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Cryptomeria japonica - conifer genus with incredible variation

January, 2019

In this article I will be discussing Cryptomeria japonica, the Japanese Cedar, with wildly diverse characteristics depending on the cultivar. These variations show how interesting a plant group can be.

The largest cultivar we grow is Cryptomeria j. 'Elegans', shown below, can have a single leader, or if pruned, will have multiple leaders like this one, which is very showy.


Fri, 01/18/2019 - 14:09 -- donw@singtree.com

The photo below shows the winter foliage color, reddish/plumb coloration. This color is deepest in the coldest months, turning back to dark-green in late spring.

To show an extreme contrast, the cultivar Cryptomer j. 'Tenzan' is one the the smallest cultivars, only reaching 8 inches tall x 12 inches wide in 10 years. The foliage is congested and tightly packed offering an interesting texture. In cold winters the foliage will be slightly bronzey.


Now for a really different look, there is Cryptomeria j. 'Knaptonensis'. The foliage is white over green, and will need to be in a shady spot to keep from burning. In a shady area the plant really jumps out at you.

The cultivar Cryptomeria j. 'Elegans Aurea' is so feathery and soft, you really want to touch it. The tree will grow to be 15 feet tall x 20 feet wide in 10 years. We recommend this tree for a fast growing screening plant for those who are tired of looking at their neighbor's yard. Be sure to check to see if this tree is hardy enough for your zone.


'Black Dragon' is more narrow, and will be 10 feet tall in 10 years. The plant has a dark-green presence, and will be  a great plant for the background. This cultivar will also work as a screening tree.

'Kilmacurragh', which sounds like you are clearing your throat whe said out loud, will be covered with these 'cockcombs'. These unusual foliage variations are actually called 'fasciations', and lend a very different look to this plant. Over time this conifer will ve 5 feet tall x 6-7 feet wide.

Growing into a globe shaped plant 12 inches tall x 12 inches wide in 10 years, Little Diamond is a big favorite among collectors. The twisted foliage adds a texture that is unique to this group of conifers. The smaller size is attractive to those who have smaller gardens.

We quite like Cryptomeria j. 'Mushroom' with its soft and 'petable' foliage. The plant can be pruned to keep it looking like a mushroom. The winter color is a reddish/bronze color.

If you are wanting a very 'sculptural' plant for that special spot, 'Tansu' will do the job. The foliage is quite stiff, but not prickly. The slow growth keeps the plant tight and compact, but it will eventually be 5 feet tall x 6 feet wide. This cultivar will have some winter bronzing to the foliage.

For those wanting a very narrow tree, Cryptomeria j. 'Rasen Sugi' will fill the bill. Quickly growing to 20 ft tall in 10 years, the tree will only be 4 ft wide. The narrow footprint allows this cultivar to fit into a small garden. What makes this tree really cool is that every part of the tree is twisted, all of the foliage on all of the branches...even the trunk. Wild!


The trunk of Cryptomeria j. 'Rasen Sugi' below.



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