Japanese Incense Cedar also known as Japanese Redwood and Sugi, is a monotypic genus meaning that it is the only species in this genus, which is part of the cypress family. This conifer has a ¾” round spikey cone and a unique foliage, which is a long cluster of awl-shaped half inch long pointed needles arranged spirally on a 6” long tendril. The foliage is fragrant and bluish green in the spring and summer with a somewhat bronzed appearance in its winter color.
Best grown in a moist but well drained soil in full sun but will tolerate some partial shade. Supplemental watering is recommended during dry periods to reduce stress and excessive needle shedding. There are a few scale insects and mites that can be an issue along with a needle blight if there is excessive moisture hitting the foliage, but in most cases, Japanese Cryptomeria is a pest resistant plant.
A fast grower in good conditions, it will easily push 2-3’ per year when young and attain a height of 50-70’ and a spread of 20-30’. In the forests of Japan, the trees can reach 220’ and have a trunk diameter of 13’. Pyramidal and full when young the tree opens up with age and takes on the look of an overgrown topiary or Bonsai.
Bark is gray to a reddish brown that peels off in strips and is sometimes vandalized by squirrels. The wood is fragrant, light weight and pink in color. Easy to mill and season, it is highly prized for many interior and ceremonial purposes.
Japanese Incense Cedar is an attractive conifer in all seasons and with its narrower spread can be used in applications where some of our larger conifers (pines, firs, spruce) would outgrow their usefulness. There are even several dwarf varieties that can be used in foundation plantings and rock gardens. It is a lovely specimen to be enjoyed in many settings.