Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Sungold'

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 4 Professionals
Common Name: Japanese falsecypress
Type: Needled evergreen
Family: Cupressaceae
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 3.00 to 8.00 feet
Spread: 4.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Bloom Description: Non-flowering
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought


Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best in part shade. Prefers moist, fertile soils. Avoid wet, poorly-drained soils. Shelter from strong winds. Pruning is rarely needed.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Chamaecyparis pisifera, commonly known as Sawara cypress, is a large, pyramidal, evergreen conifer that grows in the wild to 50-70’ (infrequently to 150') tall with a trunk diameter to 5'. In cultivation, it more typically matures to a much smaller 20-30' tall. It is naive to the Japanese islands of Honshu and Kyushu. Fine-textured medium green needles are tinted white beneath. Cones are small (1/4" across) and ornamentally insignificant, appearing glaucous green during summer before turning black-brown when ripe. Reddish brown bark peels in strips. Species plants are rarely sold in commerce, but a large number of more compact cultivars including some dwarfs are available for purchase.

Three well known forms of C. pisifera are: (1) C. pisifera f. filifera (threadbranch sawara cypress featuring drooping, whip or cord-like branches covered primarily with scale-like adult leaves), (2) C. pisifera f. plumosa (plume sawara cypress featuring feathery, airy and ferny branches covered with part adult/part juvenile leaves) and (3) C. pisifera f. squarrosa (moss sawara cypress featuring branches with soft, needle-like juvenile leaves).

Genus name comes from Greek chamai meaning dwarf or to the ground and kyparissos meaning cypress tree.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin word pissum meaing pea and ferre meaing to bear in reference to the very small rounded cones.

'Sungold' is a mounding, globose to broadly conical, dwarf evergreen shrub which features golden, fine-textured, thread-like foliage on stringy, weeping branches. New growth foliage emerges bright gold but eventually matures to lime green. Very slow growing, typically reaching only 3-5' tall in 10 years. May eventually reach a mature size of 8' tall and 12' wide, but can easily be kept smaller with minimal pruning. Small plants produce few if any cones.

This plant is synonymous with and sometimes sold as C. p. var. filifera 'Sungold' or as C. p. 'Filifera Sungold'.


No serious insect or disease problems. Some susceptibility to juniper blight, root rot and certain insect pests such as bagworms.

Garden Uses

Species and large growing cultivars for lawn specimen, shrub borders and screen.

Dwarf cultivars for rock gardens, foundation plantings or specimen.

Golden foliage provides year-round interest.