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Japanese cedar, or Sugi, is the national tree of Japan. It is frequently planted around temples and Shinto shrines, and has found its way to Europe, Britain, and North America as a graceful ornamental with a number of interesting varieties.
Cryptomeria japonica, or Japanese cedar, is native to East Asia and Russia, according to the earliest fossil records, but it is not related to the true cedars of the genus Cedrus. In its native habitat, it can grow to 200’ tall, and is exceptionally long-lived. One tree on the Japanese island of Yakushima is thought to be between 2,000 and 7,000 years old, and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Japanese cedar is grown extensively in Japan, India, and the Azores for interior construction, paneling, and furniture, as well as a revered ornamental.
Japanese cedars are graceful, pyramidal trees, reaching 50’ to 60’ in cultivation, although there are a number of dwarf and compact varieties available. The half-inch leaves are soft, curved, awl-shaped needles that extend down the branches in a spiral pattern, and one inch spherical cones develop at the branch tips. The needles are typically dark green that bronze in the winter, but there are also some beautiful light-colored and golden varieties to choose from. They grow in full sun to light shade, and do best in deep, rich, moist soil that isn’t allowed to dry out.
SELECTING THE RIGHT CRYPTOMERIA
Full-sized Japanese cedars need plenty of space to be seen and appreciated, and are perfect as large-scale accent or specimen trees. The smaller varieties do well in borders, against a building, or in a small garden or urban landscape. They grow well in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9. Choose your Cryptomeria according to the size and shape and color listed in the description. There are some light-colored varieties that would stand out well against a backdrop of dark green trees or shrubs. Let us know if you would like some suggestions or help with your choice!