Curly Tops Sawara CypressChamaecyparis pisifera Curly Tops
View more from Cypress Trees
30 day - ARRIVE AND THRIVE™ guaranteeLearn more
The Curly TopsSawara Cypress is a mounding conifer evergreen that grows slowly into a dome 18 inches tall and wide in less than 10 years. Eventually it can be 5 feet tall and wide, and a fantastic specimen. The stems and needles curl and twist, giving it a unique texture, and the foliage is brilliant silvery-blue all year round. Easy to grow, it’s a perfect accent in small beds, rock gardens and planter boxes, or grow it among a collection of other evergreens of different kinds. Always attractive, it’s perfect where you need a flash of brightness that will be there 365 days of the year.
Full sun suits the Curly Tops Sawara Cypress, and a little afternoon shade in hotter zones can be helpful too. It grows in most soils, if they are well-drained, and benefits from richer earth that isn’t too dry. It doesn’t have pest or disease problems, and deer leave it alone too. Don’t trim it, as that will damage the unique curling branches – it stays naturally compact all by itself.
A good garden has a wide variety of plants in it, of different sizes, flowering seasons, shapes and foliage colors. An easy way to widen your palette of colors is to turn to the many dwarf evergreens that we have, in all shades of greens, blues, silvers, and yellows. Especially in smaller gardens and small spaces in bigger ones, these plants give a lot and ask for little. Colorful year round, they give structure and interest naturally, and their variety of colors and forms make it easy to choose exactly what you need. Round forms bring stability and bulk. Add in an interesting texture and vibrant color that fits with any other plant, and you have the Curly Tops Sawara Cypress. This small evergreen is easy to grow, and it grows slowly into an upright mound of fascinating foliage of a bold silver-blue. It’s perfect for accents in beds that you see close-up, and wonderful for those pockets in rock gardens and retaining walls, where you need something small but interesting. This lovely little bush is also perfect for planters and pots, bringing year-round interest, and it could be trained into an attractive bonsai tree as well.
The Curly Tops Sawara Cypress is a small rounded evergreen shrub with a dense, multi-branching structure. It forms a neat but informal rounded plant, becoming slightly more pyramidal as it matures. Both the shoots and needles are curled, and the needles are colored steely blue. Because the needles are twisted, this reveals the white bands on the underside, normally hidden. This adds a sparking brightness to the blue coloring, pushing it into a silvery tone. The twisted stems and branches give it a unique visual texture, drawing you to touch it. When you do, you will be surprised to see how soft and almost mossy it feels, not hard and spiny the way many other conifers are. It grows slowly, just 1 or 2 inches a year, so after about 10 years it will be 18 to 24 inches tall and wide, with branches and needles right to the ground. Like all evergreens it will keep growing throughout its life, so in time it can reach as much as 5 feet in height and width – by which time it will be an amazing, and valuable, specimen plant.
Wherever you need a compact mound of silvery blue as an accent or to fill a space in a bed, then the Curly Tops Sawara Cypress is your plant. Use it in pockets in a rock garden, or in a bed of mixed shrubs. Build a collection of dwarf evergreens in a dedicated bed, perhaps decorated with boulders and a gravel mulch. Choose a big range of colors and shapes, and watch your collection become a year-round garden feature that takes almost no work. Plant this bush in spaces on terracing, or in planter boxes (from zone 6 onwards). Use it in tubs alone for a sleek, modern look, or surrounded by flowers for rich and vibrant year-round interest. The options and opportunities are endless.
This bush may be small, but that doesn’t stop it being hardy in zone 4, with some shelter. It is fully hardy all the way from zone 5 to zone 8.
Full sun is best for the Curly Tops Sawara Cypress, but it will tolerate a couple of hours of shade each day without any significant impact. In hotter zones some afternoon shade from the heat of the sun is even beneficial. Too much shade will make it weak and open, though, and much less attractive. It grows in just about any well-drained soil, but unlike conifers that enjoy dry and sandy soils, this one does prefer richer soils with some moisture. So add some organic material when planting, and mulch with more each spring, over the root system. Although reasonably drought resistant once it has been growing for a season or two, some regular watering during summer dry periods is a great idea.
There are rarely any pest or disease problems with the Curly Tops Sawara Cypress, and deer don’t normally bother it. It is easy to grow, and should never be trimmed, as this will destroy the unique curly look, and that would be a bad thing, don’t you think? Put away the shears.
The Sawara cypress, Chamaecyparis pisifera, is native to the mountain forests of Japan, where it is a large tree that can grow to 100, or even 150 feet tall. It isn’t really a cypress, so it is also often called “false cypress”. The wild tree is rarely grown in gardens, but many different dwarf varieties have been selected over the years, first in Japan and then in the 20th century in Europe and America. In 1934, at the Boulevard Nurseries, Middletown, Rhode Island, an unusual branch was spotted on an older variety. It became one of the most well-known forms of Sawara cypress, called ‘Boulevard’. Around 1985 a unique branch was seen on a plant of ‘Boulevard’ growing at the Yamina Rare Plants Nursery, Monbulk, Australia. In 1989 they released it as Curly Tops, and that is how this great little plant came into being.
Given the much-coveted Award of Garden Merit in 2012 by Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society, it has the stamp of approval of experts, so you know its reliable and valuable in your garden. You will enjoy adding this little guy to your garden, and we have some great starter plants for you, from specialist growers who make sure they only propagate the exact right plant. Order now, though, as our supply is limited.