Many of the popular choices used as screening plants are rather ordinary when planted as a lone speciman. Large, fast growing evergreeens such as Leyland cypress and Green Giant arborvitae are fine plants, and not ugly, but are not distinguished by color or texture that make them attractive as a single plant.
Cryptomeria, however, is an excellent choice as a single or planted in numbers as a screen. Short, dark green needles give a rich, handsome appearance. Needles often turn an interesting bronze-green in the Winter. The photo to the left shows the interesting scaly, globular cones in March. When brushed against in early Spring a brown cloud of pollen is released.
Two varieties, Yoshino and Radicans, are quite similar, and most commonly used as lone specimen or as screening plants. Growth rate is slower than Leyland or Green Giant, but quick enough to make it a valuable choice. Mature height of thirty to forty feet is more in scale with most properties.
Cryptomeria is relatively easy to grow if provided with a sunny location and well drained soil. It will not tolerate wet soils, or windy sites.
I have two large Yoshino cryptomerias planted in my garden, and two of a yellow needled variety, Sekkan Sugi (below), which is okay, but no better. The yellow color is typical of many gold and yellow plants that fade in the heat and humidity of northern Virginia.
The Yoshinos are planted in an area that can stay damp during rainy periods, and they suffered for several years from dieback that would kill the top foot or two of the central leader. New growth would replace it by year’s end, but it was a bit frustrating until they reached about ten feet tall, then the problems stopped.
I’ve noted more problems with smaller sizes both at growing nurseries and in landscapes, so this is a plant that I would recommend purchasing larger sizes, six feet and above. Otherwise, cryptomeria is pest free and a delightful evergreen, a great plant to use for screens or a single speciman.