False cypresses only differ from real cypresses in a few characteristics. The tree, originally from America and Asia, is often found in parks and gardens as a solitary plant. However, its evergreen appearance also makes the Chamaecyparis a popular hedge plant, which can easily be cultivated at almost any desired height.

location and substrate

False cypresses react to a lack of light with visible stunted growth and rapid balding of the lower plant region. Therefore, choose a full sun to partially shaded place for the evergreen hedges. On the other hand, no special requirements are placed on the substrate. Whether the soil is rich in humus or sandy, it does not matter for the widespread woody plant. You should only avoid too calcareous soil with a pH value of over 7 or upgrade it with larger amounts of peat.

watering and fertilizing

Older and firmly established Chamaecyparis are normally able to absorb the necessary moisture from the soil via the widely branched root system. Water only during a long dry period in summer and on frost-free days in winter. The root ball of the false cypress must never dry out completely. You should preferably choose low-lime water for watering.

If the location and the substrate were chosen correctly, you can do without the additional supply of nutrients. Only in autumn and spring is it advisable to mulch the soil directly around the plant and mix larger amounts of compost underneath. However, you can also use horn shavings or lawn clippings for this.


Shrubs are generally only planted in the autumn months. Choose a frost-free day for this activity and note before digging the planting hole that false cypresses need a certain minimum distance from buildings and other plants. Depending on the species chosen, the Chamaecyparis can reach a height of up to 15 meters and also assume a lush girth. A distance of about 50 centimeters between the individual plants is sufficient as a hedge plant.

solitary plants

For larger types of cypress, you should plan a distance of about 3 square meters to other tall plants and house walls. Dig a planting hole that is twice as wide and deep as the circumference of the root ball. This makes it easier for the evergreen tree to take root and acclimate to the new location. Enrich the excavation with compost and mix in pebbles if the soil is heavy. The false cypress must be placed in the culture vessel at the same height as before so that the roots are not damaged. Then press the substrate firmly and water it generously.

hedge plants

The Chamaecyparis is popular with many gardeners due to its fast growth and bushy shoots and is cultivated there as a living privacy fence. This type of plant is also planted in the cold season. Tension the place where the hedge plants will later be planted with a cord. This will help you keep a straight line and not accidentally end up in your own bed of roses. The size of the planting hole is chosen in the same way as for solitary plants. In addition, you should create loose drainage from small stones at the bottom of the planting hole. Planting is done at a distance of about 50 centimeters, so an opaque hedge is created within a very short time.

Tip: Water the young plants abundantly in the first few weeks immediately after planting, this makes it easier for the young cypress trees to take root.

For both types of planting, lay a thick layer of hummus or bark mulch directly around the chamaecyparis. This prevents the still sensitive roots from being damaged in the event of frost. Avoid combining a hedge with a garden fence. False cypresses look better without an annoying wire mesh or wooden slats. Not only the plants are able to develop better. Because necessary maintenance work, such as mulching or cutting, can also be carried out more easily.

Cultivation in tubs

Some of the small cypress species, such as the Chamaecyparis obtusa “Pygmaea”, are also suitable for keeping in pots. Choose a large and sturdy planter for this. In addition to drainage holes for excess water, there should also be drainage made of potsherds or lava grit. Waterlogging promotes root rot and can lead to premature death of the plant. False cypresses in tubs also have to be cut back regularly. Supply the wood regularly with low-lime water and liquid universal fertilizer. Even in the cold season, the substrate must not dry out completely. It is refilled as soon as the top layer of soil has dried slightly.

Note: Chamaecyparis in planters must be protected from frost damage in winter with a special fleece.

To cut

If you want to enjoy the evergreen plant for many years, you should take a closer look at the topic of “cutting”. Conifers do not tolerate pruning back into the old wood, so you have to cut back and train young plants to achieve the desired growth habit. The best time for pruning is between August and October. In order to avoid the colonization of fungal pathogens on the wound surfaces, the temperature fluctuations during the cut should be as small as possible.

Tools – pseudoconifers can develop strong shoots, even dead plant parts can only be removed by applying great force. Use a pair of sharp pruning shears and, if necessary, a saw. Clean the tool regularly so that any pathogens and pests that may be present are not carried on from infested plants.

Form  – A columnar growth form that tapers towards the top has proven itself for solitary plants. As a result, the lower shoots receive more sunlight, which prevents premature bare growth. A spherical growth can also be aimed for in the conifers. You also have to be careful to ensure that hedge plants are cut evenly. Each false cypress sprout differently, an accidental pruning into the old wood is not regenerated. With larger trees, the top cut can be a bit more generous, since the plant will close the unsightly, bare spots within a few years with new shoots.

Proceed carefully and do not cut back shoots close to the trunk. A few centimeters of needles should be retained to ensure that the branch will sprout again safely. This pruning technique also applies to dead or diseased parts of the plant: only remove enough that the old wood is not affected.


About 10 different types of false cypress are known, the following of which can often be found in specialist shops:

  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Columnaris”: The blue columnar cypress has a blue-green needle robe and reaches a height of between 6 – 10 meters.
  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Filifera Nana”: Often referred to as “green cypress”. This species has a spherical growth and is also suitable for front gardens due to its low growth height, which is between 1 and 2 meters.
  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Stardust”: This type of false cypress impresses with its striking, yellow-green foliage. The plant reaches a height of between 5 – 8 meters.
  • Chamaecyparis obtusa “Nana Gracilis”: The “dwarf shell cypress” is also one of the rather small cypress species. Its height of up to 2.5 meters and its cone-shaped growth make it an eye-catcher in your own garden when planted alone.
  • Chamaecyparis nootkantensis “Pendula”: An exotic species among the false cypresses is the “hanging nootka cypress”. The dark green beauty with the hanging shoots can reach a height of up to 15 meters.

Avoid care mistakes

False cypresses are also sensitive to poorly chosen locations and incorrect watering behavior. Recognize the symptoms in good time to prevent permanent damage to the coniferous trees.

Barrenness: Lack of light causes shoots and needles to wither and die prematurely. Since the old wood is often also affected, the light spots are no longer regenerated by the plant and the affected region becomes bare. Only plant Chamaecyparis in sunny locations, a place in the light semi-shade is also an option.

Discoloration of the shoots: A brown to black coloration of the twigs can often be observed. Several factors can lead to such a reaction:

  • lack of water
  • waterlogging
  • over-fertilization
  • nutrient deficiency
  • road salt
  • frost damage

Pay attention to the correct care of the cypress and also avoid cultivating it on a busy road. Spread salt and animal urine are not tolerated by the conifers. From September the plant sheds individual needles and shoot tips. This process is natural and not due to any care error.

diseases and pests

Thuja leaf miners:  In some cases, bald spots are not due to a lack of light, but an indication of an infestation with one of the numerous species of leaf miners. The larvae of this spider moth bore into the shoot tips of the cypress and eat the inner core. The shoots wither and die off completely as a result of the feeding tunnels. Generously remove infested plant parts and dispose of them with normal household waste. Use insecticides if the population is too large, because two generations of the voracious moths can infest the plants and cause considerable damage each year.

Shoot death:  Various fungal pathogens are also responsible for the premature death of the shoot tips. In contrast to a leaf miner infestation, however, the affected shoots do not show any feeding tunnels. Infection with these harmful fungi is accelerated by an environment that is too humid. Cut back infested plants immediately and do not dispose of the remains in the normal garden compost. Effective household remedies or chemical products are not yet known against the dieback caused by fungal pathogens. Avoid waterlogging and mix sand or pebbles with a substrate that is too loamy.

Thuja bark beetle: Visible holes in the trunk and dried shoots indicate the Thuja bark beetle. This pest has spread rapidly here in just a few years and prefers to attack arborvitae and cypress trees. The beetle, which is only about 2.4 millimeters in size, spends its larval stage in the shoots of the host plant and completely hollows them out. A severe infestation can therefore lead to the death of the entire plant. There are currently no effective remedies against the pest. Cut away affected plant parts generously to curb further spread of the beetle. If the infestation is too severe, the entire cypress tree must be removed.

Tip: Make sure you take good care of your plants. Healthy false cypresses have sufficient resistance to pest and fungal infestation.

Whether in borders, as a container plant on the patio or as a decorative solitary plant in your own garden, false cypresses are easy to cultivate and make few demands on the hobby gardener. Many of the numerous commercially available species are also suitable for planting as a living privacy fence. The evergreen plant also offers a distinctive eye-catcher in winter and is less susceptible to diseases and pest infestation.

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