Microbiota decussata siberian cypress


Size & form

Low spreading evergreen shrub reaching 8 to 12 inches high and 10 to 12 feet wide, with long stems that radiate from the plant’s crown. It can be used as a trailing ground cover. Trailing ground covers have trailing stems that spread out from central root system. These stems spread out horizontally over the ground, but do not root to the ground.

Tree & Plant Care

Full sun to part shade. Prefers light afternoon shade in hot climates.
Well drained soil is a must, but tolerant of various soil pH.
Although it tolerates drier soils once established, an organic mulch of wood chips is recommended to keep the root zone cool and moist.
Can be planted on gentle (not steep) slopes, or trailing over ledges.
Does require cool summer climate and well drained soils for sucessful plantings.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Deer may eat the foliage in winter if plants are not covered by snow.
Does not like hot summers, best in cool envirnoment.
Root rots can be a problem in poorly drained soil.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to a small, remote mountainous region of southeastern Siberia.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, flattened, feathery, fan-like branchlets (similar to arborvitae).
Medium to bright green summer foliage turns a bronzy purple in the winter.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Monoecious, male and female plant separate.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruits are tiny, berry-like 1/4-inch cones with woody-like scales. Cones are seldom produced.

Outstanding Qualities

This choice, low-growing evergreen is an admirable grower in the Northwest. Its delicate, lacy foliage sits in graceful layers, Each branch tip turns slightly down, adding a touch of elegance. During the growing season, Siberian cypress is bright green, but with the onset of cold weather its foliage changes to earth-toned purple-brown. Capitalize on this interesting winter color by planting it with the salmon-colored bark of Chinese red birch (Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis), winter-flowering heath (such as Erica x darleyensis ‘Kramer’s Rote’) or ornamental grasses, with their straw-like winter tones. Siberian cypress is among the few conifers that tolerate shade. It is also useful for slope plantings, growing vigorously and covering large areas. Although it is not a true juniper or a true cypress, it has similar, scale-like needles.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: spreading conifer

Foliage Type: evergreen

Plant Height: 2 ft. 0 in. (0.61 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 8 ft. 0 in. (2.44 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 2 ft. 0 in. (0.61 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 8 ft. 0 in. (2.44 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 8

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun to dappled shade

Water Requirements: occasional watering during dry weather

Resistant to: deer

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: silver, white, variegated, burgundy

Great Color Partners: chartreuse, dark green blue

Siberian Cypress – Groundcover of the Future

(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 29, 2008 Comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)

Siberian or Russian cypress, Microbiota decussata, is a relatively new introduction to our garden landscapes, but may well become the groundcover of choice for northern gardeners. Before we get into the specific attributes of the plant, a little botany and history on this plant might be appreciated. This conifer belongs to the family Cupressaceae and is somewhat closely related to junipers (Juniperus) and true cypress (Cupressus). In the wild, the plants hail from mountainous areas of eastern Siberia. Due to the remote location, this plant was not discovered until 1923. With all the secrecy between the former USSR and the western world, this plant only became known to the western world in the 1970s! Since its introduction to us, the plant has become increasingly popular.

The plant is quite low, generally between 20 and 50 cm but can spread up to 5 m. The foliage is evergreen and arranged in flattened sprays with scale-like leaves not unlike those found on Chamaecyparis. From a distance, this species looks much like a low-growing juniper. The cones are very small and rather insignificant. In fact, the female cones are the smallest of any conifer. Summer foliage is bright green but from late fall to mid-spring, plants turn purplish-brown. The winter colour provides a wonderful contrast in the winter garden, especially combined with heathers that have interesting winter foliage, golden-coloured conifers and ornamental grasses.

Close-up of the male and female cones.

This conifer is exceptionally hardy (zone 3 or sheltered areas of zone 2) and in the landscape, can easily rival the best spreading or creeping junipers. However, in my opinion, Siberian cypress surpass junipers since they do not suffer from the host of pests and diseases that plaque junipers. Full sun is best but they will tolerate more shade than junipers. They are not fussy as to the soil as long as it is well-drained and not too alkaline.

Siberian cypress produces overlapping sprays, lending a graceful appearance.

In the landscape they are premier choices for embankments, roadside medians and cascading over retaining walls. They are quite wind and salt tolerant so lend themselves wonderfully to coastal gardens. Their tolerance to drought makes them ideal choices for the mid-west where traditionally, junipers were the groundcover of choice.

Large mature Siberian cypress growing over a retaining wall and spilling over a pathway.

Unlike junipers which show tremendous variation in size, form and colour, Siberian cypress are remarkably consistent in habit and looks. So far only one cultivar has been selected. This one is called ‘Fuzz Ball’ and has softer, fuzzier foliage than is typical of the species and a more compact, somewhat rounded habit, growing 30 cm by 100 cm. This selection would make an admirable conifer for the smaller garden.

So if you have a problem spot in a relatively open site and junipers are just not up to spec, then try growing Siberian cypress, the groundcover of the future!

Russian Cypress

Russian Cypress

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Russian Cypress

Russian Cypress

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 15 inches

Spread: 4 feet


Hardiness Zone: 2a

Other Names: Russian Arborvitae


A little known but hardy wide-spreading groundcover evergreen, closely resembles a spreading juniper in shape but with the foliage of arborvitae; unlike juniper, performs very well in shade, also needs well-drained but moist soils and wind protection

Ornamental Features

Russian Cypress has green foliage. The scale-like leaves turn coppery-bronze in fall. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Russian Cypress is a multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with a ground-hugging habit of growth. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage.

This shrub will require occasional maintenance and upkeep, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Russian Cypress is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Mass Planting
  • General Garden Use
  • Groundcover

Planting & Growing

Russian Cypress will grow to be about 15 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 4 feet. It tends to fill out right to the ground and therefore doesn’t necessarily require facer plants in front. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 30 years.

This shrub performs well in both full sun and full shade. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist growing conditions, but will not tolerate any standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in winter to protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This species is not originally from North America.

Gertens Sizes and Prices

Russian Arborvitae: Russian Cypress Care And Information

Russian cypress shrubs may be the ultimate evergreen groundcover. Also termed Russian arborvitae because of the flat, scale-like foliage, these shrubs are both attractive and rugged. This spreading, evergreen groundcover grows wild in the mountains of southern Siberia, above the tree line, and is also called Siberian cypress. Read on for more information about growing Russian cypress and Russian cypress care.

Russian Cypress Information

Russian arborvitae/Russian cypress shrubs (Microbiota decussata) are dwarf, evergreen conifers. They grow from 8 to 12 inches tall, with spreading tips that nod gracefully in the breeze. One bush can spread as much as 12 feet wide.

The shrubs grow and spread in two waves of foliage. The original stems in the center of the young plant grow longer over time. These provide the plant with breadth, but it is the second wave of stems growing from the center that provide tiered height.

The foliage of Russian cypress shrubs is especially attractive. It is flat and feathery, growing in sprays that fan out like arborvitae, giving the shrub a delicate and soft-textured look. However, foliage is actually sharp to the touch and very tough. Tiny, round cones appear with seeds in autumn.

The needles on the plant are a bright, cheerful green during the growing season. They turn darker green as cooler weather approaches, then mahogany brown in winter. Some gardeners find the bronze-purple shade attractive, while others think the shrubs look dead.

Russian cypress shrubs are an interesting alternative to juniper plants for ground cover on slopes, banks or rock garden planting. It is distinguished from juniper by its fall color and its shade tolerance.

Growing Russian Cypress

You’ll do best growing Russian cypress in climates with cool summers, such as those found in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 7. Slow-growers, these shrubs take their time to establish.

These evergreens grow well in sun or partial shade, and prefer the latter in hotter locations. They tolerate and grow in many different types of soil including dry soil, but they do best when planted in moist earth. On the other hand, install this spreading groundcover in areas where the soil drains well. Russian cypress does not tolerate standing water.

Wind doesn’t damage Russian arborvitae, so don’t worry about planting it in a protected location. Likewise, it resists the voracious appetites of deer.

Russian arborvitae is largely maintenance free, and the species has no pest or disease issues. It requires moderate irrigation during dry seasons but, otherwise, Russian cypress care is minimal once the shrubs are established.

Celtic Pride® Siberian Cypress

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Guide: How to Care for Your New Plant(s)

The world’s most famous Cypress tree hugs the Pacific coastline. The Lone Cypress is an iconic natural treasure found along the 17-mile-Drive in Pebble Beach, California. Fortunately, you don’t have to book a flight to the West Coast to catch a glimpse of stunning Cypress trees. With some basic tools and a little skill, you can decorate your own yard with one of the many types of Cypress that flourish in temperate conditions.

Appearance of the Tree

Its majestic appearance makes the Cypress tree a popular choice for ornamental landscaping. However, before you line your property with the attractive Cupressus species, it’s important to note its main characteristics:

  • Shape: Varies among types. For example, the Monterey Cypress can grow up to 70 feet tall and features a wide, flat canopy which resembles an open umbrella. Meanwhile, the Arizona Cypress resembles a traditional Christmas tree and can reach heights of about 60 feet. Among the smallest of the species is the Gowen Cypress which rarely grows taller than 25 feet and looks more like a shrub than a full-grown tree.
  • Foliage: The Cypress foliage features different shades of green, from dark green to light bluish-green depending on the tree type. Its leaves range from fine needles to scaly overlapping hair-like appendages that look similar to braids attached to twigs.

  • Fruit: The species yields small cones, some of which look like nuts and others are woody cones that measure roughly two inches wide. Each of the tiny cones contains no more than 30 seeds.

  • Branches: Since the Cypress includes both evergreen and deciduous trees, the branches differ from tree to tree. While the Leyland Cypress sports flat branches, the Pond Cypress has spiny offshoots.

Cypress Tree Types

There are nearly two-dozen types of Cypress trees in the world, though the heartiest versions grow in North America. Among the vast and varied group of Cypress trees, which feature unique characteristics, and call the United States home are:

  • Leyland Cypress: The fast-growing specimen can reach heights to 50 feet. The flat-branched evergreen features soft pine needles and tolerates many soil conditions.
  • Arizona Cypress: The sturdy tree thrives in dry and hot conditions. Located in the southwestern portion of the United States, the trees are used as windbreakers thanks to their dense foliage.
  • Bald Cypress: Known for its height and protruding roots, the bald Cypress is a deciduous tree which grows best in swampy areas with very moist soil. The trees are commonly found in coastal regions and can live for centuries.

  • Italian Cypress: The massive evergreen is tall and narrow appearance, much like a column. It is a hardy tree that does best in warm climates.

While they may not share all the same physical attributes, Cypress trees have one thing in common: they are havens for wildlife. Birds are especially fond of Cypress trees’ sturdy branches and needles that make for excellent nest-building material.

The Many Looks of the Cypress Tree

Where the Cypress Grows

Cypress trees grow mainly along North America’s southern coastlines where they have easy access to swampy, wet soil and full sunlight. However, some types prosper along the eastern portion of the United States, ranging from Delaware to Florida. Other Cypress types are thriving in warmer climates, such as Texas and Nevada. These dry states provide the tree with rich, clay-like soil and mud that contains numerous nutrients.

Popular Uses

The Cypress tree produces some of the world’s most prized wood. It is lightweight and durable which makes it an ideal building material. Adding to the wood’s popularity is the fact that it doesn’t generate sap and therefore doesn’t bleed. This unique characteristic also means the tree’s wood takes well to stains, paint and sealers. What’s more, the Cypress’s attractive light to dark honey color is a quality carpenters and artists find highly appealing.

Popular uses for the Cypress include:

  • Chests and Boxes
  • Tables
  • Bed frames
  • Cabinets
  • Boats
  • Roofing shingles
  • Siding
  • Bridges
  • Porches
  • Barns
  • Greenhouses
  • Firewood

Cypress trees are also valued for their firewood and oil. The wood is easy to split, dries quickly and burns clean, so you don’t have to worry about excessive tar and soot residue. In addition, oil from the tree is used for shampoo and other beauty products.

Interesting Facts

The Cypress tree has a fascinating history that dates back to the ancient Egyptians who used the durable trees to build mummy cases. The Greeks were also fans of the tree and used its wood to create urns to store the ashes of those who died in battle. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that Plato’s code of laws was etched into Cypress wood because it was thought to outlast brass.

The Cypress tree’s popularity is also deeply rooted in the American south where a major travel attraction bears its name: Cypress Gardens. Located in Berkeley County, South Carolina, this botanical garden has been a top-rated family destination since 1931. The property is home to hundreds of Cypress trees which frame other features of the park, including the butterfly house, fresh water aquarium and rose gardens. Meanwhile, Winter Haven, Florida, used to be home to another Cypress Gardens, which closed in 2009. The historic gardens will forever be remembered for the dozens of majestic Cypress trees that lined Lake Eloise and the sprawling flower beds that burst with color.

Cypress Diseases

While the Cypress is durable and extremely resistant to harsh weather conditions, it still has a number of foes. Among the most common Cypress diseases are:

  • Seiridium canker: This disease targets the tree’s stems and branches. Sunken cankers that have a dark brown or purple hue dot the tree’s limbs and cause infections. If the disease is not treated the cankers can overtake the Cypress and kill the entire tree.
  • Root rot: The disease is prevalent with Cypress trees that do not have adequate soil drainage. Severe infections will present as yellowing foliage and damaged roots. The fungus spreads through the stump and its root system, and may eventually infect the entire tree.

Cypress Care

When planted in rows, Cypress trees can grow to be a formidable border, able to withstand high winds and other inclement weather. However, to ensure that your Cypress investment pays off, follow these simple tips on how to properly care for your tree:

  • Find a sunny area to plant the tree as Cypresses need full sun exposure.
  • Most Cypresses need moist soil to prosper, especially during the early stages of growth.
  • Avoid planting a Cypress in cramped spaces. The tree’s roots need ample room to expand. This is critical for taller types of Cypress trees.
  • Remove all weeds that sprout near your Cypress tree. Weeds rob needed nutrients from the roots of the tree and if allowed to grow, weeds will also block the sun and stunt the growth of the young Cypress.
  • Prune off dead or diseased branches as soon as you recognize them, and examine the tree for canker and root disease on a regular basis.

Majestic Cypress Trees for Your Landscape

There are many types of cypress trees. With a little care, you can include this beautiful graceful evergreen in your home landscaping plans.

Types Of Cypress Trees: Tips For Growing Cypress Trees

Cypress trees are fast-growing North American natives that deserve a prominent place in the landscape. Many gardeners don’t consider planting cypress because they believe it only grows in wet, boggy soil. While it’s true that their native environment is constantly wet, once they’re established, cypress trees grow well on dry land and can even withstand occasional drought. The two types of cypress trees found in the U.S. are bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and pond cypress (T. distichum).

Cypress Tree Info

Cypress trees have a straight trunk that tapers at the base, giving it a soaring perspective. In cultivated landscapes, they grow 50 to 80 feet tall with a spread of 20 to 30 feet. These deciduous conifers have short needles with a feathery appearance. Most varieties have needles that turn brown in winter, but a few have lovely yellow or gold fall color.

Bald cypress has a tendency to form “knees,” which are pieces of root that grow above the ground in odd and sometimes mysterious shapes. Knees are more common for trees grown in water, and the deeper the water, the taller the knees. Some knees reach a height of 6 feet. Although no one is sure about the function of knees, they may help the tree get oxygen when they are underwater. These projections are sometimes unwelcome in the home landscape because they make mowing difficult and they can trip passers-by.

Where Cypress Trees Grow

Both types of cypress trees grow well in areas with lots of water. Bald cypress grows naturally near springs, on lake banks, in swamps or in bodies of water that flow at a slow to moderate rate. In cultivated landscapes, you can grow them in almost any soil.

Pond cypress prefers still water and doesn’t grow well on land. This variety is rarely used in home landscapes because it needs boggy soil that is low in both nutrients and oxygen. It grows naturally in Southeastern wetlands, including the Everglades.

How to Care for Cypress Trees

Growing cypress trees successfully depends on planting the in the right location. Choose a site with full sun or partial shade and rich, acid soil. Cypress trees are hardy is USDA zones 5 through 10.

Drench the soil around the tree after planting and cover the root zone with 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch. Give the tree a good soaking every week for the first few months. Cypress trees need water most in spring when they enter a growth spurt and in fall just before they go dormant. They can withstand occasional drought once established, but it’s best to water them if you haven’t had a drenching rain for more than a month.

Wait a year after planting before fertilizing a cypress tree for the first time. Cypress trees growing in a regularly fertilized lawn don’t generally need additional fertilizer once established. Otherwise, fertilize the tree every year or two with a balanced fertilizer or a thin layer of compost in fall. Spread a pound of balanced fertilizer for each inch of trunk diameter over an area approximately equal to the spread of the canopy.

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