The cute little sister

One advantage to enduring the months of cloudy skies and rain in the Pacific Northwest is the ability to grow a vast assortment of plants, including many conifers that simply will not survive the harsher winter cold and blistering summer heat found elsewhere around the country. For example, many of my friends cannot even consider growing Cryptomeria japonica or any of its amazing cultivars.

The first cultivar of Cryptomeria that I was introduced to, way-back-when, was ‘Elegans’. This intermediate growing tree was quite a beautiful sight to behold – long, soft billowy foliage that softly swayed in the breeze like layers of feathers. When I met this tree while working for a landscaper, it was early spring and it still retained some of its winter copper/plum color. Within weeks it would return to the bronze-green of its warmer season color, lasting until the cold winter temperatures would return.

Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans Nana'
Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans Nana’ is a delightful dwarf sculpture for any of today’s gardens.

Although ‘Elegans’ truly is an elegant specimen, it may get too big for today’s smaller gardens. Fortunately, she has a little sister that is quite a beauty herself. Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans Nana’ is a wonderful dwarf form of the Plume Japanese Cedar. Growing 2-4 inches per year in my garden, she definitely won’t overgrow even the smallest garden anytime soon. I love her irregular, almost sculpted looking, mounding form. With foliage that is typical of Cryptomeria with succulent, awl-like needles, growing in dense clumps, mounding and layering upon itself, every plant is its own unique creation. Like its big sister, ‘Elegans Nana’ will provide an interesting purplish/reddish/orange color through the cold winter months. In my garden this year, that winter color lingered well into the later months of spring.

Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans Nana'
A close-up view of Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans Nana’

Purchased as a young plant, ‘Elegans Nana’ is a great candidate for the container garden on the patio or urban balcony. My friends in those colder winter climates might even consider growing many of the dwarf and miniature Cryptomeria in containers if they are able to move them into a protected garage or other structure, remembering that they are rated at Zone 6.

Unique, compact sculptural form, tantalizing soft foliage, color that changes with the seasons, and just being plain cute, I can’t imagine why everyone wouldn’t love to have an ‘Elegans Nana’ in their conifer collection.

Conifer Lover

8 thoughts on “The cute little sister

  1. Ed, I LOVE your new header photo. What tree does the green & white ‘pine cone’ come from? I too love Cyrptomeria but here in CT it has a reputation of being unreliable. I have to assume that’s because it is often used in areas it is not suitable for. That being said, it’s fairly easy to find ‘Yoshino’ but other cultivars demand a serious treasure hunt.


  2. Ed, I adore Cryptomerias! Living on the coast in the PacNW as you do,I’m lucky enough to be able to grow these lovely plants.

    And I share Debbie’s enthusiasm for that ‘Albo Spica’ cone! Very striking.


  3. hey my name is brian im 22, im from ireland and i live on the east coast near the capital, i was just wondering i have a 14inch cryptomeria japonica, Elagans nana, and i was wondering if in the climate constraints of ireland would the tree survive fairly easily or would much due attention and care be required, i have the time just wondering if its neccessary?


    1. Hi Brian – I know very little about what your climate constraints may consist of on the east coast of Ireland. Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans Nana’ is rated hardy to USDA Zone 6, which is an average low of 10°F to 0°F. I would think that it would grow quite well in Ireland without any special care aside what one might ordinarily do when growing conifers in general.

      You might try asking your question in the Conifer forum at The Garden Web. I know there are several regulars there who reside on your side of the Atlantic and should have greater insight into growing Cryptomeria in your climate.


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