A cypress plant immigrated from China and Japan at the end of the 19th century, which took the hearts of European gardeners by storm. The sickle fir flatters the eye with an incomparable habit that ends symmetrically in a straight crown. The sickle-shaped, light green needles that gave the Cryptomeria japonica its name, underline the high-contrast visual effect and at the same time loosen the appearance with slightly drooping branches. In the wild, the crescent fir reaches heights of up to 40 meters. Due to its graceful cultivated forms, the Japanese cedar is also suitable for the small garden. The following care instructions show how easy it is to cultivate the tree.

Location and potting soil

The sickle fir is a typical forest tree that does not like to stand in the blazing sun. Garden enthusiasts should take this into account when choosing the location:

  • Partial to shady location.
  • Between 3 and 6 hours of sun a day.
  • Gladly cool and surrounded by air.
  • Fresh, slightly moist and well-drained soil.

Due to its Asian origin, the Cryptomeria japonica is used to a harsh climate, so that it is evergreen and hardy in the local regions. In addition, she has no problems with wind-exposed locations, in which case she is preferably in the group so that the specimens protect each other. It only thrives poorly near bodies of water where there is a risk of waterlogging.


The crescent fir thrives in any normal garden soil. If it is one of the first plants after a new building, the soil could be heavily compacted by the construction vehicles. In this case, mechanical loosening of the potting soil is advisable, which, by the way, is good for the entire planting of the plant.

The Japanese cedar is mainly offered as container goods by tree nurseries and garden centers. In this form, planting is possible all year round. The best time of year to plant the Cryptomeria japonica in the ground is autumn

  • Remove weeds, roots and stones at the selected location.
  • Loosen the soil well with the rake or spade.
  • Place the crescent fir in a bucket of water for about 1 hour.
  • Dig a planting hole with twice the volume of the root ball.
  • Lift the excavated material into a wheelbarrow and mix 30% with garden compost.
  • At the bottom of the planting pit, create a drainage made of coarse materials such as gravel.
  • Spread a first layer of substrate over the drainage.
  • Position the wood in the middle, bury it halfway and silt it up.
  • Then the root ball is completely covered with earth and watered again.
  • The crescent fir should never be planted deeper than it was in the nursery.

It is advisable to support the young tree in the first two years of standing with three wooden posts that are knocked into the earth around it, at a distance of 30 cm to 50 cm. The binding material should have a wide area, such as bast tape or special straps, so that it does not damage the still tender bark or grow in over the years to come.

With regard to the start-up fertilization, neither manure nor complete fertilizer should be used in the planting pit, because these substances contain too sharp components that could damage the young roots.

Tip: If a layer of bark mulch or other organic material is spread over the tree disc after planting, this will keep the soil moist longer and at the same time suppress the weeds.

After the Cryptomeria japonica has been fully planted, the experts recommend an initial pruning of around 30% so that the tree can acclimatise better in its new home. In the following weeks and months, the growth phase is intensified when the crescent fir is repeatedly watered without waterlogging.

Plant bare roots properly

The supply of bare-root trees is falling sharply because this form of planting results in failure rates that are up to 20% higher than with container goods. If the hobby gardener, on the other hand, plans to plant a larger number of sickle firs in his garden, the bare-root product is more advantageous from a financial point of view, because it is significantly cheaper than the plants in the container. In this case, the planting time is limited to the weeks between mid-October and the end of November.

  • A bare-root crescent fir must be planted immediately.
  • Before doing this, cut off all kinks and breaks at the roots.
  • Place in a vessel with water for about 30 minutes.

Otherwise, the planting process is carried out in the same way as for container goods, whereby the height and width of the cut back is of essential importance.

Note: As part of the planting, it is essential to ensure that there is an appropriate distance from buildings, the street and the neighboring property. To be on the safe side in this regard, it is advisable to consult the responsible city or local authority.

Watering and fertilizing

The Japanese cedar likes a slightly damp environment, which gives the hobby gardener an indication of the frequency of watering. The crescent fir cannot do without the addition of other nutrients.

  • If there is insufficient rainfall, regular watering is used.
  • The earth on the crescent fir must not dry out.
  • Apply conifer fertilizer every 4 weeks from May to September.
  • Do not fertilize any more from October so that the tree is ready for winter.

The ideal time for watering is early in the morning or in the evening. The sun should no longer shine directly on the crescent fir. Even if the water is poured directly onto the tree grate, splashes can still wet the needles, which, when exposed to sunlight, triggers the so-called magnifying glass effect, which can burn the parts of the plant.

To cut

Like most cypress trees, the crescent fir is easy on pruning. This is why the hobby gardener uses sharpened secateurs every year to keep the tree in shape, to regulate the height and to prevent it from scaling from the inside out.

  • The best time for pruning is late summer.
  • The weather is dry and slightly overcast.
  • Remove all branches and twigs that are no longer vital.
  • Crossing shoots are cut in the same way.
  • Cut branches and water shoots that rise steeply towards the sky.
  • The length by which the branches are shortened is at the gardener’s discretion.
Tip: The Japanese cedar can also tolerate radical rejuvenation cuts deep into the old wood. Such a measure, on the other hand, should only be considered in exceptional cases because the tree then needs a considerable amount of time to sprout again.

It is important to note that the astring is not damaged and that each cut is made at a slight angle, just under 5 mm above a bud. The inclined cut makes sense because the rainwater can run off better. Experienced hobby gardeners are increasingly turning away from treating larger cuts with tree wax because it has been shown that under unfavorable conditions the area under the wax will rot.When the crescent fir has reached its maximum height of around 40 meters over the years, it may be necessary to cut very thick branches. In this case, the experienced gardener goes step by step and cuts the branch piece by piece from the outside in. When the stump has reached a length of approx. 30 cm, it is first sawed from below and then completely cut off from above. This makes sense insofar as the heavy branch stump does not suddenly tear off and the astring with the vital tissue is still injured. In the last step, the interfaces are smoothed with a sharp knife.


Once the gardener has got to know the lovable crescent fir, the desire for more specimens is understandable. There is no need to buy a new plant, because propagation is completely uncomplicated, with two different methods to choose from.


  • The best time to cut the cuttings is October and November.
  • A suitable offshoot is 15 cm to 20 cm long and comes from a two-year shoot.
  • In the lower part, the needles are removed without damaging the bark.
  • Fill a pot with nutrient-poor potting soil and insert the cuttings halfway into it.

In a bright, frost-free place, the cuttings now have all winter time to develop their own root system. During this phase, they are kept slightly moist and regularly checked for diseases and pests. If there are several cuttings in a growing container, it is advisable to transplant them into individual pots in good time, before their roots are almost inextricably intertwined.

Tip: The rooting is forced if a transparent bag is put over the nursery pot. It should be aired every 1 to 2 days.

Hobby botanists who count themselves among the patient people can consider propagation by sowing. In this case, on the other hand, it will take years for a reasonably handsome sapling to develop.


The Japanese cedar will survive the local winter without any damage as soon as it is firmly rooted. Tree experts only recommend protecting it from frost and snow in the first year after planting.

  • Shortly before the first frost, pad the tree disc thickly with leaves, straw or travel.
  • Put a burlap sack over the branches or surround them with raffia mats.
  • Dwarf varieties in the bucket are carried into frost-free winter quarters.
  • Alternatively, place the planter on a wooden block and wrap it with thick foil.

Since the crescent fir is an evergreen conifer, it evaporates water even in winter. Therefore, on frost-free days, she receives a well-measured ration of irrigation water, because especially in snow-free winters the risk of drying out is great.

Tip: Adult Cryptomeria japonica cannot be affected by the winter cold. The intense winter sun, on the other hand, is able to damage the decorative bark. In this case, wooden slats that are leaned against the trunk at an angle are sufficient to protect the bark.

Beautiful cultivated forms

Sicheltanne ‚Elegans Viridis‘ (Cryptomeria japonica ‚Elegans Viridis‘)

  • bushy habit up to 8 m in height
  • dense, bluish-green needles
  • cones up to 3 cm long

Sicheltanne ‘Compact’ (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Compact’)

  • compact tree up to 4 m high
  • Spread up to 3 m
  • beautiful solitary wood for the front yard

Hahnenkamm-Sicheltanne (Cryptomeria japonica ‚Cristata‘)

  • the most popular cultivated form
  • conical tree up to 6 m high
  • green, sickle-shaped needles

Japanese sickle fir (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Vilmoriniana’)

  • Growth height up to 80 cm
  • Spread up to 100 cm
  • well suited for the large bucket

Sicheltanne ‚Tablet ‘(Cryptomeria japonica‚ Tablet’)

  • Growth height up to 80 cm
  • Spread up to 70 cm
  • a nice variety for the small garden

This is only a small selection from the diverse range of offerings from growers and tree nurseries.

The crescent fir, also known as Japanese cedar, is undoubtedly a decorative addition to any park or garden. With its picturesque habitus and the extravagantly shaped, evergreen needles, botanical boredom does not arise all year round. Thanks to the diverse cultivation forms, the Cryptomeria japonica offers the creative hobby gardener a lot of design options without requiring a lot of maintenance.

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