Cryptomeria is a type of evergreen tree that can be grown in parts of the United States and grows natively in parts of Japan and China. The fast-growing trees can exceed 180 feet in height and 12 feet in width, although smaller cryptomeria can be grown as ornamental trees. These smaller trees, which usually top out at about 5 feet in height, are commonly used for landscaping.
Cryptomeria produce blue-green green foliage that will turn a brownish color during the winter in colder climates. The bark of the tree is a reddish-brown color that can be peeled from the trunk in long, thin strips. Cryptomeria produce small cones, usually about 1 inch to 2 inches in length.
There are two varieties of cryptomeria: Cryptomeria japonica and Cryptomeria sinensis. From those two varieties are more than 200 cultivars, most of which are used as ornamental trees. Most ornamental cultivars are taken from the sinensis variety, the most popular of which is the Elegans. Cryptomeria japonica is also very popular as an ornamental tree.
Cryptomeria will not grow well in colder climates. They can be successfully grown in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9, areas where the climate is similar to where the trees grow natively in parts of China and Japan. In zones 6 and 7, the foliage will likely turn a brown or purple color during the cold winters months.
Cryptomeria will grow best in a location that gets full sun, but partial shade will be tolerated. As with most plants, the trees need a well-draining soil. The trees will grow more quickly if the soil is kept moist and is not allowed to completely dry out between waterings.
Cryptomeria, especially Cryptomeria japonica, is often used for bonsai trees in addition to their other ornamental uses. When planted in clusters or rows, the trees can provide privacy in the home garden or can be used as a windbreak. The wood from the trees' trunk is also used as timber in Asia.