The genus, Cryptomeria, includes only one species: Cryptomeria japonica. Commonly referred to as Cryptomeria Trees, these coniferous evergreen belong to the Cypress family (Cupressaceae), and is occasionally named a Japanese Cedar. Cryptomeria Trees grow to be quite tall, sometimes surpassing 200 feet in height. The most commonly planted variety, though, is the Cryptomeria Radicans, which does not usually exceed 45 feet in height. These trees are frequently planted along property lines as privacy barriers or windscreens. The fast-growing property of Cryptomeria Trees is one of the reasons they have become a popular alternative to other evergreens; Cryptomeria Radicans grows between 3 and 4 feet a year, quickly reaching a mature height of over 20 feet in 6 years. This fast-growing height means quick-growing privacy screens and elegant property value increases.
When planting any new tree on a property, it is important to investigate proper care and planting instructions, as well as the lifestyle requirements specific tree species might bring. Cryptomeria Trees are feathery conifers resistant to diseases and mild to moderate droughts. These evergreen conifers are also adaptable to a variety of soils and environments, ideal for homeowners in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9, which only excludes small regions of the Midwest and Northeast, such as Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the upstate regions of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, making this tree perfect for up to 80% of the United States’ landowners.
Sun: Plant in full sun to partial shade.
Water: Water immediately after planting and once per week for the first year. Water during absence of rain or extended dry spells.
When to Plant: Plant in early spring or late fall.
How to Buy Cryptomeria Trees
Cryptomeria Trees, although hardy once established, require well-tended care in the initial stages of growth. The Tree Center provides this early care so that once planted properly, the Cryptomeria Trees will be successful. Buying Cryptomeria Radicans Trees is as simple as visiting The Tree Center and ordering a batch of young saplings for a new privacy screen.
How to Plant Cryptomeria Trees
The first step in the proper planting of a Cryptomeria Tree is deciding if it is the right tree. Cryptomerias, despite their hardiness, do have some specific needs, such as sunlight and water preferences. Cryptomeria Trees prefer full sun, though modest afternoon shade can be beneficial, especially in drought-prone regions of the Southwest. With regards to water, Cryptomerias are drought-resistant, but regular watering during these dry spells will ensure successful growth despite periodic times without water.
Once a location has been identified, order either an individual Cryptomeria Tree, or a set of saplings if planting a screen, from The Tree Center.
When the sapling(s) arrive, observe the size of the root ball, or the collection of roots at the base of the tree. The size of the root ball determines the size of the hole. Generally, the hole should be two times wider than the root ball, and an inch or two shorter than the height of the root ball. The hole size is where many first time tree planters make a mistake. The hole should not be too deep – in fact, if the hole is deeper than the root ball, water and air will have a more difficult time reaching the root system. The tree will also settle over time, which accounts for the variance in hole depth. A wide hole allows for the roots to spread evenly, enabling the tree to root itself with ease.
Once the hole has been dug, hold the sapling vertically in the hole. Backfill the hole with soil and water. If using mulch, add this now in a layer no more than three inches deep. Water immediately upon mulching. It can be a good idea to water a newly-planted Cryptomeria Tree every day for the first month after planting.
Soil matters a lot when it comes to the overall success of most trees. The soil is composed of broken down rocks and minerals, and the sizes of these particles affects the ability of the plant’s root system to locate and absorb the water and air which perforates the soil. The three main categories of soil are: clay, silt, and sand. Clay and silt are both made of small grains. These soil particles stick together, making the transfer of water and air difficult. Depending on the moisture levels of the soil, the root systems of some plants may have a difficult time spreading. Sand, on the other hand, has much larger particles. Water and air move too quickly through sand, often passing by the roots of a plant before it has time to intake enough.
Cryptomeria Radicans, however, are adaptable to many different types of soil. While most trees prefer loam, which is a consistent mix of differently sized particles, Cryptomeria Trees can adapt to sandy, clay-like, or silty soils with ease. If soils are sandier, be sure to water more frequently. If soils are silty or clay-like, be sure the Cryptomeria Radicans is not submerged in standing water.
Cryptomeria Trees are drought-tolerant, so periodic mild dry spells will not damage the foliage or root systems significantly; however, almost all trees prefer regular and consistent water access. Regular rainfall is generally sufficient for a Cryptomeria Tree. If droughts or dry-spells persist, be sure to water the Cryptomeria to a depth of three inches once a week. Irrigation systems can be used to effectively manage water distribution, and these systems will usually also conserve water.
Mulch and Fertilizer
Many landscapers will advocate for mulch and fertilizer in order to ensure the fastest-growth and happiest trees. Cryptomeria Radicans do benefit from both of these additives, which not only ensure successful intake of readily available needs, such as air and water, but can also improve the overall quality of soil components. Fertilizers used with Cryptomeria Trees are best if they are well-balanced. Slow-release fertilizers with low ratios, such as 10-10-10 are best. This refers to the proportion of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Fertilizers will help the tree grow quickly and healthily. Do not overuse fertilizers. Follow the package directions, or simply fertilize once a year early in spring.
Mulch is also helpful when it comes to the absorption of air and water. Mulch protects the soil layer surrounding the tree, meaning run-off is limited. It also will conserve water, so less water is needed to reach a depth of 3 inches.
Information on Cryptomeria Trees
Cryptomeria, meaning ‘hidden parts’ refers to the single tree within the genus. The tree is most well-known in Japan, where its English name, Japanese Cedar, references its Japanese name, Sugi. Although also endemic to China, genetic analysis has demonstrated and supported the belief that it was at some point introduced to the region. Primarily used as a forest plantation tree in Japan, Cryptomerias are often used ornamentally in the United States. Cryptomeria Trees are a national symbol of Japan, and their wood is valued for interior decorating and construction.
Cryptomeria Tree Varieties and Cultivars
Of the few cultivars associated with the Cryptomeria genus, only the Cryptomeria Radicans is sold and planted widely in the United States. Cryptomeria Radicans, valued for its ability to create fast-growth privacy screens, is commonly used by landscapers in the USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 9. Cryptomeria Radicans, although adaptable to varying soil conditions and water levels, prefers moist, hot weather. In the United States, the Cryptomeria Radicans is highly valued.
Easily the most popular Cryptomeria cultivar, Cryptomeria Radicans is reminiscent of its genus. A medium-sized evergreen conifer, Cryptomeria Radicans grows to reach between 35 and 45 feet tall and 20 feet wide. The Cryptomeria Radicans prefers full sun with mild partial shade and hot, moist climates. Unlike the genus type, the Cryptomeria Radicans cultivar is drought-tolerant. As such, it can survive with minimal rainfall for short periods of time; however, if this is commonly the case in its planting location, irrigation or human sourced watering should be considered in order to develop the tree to its best height. Proper watering and sunlight also impact the tree’s growth rate, which is between 3 and 5 feet a year. This fast-growth makes Cryptomeria Radicans a popular choice among landscapers looking for a quick privacy screen to block out unwanted noise or sights.
Benefits of Cryptomeria Trees
Cryptomeria Trees are widely enjoyed for their fast-growth and easy maintenance. Though many gardeners make assurances this tree will “thrive on neglect”, it is better to provide proper watering and sunlight. Cryptomerias are loved for their feathery touch, fast-growth, and elegant pointed figure. Many landscapers choose to plant Cryptomeria Radicans over the more common Thuja trees because it offers a unique shape and slightly richer color.
Cryptomeria Tree Concerns
Occasional pests can affect Cryptomeria Trees, such as mites or moth larvae, which feed on the young tree’s leaves. Additionally, root rot may affect trees if watering and mulch schedules are poorly maintained. This is especially prominent in young saplings. Finally, needle necrosis and branch dieback can damage trees during periods of drought.