.. they should be at 10 years .... therefore i would ASSUME... suki can grow up to 3 feet per year???? ... i dont know.. they arent zone appropriate for me ... and this is where the industry fails us on some level ...

just trying to bring home.. the growth rate and mature size story ... and will try to remember your name .... and not belabor it again ..

OR is probably the mecca of a vast majority of conifer growers in the US ... you ought to be able to turn off the computer ... and go see real live plant in situ .... there was a recent post about such ... but i cant stress enough ... that 'seeing is believing' .... if you want truly unique plants.. rather than just what the bigboxstore or local guy can offer .... [i suppose you will tell me.. they are all on the other side of the state ... see link as to how i would deal with that]

you seem to be getting excited about all this.. and it makes me happy ...


Here is a link that might be useful: this is how me and friends used to deal with it

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 12:41PM
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Ken, calm down :-)) Trees DO have mature sizes. Like any other plant, they are genetically programmed to achieve a certain height (usually expressed as a "range') during their life span - the issue is that both that height and that life span are flexible. But regardless, once that growth nears its genetic maturity, it slows considerably so a tree that might put on 12-24" annually during its prime may slow to 4-6" or less as it hits its senior years. Growth doesn't stop but it can slow down to an almost imperceptible rate.

And yes, 'Aurea' is different from 'Sekkan Sugi' - Aurea is just a bright, grassy green form of Elegans. Sekkan Sugi has a different foliage appearance and texture, more like the species itself.

And root rot is a problem on Lawsons even in the wild. Phytophthora lateralis is decimating native stands and cultivated stock can suffer from this as well as other forms of Phytophthora. If one is contemplating planting a Lawson cypress in this day and age, I'd strongly urge searching out one grafted onto disease resistant root stock.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 4:04PM
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fairfield8619(Zone 8 NW LA)

Coast redwoods can grow 6ft a year or more I see- If they grew that much throughout their lives they would be to the moon. And this is in the native range. Trees DO NOT grow at the same rate forever. Check it out Socrates and quit spreading misinformation and fear mongering.

Rate of Growth
Coast redwoods may put on six, eight or even more feet of height in a single season whereas the giant sequoia is more likely to grow about two feet in height per year throughout its first fifty to one hundred years.

Here is a link that might be useful: Growth & Development

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 5:51PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

I was quite surprised that a row of cryptomerias in Hagerstown, MD (6-7 yr old, 15 footers) showed zero browning this spring from a rather relentless winter. Don't know what cultivar they are. Some type of evergreen hollies nearby were toasted to a sickly, pale brown.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 12:06PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

I think Cryptos are tough plants, but have a strong preference for good, open, deep, rich soils. I've seen some on hard sites that look really bad and/or were really slow growing, for example, places in suburbia were a developer scraped down to the subsoil and left it that way.
At the garden I had as a teen at my parent's house, I planted a crypto in what had once been a veggie garden and had been roto tilled and improved over the years. The thing grew like crazy, and the roots spread very quickly such that you would find them 15-20' away from a plant that was still only 10-12' high. I think when the next owners cut it down, their first order of business after buying the house, it was at least 25' high, at least 8" caliper, but was no more than about 13 years old. And it started from a Camforest $5 rooted cutting that was just a few inches high. It was that old cultivar seldom marketed anymore: 'Lobbii' IIRC.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 3:11PM
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I planted a Crypto J. elegans compacta in a corner if my yard front yard facing the SW in the first part of May 2014. I loved the soft feel of the leaves. I knew it was suppose to turn a bronze purple in winter. This is June and the tree is totally brown. It is still soft to the touch and alive. Why would that turn in the middle of the summer? From the street the tree looks dead. Not happy with that. Is there anything I can do?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 10:59PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I've grown a few Cryptomeria j., 'Elegans' over the year and one thing I've noticed is that they grow toward the light. This causes them to lean as they get taller, eventually breaking because of snow, and or, ice. I have yet to get one over 25 ft.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 12:58PM
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