The Truth About the False Cypress

by Drew Avery on Flickr
by Drew Avery on Flickr

Ever see a bonsai tree and wonder what kind of tree it really is? In reality it could be any kind including a mighty oak or a maple, but more than likely it is a tree commonly known as the False Cypress, Chamaeapparis (which means “low-growing cypress”), or White Cedar.

Sawara - by afagen on Flickr
Sawara - by afagen on Flickr
Blue Dwarf by Dave Avery on Flickr
Blue Dwarf by Dave Avery on Flickr
Hinoki by Dave-F on Flickr
Hinoki by Dave-F on Flickr

This evergreen (having greenery throughout the year) is technically a shrub instead of a tree due to its lack of one main trunk. Through the art of bonsai can you see it in tree form, but when it is allowed to grow in a natural state it is a prized ornamental shrub that many place in their landscaping plans. The variety of colors, shapes, and sizes give fans a huge selection to choose from and adds diversity to their lawns and gardens.

If you are interested in this slow growing shrub, you will be pleased to know that they grow anywhere from three to seventy-five feet high and five to twenty feet wide. The size depends greatly on which of the False Cypress bushes you have chosen. Talk to your local garden shop and check out the links at the bottom of this article. The shrub’s general cone shape loves full sun, yet does not like extremely hot climates. That puts the prime growing zones in 4-8. In fact, most of the “native” ones in North America can be found in the Pacific North West.

The shrub can at times be confused with other shrubs, but the reddish-brown bark can be the sign. When you pull on the loose bark, it pulls off in long narrow strips. (Warning: Children may find this irresistible.) Knowing that it is a true False Cypress is important on knowing how to care for it. It is very sensitive to watering. If there is too much water, root rot could become a problem. But don’t go the opposite extreme, either. Too much dryness could be the death nail of the shrub.

I mentioned earlier that the shrub is one of the most common ones to use for bonsai. So it should come to no surprise that the False Cypress originated from Japan. The art of bonsai is very interesting and takes years of passion. Though the shrub is from Japan, you would be surprised to know that bonsai art is not. It was brought to Japan by Buddhist monks.

Why is it called a False Cypress? A true cypress is a tall tree whose family includes the redwoods. The False Cypress shows some characteristics of this family but in a bush form. Therefore, the name of False Cypress is given.

The False Cypress has many family members that are commonly used for bonsai art. They include:

  • Lawson Cypress
  • Ellwood Cypress
  • Port Orford Cedar
  • Nootka Cypress
  • Hinoki Cypress
  • Fernspray Cypress
  • Koster Cypress
  • Sawara Cypress
  • Threadbranch Cypress
  • Andelyensis Conica Cypress

If you are looking for a great looking shrub for your landscaping, check out the False Cypress family. If you are looking for the perfect plant to begin your bonsai hobby, check out the False Cypress. You’ll be glad you did.

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Comments 2 comments

Mandy 5 years ago

False cypress is a wonderful bonsai to start a hobby. Making bonsai growing as a hobby creates a refreshing feeling feeling everyday.


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nancynurse 5 years ago from Southeast USA

Thanks for sharing I enjoyed your hub. You cleared up some things I did not know about the differences in cypress

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