Atlantic White Cypress Offers a Range of Garden Options

atlantic white cypress

The variety ‘Shiva’ will slowly attain a height of four to five feet. Its foliage takes on tan or bronze hues in the winter, as seen in this December photograph.

Virtues: Atlantic white cypress (Chamaecyparis thyoides) is a wonderful evergreen tree native to the eastern seaboard and known for its elegant blue-green foliage, beautiful winter presence and decay-resistant wood. Numerous cultivars give the discerning gardener many size options and foliar hues to choose from. This pest-resistant conifer can be found in moist soils throughout its range, but it is well suited to average soils.

Common names: Atlantic white cypress, Atlantic white cedar, southern white cedar, white cypress, swamp cedar. (Note: It is not actually a cedar, but a cypress.)

Botanical name: Chamaecyparis thyoides

Exposure: Full sun

Season: Year-round, for foliage

Foliage: Flattened sprays of feathery evergreen foliage can be any shade of green, from blue-green to gray-green, depending on the cultivar. Foliage may take on brownish, purple or bronze tones in the winter.

Habit: Diminutive cultivars like ‘Versent’, which turns purplish in winter, grow slowly to a rounded 20 inches in 10 years. ‘Shiva’, the variety pictured here, reaches 4 to 5 feet tall. Other cultivars run the gamut of garden-appropriate sizes. Meanwhile the straight species is a tree that can reach 50 feet or more. With time the bark takes on silver tones.

Origins: Atlantic white cypress occurs naturally in moist woods and bogs of the eastern seaboard, from southern Maine through North Carolina, plus the western portion of the Florida panhandle.

How to grow Atlantic white cypress: Site in full sun and well-drained soil. Even moisture prompts the best growth. This evergreen tolerates wet soil. USDA Zones 4–8.

Image credit: F.D. Richards, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr

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