Weeping Cedar and Other Interesting Conifers


Have you ever considered planting a weeping tree? How about a weeping conifer like the Xanthocyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’, better known as Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’ or the Weeping Cedar. When branches gracefully droop, they bring a groundedness to the upper levels of the garden.

Xanthocyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’

Usually, an unusual large-sized conifer will be grown as a “specimen” planting. cited in an area where the full beauty of its interesting foliage and for can viewed. When thinking about adding the Alaska-cedar (another common name for this tree), keep this idea in mind. Don’t lose among other tall evergreens.

Cupressus nootkatensis (Nootka Cypress), seed and pollen cones | Rosser1954 [CC BY-SA 3.0 ]

Facts About the Weeping Cedar

  • Zones 4 to 7
  • Height: 20 to 35 feet
  • Width: 8 to 12 feet
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Average, medium moisture
  • Well-drained soil
  • Cool summer climates are best

Conifers in General

Evergreens and conifers (in general) tend to like humidity and plentiful rainfall, but with well draining soil. It can be a challenge to grow many of them in hot summers with drought conditions. If planning on using the more unusual types, consider whether they will thrive in your garden before putting out the money and effort for a plant that will suffer and possibly die.

That said, types that grow well in sun or part shade, in moist or dry soils, and even a few which may like a bog, can provide a focus for winter or an accent in a stretch of bare branches when plants go dormant. Their green provides the perfect backdrop for flowering plants in the growing season, too.

Love the Chamaecyparis Family

F. D. Richards photo of Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Soft Serve'
Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Soft Serve’, False Cypress, H10145

This group of evergreens contain two of my favorites: C. obtusa, C. pisifera; as well as the often maligned Lawson cypress.

All of the trees mentioned in this post, so far, need regular moisture, but no soggy ground. They are native to Japan and Taiwan, for the most part. give them similar growing conditions to the Nootka or Alaskan Cypress. An exception would be “Chamaecyparis thyroides, Atlantic Whitecedar” which loves swamps and bogs, not growing well in the well drained soils of its relatives.

All of them are beautifully clothed in soft foliage, some can be found in dwarf varieties, which are best for most gardens.

Bonsai showing beauty of the C. obtusa
Photo by David J. Stang CC BY-SA 4.0

Little known fact:

 Many members of Cupressaceae are allergenic

– Ogren Plant Allergy Scale

Interesting Chamaecyparis

  • Chamaecyparis pisifera Sawara
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea’
  • Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Habari’
  • Pinpoint® Blue Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (tall, but narrow; zones 5-7)

Of course, there are many more named varieties available, and they are worth searching out in your local nurseries. Hint: those sold as bonsai plants can grow in your garden, if conditions match.

Other Conifers to Consider

While you might think Junipers to be common, or maybe you dislike their mature, prickly foliage, they come in so many forms that their usefulness cannot be denied.


In the Juniper family I have grown ground hugging, and flat topped forms. The only time I think a Juniper plant is ugly is when it is too large for its situation. Be sure to check mature size and don’t plant too close to a walkway, even the smaller types need room to spread.

  • Juniperus virginiana ‘Grey Owl’ -4 feet by 5 feet
  • Juniper “Andorra” -1 foot by 6 feet
  • Juniper “Blue Star” 3 feet tall by 4 feet


grow in hot, dry spots

Arborvitae Mutants

The confers with the myriad shapes and colors are often mutants of some sort. Someone found an oddly growing branch or variation and vegetatively propagated it. Arborvitae shrubs and trees (mine have grown to trees!) are beloved by landscapers because they are easy to grow.

Beware that heights and widths can outstrip their predicted parameters.

  • Arborvitae “Berkman’s Gold” 
  • Arborvitae “Fire Chief”  -small globe shape with pretty seasonal colors
  • Arborvitae “Mr. Bowling Ball” 
  • Arborvitae “Rheingold” – tried and true for golden foliage

Arborvitae foliage often changes in color intensity with the seasons.

Planting small sizes allows for good root establishment, and the shrubs grow quickly. A two or three gallon pot should give excellent results.

If you have trouble locating what you want locally, be sure to search online sources. This one is from an Amazon seller.

Why Plant Evergreen Conifers?

While some landscapes seem to consist of only this type of plant, most well planned yards have a mix of deciduous plants and evergreens. Conifers create winter interest- a time when the garden seems asleep. They also provide a food source and shelter for wildlife.

As sampled in this post, there are unique forms, ranging from shapes such as globes to the graceful; some may be fantastical (seen a Monkey Puzzle tree, zone 7b -10 ?)

Watch my walk through the evergreen display at Dawes Arboretum.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author


I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of "Ilona's Reflecting Pool". Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. The work on "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.