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Sawara cypress bonsai

Sawara cypress bonsai’s unique and enchanting qualities make it a favorite among bonsai hobbyists. It’s aromatic properties and fine texture makes it unique among other bonsai species. Because of the fine aroma it produces, the tree mainly uses to build temples, palaces, and most notably wooden bathtubs in its native land, Japan.  

Along with the fragrance it has many cultivars and some of them are compact in nature and can be trained and styled easily for bonsai. 

They are adaptable in nature but over eight years of bonsai practice in our nursery, we noticed that they are quite demanding in terms of care and conditions.  I’m here to give details of those needs.

Sawara Cypress Bonsai Quick Facts

Scientific NameChamaecyparis pisifera
Plant typeConifers, shrubs
Native toJapanese islands of Honshu and Kyushu
LifespanMore than 100, a few documented trees are over 1700 years old.
Height15-20 meters
Width2 meter
Tree shapepyramidal
LeavesMedium-green pointed tips
Fall foliagereddish-brown
FruitTiny glaucous cones
CultivationFor bonsai practice
UsesAs timber in its native land and as bonsai all over the world.

Sawara Cypress Bonsai Care Guide

Understanding Sawara cypress care is as important as pruning or shaping them. Maintaining its water, soil, and temperature requirements will give you healthy-looking bonsai that thrive with its greenery. From placement to re-pot, here’s everything you need to know about this beautiful cypress. 

Sawara Cypress Bonsai Watering

Sawara cypress is native to damp habitats, so they need to be abundantly watered, particularly during the hot summer months. Even the foliage can be misted, but not when they are under the sun. You can even put the pot in a shallow pot filled with water during day time if you are unable to keep track. After the dormant, during winter, the frequency of watering should be less, but never let the soil dry out.

You need to give individual attention to your bonsai to determine and create the best watering schedule.  Use your finger four inch deep in the soil to observe the moisture level. When your perspective indicates it’s slightly dry, it should be watered. 

When watering make sure the water can reach every corner of the root system. Soak the soil till the water runs out from the bottom drainage holes. Rainwater is the best as they are chemical-free, but it’s okay to give tap water as well, cause not all tap water is the source of chemicals and Sawara Cypress is equipped for it. 

Sawara Cypress Bonsai Temperature Tolerance

Sawara cypress’s hardiness zone is 4-8, but they prefer a constant climate, most particularly in hot summer. They are quite slow-growing trees and in cooler regions, the growth is even slower. These evergreens are healthiest outdoors, where they can get six hours of adequate morning sunlight and other six hours of partial shade. 

In general frost and icy winds can damage the tree, but it differs for specific cultivars. Chamaecyparis pisifera Filifera Arurea can handle frost but not heat. 

Right Placement for Sawara Cypress Bonsai

Sawara cypress prefers places where it can get full sun to partial shade equally. They are moderately hardy, a shelter location, like near the window or a wall will keep them safe from cold winds. Potted bonsais are best for cold regions, mainly cause they are moveable. It’s been noted that these particular species are not good with pollutants in the air. Sawara cypresses are healthiest when planted away from big urban places. 

Repotting Sawara Cypress Bonsai

Sawara cypress can be re-potted in spring with two to three years of gaps. In between the gaps, the re-potting can be done at any time of the year if the root system has no place to grow in its current pot. 

Not only re-potting will give chemical built-up-free fresh soil but also will stimulate the growth of the root system. 

Re-potting can be achieved with a few simple steps;

  • Hold the tree along with the pot sideways and wiggle the tree by holding it on the base. 
  • Use a root rake to loosen the old soil around the roots. 
  • Tease, comb out, and detangle the roots with the same root rake. 
  • With a bonsai, shears prune 1/3rd of the root mass. If you are performing root pruning for the first time, remove the taproot.
  • You can use the same pot, as the root system is smaller in size now unless you wanna upgrade your pot quality or look. 
  • Put a mesh in the drainage hole and add layers of gravel and bonsai soil mix over it. Place the tree and cover it with another layer of bonsai soil. 
  • Water generously and keep it in a shaded place for a few days. 

Best Soil for Sawara Cypress Bonsai

Sawara cypress can survive in many kinds of soil, they don’t have to be precise. But you can provide the ideal soil by replication the soil of its native places. A free-draining soil that is rich in organic matter is recommended. The soil range that is most fitting for this tree is primarily sandy to slightly clayey. The soil pH level can be in the capacity of 5.5-7.5. 

How to Guides for Sawara Cypress Bonsai

In the following section, we will take a closer look at how to prune, feed, wire, and propagate Sawara cypress bonsai.

How to Prune Sawara Cypress Bonsai

With the growth of the branches of the Sawara cypress tends to droop which can be controlled by pruning. Pruning before or during growth season is advisable as the wound will heal rather quicker than usual. 

  • Place the tree on a table to keep the tree at your eye level and get a good view of the whole tree. 
  • When the sprouts begin to produce lateral ramification it can be shortened. 
  • Secondary and primary branches can be pruned in autumn or pre-spring. 
  • Sawara cypress tends to produce buds at the end of branches. The buds that are not useful for the design can be shortened to their young stage. 
  • Remove the dead or damaged parts of the tree. Once that’s done, closely observe and remove the branches and foliage that seem displaced from your desired shape. 
  • Some growths are more than others. this happens because of different sunlight reach. Balance it out with little trimming. 

How to Wire a Sawara Cypress Bonsai

  • Bonsai wire can be 1 to 8 cm thick, for all kinds of bonsais. Use a diameter that is one-third of the branch or trunk you will be wiring. Double wiring will be a bit extra for the tree. Only apply if the wire you are using is too thin, but never on thin branches. 
  • If you are wiring the whole tree. First aim for the trunk, then primary branches, and secondary branches. No matter what part you are binding, the angle should be upwards and 45 degrees. 
  • The binding shouldn’t be too loose or too tight. Tight wiring will lead to sap flow restriction and loose wiring will not have any effect at all.
  • For trunk wiring, anchor the wire in the soil near the base of the tree and try to use a single wire to avoid an unorganized look.
  • Bend the branches slowly after you are done with binding. Remove the branches in the same season and observe their growth pattern. 

How to Fertilize Sawara Cypress Bonsai

Nitrogen boosts the color of the plant, so feeding them with high-nitrogen fertilizer in spring and low-nitrogen fertilizer in summer is ideal. Phosphorus on the other hand helps to build a strong root system, so Sawara bonsai in its early phase will benefit from this. 

But these are all for optimal growth. Normal all-purpose liquid fertilizer will also work. It’s best not to get overboard with the amount and frequency or will suffer from fertilizer burn damage. 

How to Grow a Sawara Cypress Bonsai 

How to Grow Sawara Cypress Bonsai from Seed

Sawara cypress is monoecious, meaning both females and males have reproductive parts. They both can make their own seeds.

The trees grow cones at the end of branches and it will take more than two years to fully develop the seeds. This cypress is adaptable to warm regions and the cones only open when they are fully exposed to high heat.

So if you are collecting seeds from the cone, leave them in direct sun to open. Once the cone is open, you can collect the seeds. 

  • Plant the seeds in regular potting mix and keep them in a place where the temperature is around 10 °C, and make sure the soil stays damp.
  • It can take four weeks to a few months for the seeds to germinate. 
  • The healthy plants are ready to be planted in individual pots. 
  • But keep in mind, for seed cultivation, it takes years for them to reach your desired size. 

How to Grow Sawara Cypress Bonsai from cuttings

  • If you want to propagate Sawara cypress bonsai quickly, you can do it by cuttings.
  • During spring take cuttings from the mother plant which is about 10cm long. It should not be too young or too mature either.
  • Remove any small branches from the lower half of the cutting and keep the upper half needles intact.
  • The places from where you removed the branches will produce roots later on, so keep them clean.
  • Get some slightly damp bonsai soil in a pot and make a hole with a pencil. Gently insert the cuttings by making sure all of them stand straight.
  • To keep the cutting in a moist environment, cover the pot with a transparent bag. This will help retain moisture and create a mini greenhouse effect.
  • It’s better to do the method with multiple cuttings, cause not all cuttings will grow roots.

Common Sawara Cypress Bonsai Problems and Solutions / Diseases & Pests

Sawara cypresses are pretty resilient to major pests and diseases. Two occasional problems they face are bagworms and juniper blight.

Juniper blight

Juniper blight is caused by multiple fungi, some of the prominent ones are  Phomopsis juniperovora and Kabatina juniperi. They attack young trees and trees that are more than five years old suffer from less damage. Because of the fungus young twigs and branches suffer from progressive dying back.


Apply any copper-based fungicides two to three times in spring with two weeks of intervals to protect new growths.


Bagworms camouflage themselves and live in the tree and feast on it. They take little pieces from the leaves, twigs, and little homes out of it to blend themselves with the tree. To detect them you need to search for the bags themselves. They’re approximately 1 to 2 inches long and look like Christmas tree decorations dangling from the branches.


Insecticides with diazinon, or carbaryl will help to remove bagworms from the tree. It will work best when they are young, in their larva phase, when they are just coming out from their sack.

Sawara Cypress Bonsai Images

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