Conifers look their best in winter. A cloak of snow adds mystery and magic to them, while deciduous trees shiver. Even conifers that are low to the ground, like Siberian cypress (Microbiota decussata), add that certain something to the winter garden. This shrubby evergreen (which really is from Siberia) has feathery, nodding, triangular sprays of flattened, scalelike needles. It’s green in spring and summer and turns a lovely brown-purple in the fall and winter. Siberian cypress bears tiny cones and spreads slowly to cover a large area.
Common name: Russian arborvitae, Siberian cypress
Botanical name: Microbiota decussata
Plant type: Needled evergreen
Zones: 3 to 7
Height: About 12 inches
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Average, well-drained
• Moisture: Medium
• Mulch: Add 3 to 6 inches of organic mulch to help the soil retain moisture. Don’t mulch up against the tree trunk, as this encourages rot.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed or cutting.
• Siberian cypress spreads slowly, sometimes to 10 to 12 feet across. That’s why some call it a ground cover rather than a shrub. Be sure to plant it where this trait is a benefit, not an annoyance. (Don’t put it next to your sidewalk, for instance.)
• Excellent for partly shady areas where sun-loving junipers would not thrive.
• Use it to add lushness to a rock garden, or to cover the bare knees of tall perennials or climbing roses.
• Great for adding texture and greenery to a winter garden.
All in the family
• There is only one species in the genus Microbiota. M. decussata is originally from southeast Siberia.
• Cypresses are found all over the world. Many are familiar to gardeners in the United States and Canada. Junipers, arborvitae, bald cypresses, giant sequoias, and redwoods are all members of the Cupressaceae.
Where to buy
• Bluestone Perennials, Madison, OH, 800-852-5243, www.bluestoneperennials.com
• Great Garden Plants, Holland, MI, 877-447-4769, www.greatgardenplants.com
• Lazy S’s Farm Nursery, Barboursville, VA, www.lazyssfarm.com
(Photo of Microbiota decussata courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening)