Japanese False Cypress
01/01/0001 - 03/19/2016
Memphis Botanic Garden map
Common Name: Japanese False Cypress “Vintage Gold”
Botanical Name: Chamaecyparis pisifera
Attributes: Following our recent cold spell, many plants that had been blooming in our mild January weather have suffered a set back. One that caught my attention not with flowers, but with gold foliage, is chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Vintage Gold;’ it’s gold foliage really stands out on a cold February morning. Several years back, we planted a fairly large selection of dwarf conifers here at MBG as a trial to see which ones would perform well in out hot, humid summers. As expected, some better suited for colder climates have succumbed to the weather. In addition to thriving in our heat and humidity, ‘Vintage Gold’ likes our slightly acidic clay soil and loves moisture, which makes it a good choice for a sunny Midsouth garden. The form of this evergreen shrub is conical, but mounding reaching a height of 8-10 inches in 10 to 15 years. The needles are feathery in character and are somewhat between those of juniper and arborvitae. Bark is smooth and reddish-brown, but hard to see since the branching habit of a good specimen really conceals the trunk.
Growing Tips: Since this plant is winter hardy in Zones 4-8 (Memphis is in Zone 7) there is no need to worry about protection from winter winds, on the other hand, lack of moisture in the heat of summer could be a concern, so be sure to locate it where it oculd be watered easily as needed. As with any highly-colored plant, full sun is necessary for maximum effect. While moisture is important, don’t plant in a low spot where water stands after a rain. Spring and fall are the preferred planting times, however if care is exercised, container-grown plants could be installed during the growing season.
Landscape Tips: A glowing, golden conifer is certainly an accent plant. One choice specimen with a background of blue or green foliage can be dramatic. A row of gold foliage would be overwhelming and cheapen the effect. ‘Vintage Gold’ would also be an excellent plant in a rock garden planting with other conifers, sedums, grasses and similar companions.
Location in the Garden: The Japanese False Cypress ‘Vintage Gold’ is located in the Conifer Collection at MBG.
Rick Pudwell is Director of Horticulture at Memphis Botanic Garden.