Threadleaf False Cypress Plant Profile

King's gold false cypress (Chamaecyparis)
David Beaulieu

The threadleaf (filifera) false cypress shrubs boast a showy, greenish-gold to gold colors. The different cultivars this shrub have scaly, golden foliage that is string-like in form. This colorful genus is clearly a favorite among American gardeners, who have planted "Gold Mops" and other popular varieties for their bright golden foliage during spring season, and some varieties do a good job of retaining this bright color during the summer as well. A big advantage for some areas is that deer won't eat these shrubs.

  • Botanical Name: Chamaecyparis pisifera
  • Common Name: Japanese falsecypress, Sawara falsecypress, gold mops, golden mops falsecypress, sun gold, king's gold, dwarf gold thread
  • Plant Type: Evergreen conifer
  • Mature Size: 3 to 6 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Soil Type: Clay, Silt, Loamy
  • Soil pH: 5.5 to 7.5
  • Bloom Time: None
  • Flower Color: None
  • Hardiness Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
  • Native Area: Japan

How to Grow Threadleaf False Cypress

Shrubs in the threadleaf group are generally low-maintenance and have a slow growth rate. Pruning is easy—simply prune on an as-needed basis. This will vary depending on how much space you have to grow the plant in.

With their fine texture, these threadleaf false cypress shrubs are great for giving your yard visual interest, and their golden foliage opens up some interesting options when developing landscape color schemes. For example, when you use deep red barberries as a companion plant to go along with the golden foliage of a false cypress, it creates an instant focal point.

To plant your shrub, dig a hole that is two to three times as wide as the root ball and 6 inches deeper than the height of root ball. If your soil is heavy clay or sand, amend it with a planting mix or compost. Water the new plant well and place a 2-inch layer of mulch around it, but be sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the base of the plant to prevent rot.

Light

Shrubs in the threadleaf group generally want full sun (but only partial sun at the southern end of their range). If the plant doesn't get enough sun you may not see as much of the desired golden colors and it may get sparse and leggy. In warmer areas, a spot that gets morning sun but afternoon shade (or vice versa) is a good choice.

Soil

These shrubs do well in a variety of soil types, so long as there is good drainage. If you have sandy soil you may need to amend it. They generally prefer acidic soils, but check for the specifics of the variety you will be planting.

Water

The ground should be kept evenly moist, often requiring watering once a week in summer until the plants get comfortable. Once established, they will suffer if overwatered. They are drought-tolerant and you only need to give them extra watering during prolonged dry spells. A 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch can help retain moisture around the plants, especially if they are placed in a spot where the soil dries out quickly, doesn't get effective irrigation, or is protected from precipitation.

Temperature and Humidity

Different varieties of threadleaf false cypress have slightly different hardiness zones. Be sure to check to see which varieties do best in your local area.

Fertilizer

Threadleaf false cypress can benefit from fertilizer in the early spring. While established plants can do fine without fertilization, this will help them produce the best color. A younger plant you want to encourage growing may do best with a fertilizer such as 10-10-10, while established plants that are not growing much could use a 4-8-8.

Varieties of Threadleaf False Cypress

  • "Gold Mops" are suitable for USDA plant hardiness zones 5 to 7. They bear scaly leaves that keep their golden color, provided the shrub gets enough sun. It can get winter burn in cold climates.
  • "Dwarf Gold Thread" or "Filifera Aurea Nana" is suitable for planting zones 5 to 8. This shrub's leaves fade during the summertime, taking on more and more green. 
  • "Sun Gold" is uitable for planting zones 4 to 8. This shrub does not keep its color quite as well through summer as does Gold Mops, but it does a better job of avoiding winter burn.
  • "King's Gold" is suitable for planting zones 4 to 8. It retains its golden color pretty well through the summer if it is grown in full sun.

Being Grown in Containers

Threadleaf false cypress varieties can be grown as container plants. Be sure you choose a container that will allow it to grow for two to three years before needing to be placed in a larger container. The right size of container would be 6 inches more in diameter than the root ball for varieties that grow slowly.