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Cryptomeria japonica - Growing Guide

Growing Cryptomeria japonica

Japanese cedar

Cryptomeria japonica is a long lived and very resilient tree a few of which have grown directly outside the front door at Caerhays for over 100 years in the teeth of many gales. They bend and buck in the wind but very seldom shed any side branches. These trees have a conical or columnar habit with thick fibrous reddish-brown bark. In some parklands more elderly trees have eventually produced branches which touch the ground and have eventually rooted themselves. Thereby a single tree has grown into a multi stemmed clump over 200 or more years. There is a fine example at Picton Castle in Wales.

C. japonica has densely crowded and twisted leaves on long slender branches. Its female cones are ½in long and appear brown and ripe in profusion on mature trees in the autumn. This tree is however most easily propagated from autumn cuttings set in a mist bench with bottom heat over winter. The small rooted plants are at first floppy in their pots and canes should be used to keep the leading shoot upright and dominant.

C. japonica ‘Elegans’ makes an excellent windbreak tree on the edge of the garden at Caerhays and only one field from the sea. It seems impervious to salt spray and has a dense habit which makes it ideal for filtering the wind. The young foliage is bluish green but this turns an attractive, but very different, red-brown in winter. Overall this form of the Japanese cedar grows only to around 20ft with a larger spread.

C. japonica ‘Elegans Aurea’ has a similar overall habit but is of more ornamental value than as a windbreak. The yellow-green new growth does not turn colour in the winter.

C. japonica ‘Sekkan-sugi’ is a slow growing large shrub with us and has standout cream yellow new growth which turns near white in winter. ‘Golden Promise’ has a dense compact habit with striking yellowish new growth.

C. japonica ‘Spiralis’ grows on a rockery at Burncoose but is a huge impressive tree with a globular habit at Fota Arboretum in southern Ireland. Normally this form is a low spreading bush with the leaves spirally twisted or flattened around the stems.


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