The mop cypresses are threadleaf varieties of Japanese false cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera). Their loose, floppy habit and global form give them their common name. Depending on variety, mop cypress grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 7. This evergreen mostly takes care of itself and requires only occasional pruning.
While mop cypress doesn't require annual pruning, mid- to late spring is a good time to remove the odd stray branch that obstructs a walkway, obscures a view or otherwise doesn't contribute to a pleasing, round form. Using sharp bypass pruners, cut the errant branch all the way to the center of the plant or to a healthy, outward-facing shoot. Sterilize the pruners with disinfectant spray or rubbing alcohol before and after each use to prevent the spread of disease.
Shrubs that have grown leggy or out of control, as well as those that have lost their needles due to disease, will benefit from a hard pruning. In spring, remove the oldest and gnarliest one-third branches all the way to the center of the plant. Prune the remaining branches back about one-third, cutting at outward-facing side branches. This will likely leave a bare spots, but they will fill in with spring's growth spurt.
Shearing Is for Sheep
If you want to shape mop cypress for hedging, avoid shearing, which results in a dense, leafy canopy supported by bare, spindly branches underneath. Cut by hand in mid-spring and mid-summer. Each year, you should remove a total of about one-fourth of the branches almost to the center of the plant. This exposes the center to sunlight and encourages leafy growth along the interior branches. Colorado State University Extension recommends that the bottom should flare out wider than the top so the whole plant gets even sunlight. Expect a loose, billowy hedge, rather than a tightly clipped wall.
University of Minnesota Extension recommends a complete fertilizer slightly higher in nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium. N-P-K ratios of approximately 10-8-6 do the job. For a mature mop cypress, scratch 1 cup 10-8-6 into the mulch beneath the canopy. Use half that for younger specimens. An inch of organic mulch or compost shades plant roots, keeps the soil moist and enriches the soil as it breaks down. Remove dead or diseased branches at any time of the year, as soon as you find them. This prevents spread of the disease and makes room for new growth come spring.
- Photo Credit alexxl66/iStock/Getty Images
The Height of a Dwarf Cypress Tree
The term "dwarf cypress" usually refers to small cultivars of Chamaecyparis or false cypress, especially Chamaecyparis pisifera (Japanese false cypress ) and...
How to Prune Overgrown Leyland Cypress
The fast-growing Leyland cypress makes an effective hedge plant. It requires regular pruning to encourage healthy growth and maintain its shape. Prune...
How to Prune Cypress Shrubs
Cypress is used as an ornamental shrub in landscaping. It has an attractive greenish-blue, scale-like needle foliage. You can maintain a desired...
Pruning an Overgrown Gold Thread Cypress
Evergreen shrubs come in many shapes and sizes, with some bringing colors other than green to your garden. The gold thread cypress...
Kinds of Yellow & Green Shrubs
If you're looking for some new shrubs and want strong color contrasts in your garden, choosing plants that combine yellow and green...
Golden Cypress Shrubs
Golden cypress shrubs belong to the family Cupressaceae as distinct cultivars featuring yellow foliage. These evergreens are grown specifically for their coloring,...