How to Prune Gold Thread and Gold Mop Cypress

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You planted an adorable Gold Thread cypress (‌Chamaecyparis pisifera‌ 'Filifera Aurea') or Gold Mop cypress (‌Chamaecyparis pisifera‌ 'Golden Mop') in your garden and expected that it would never require pruning (they are low-maintenance shrubs after all). But 10 years later, this slow-growing evergreen shrub has outgrown its space and sent out ungainly shoots. Pruning is not necessary for these plants, but these shaggy shrubs can sometimes become unkempt. Don't be tempted to pull out the hedge trimmers and hack away. You can shape your yellow evergreen Gold Mop or Gold Threadleaf cypress with a few snips using a hand pruner instead.


The Best Time to Prune Gold Thread and Gold Mop Cypress

The best time of year to prune a Gold Mop or Gold Threadleaf false cypress is at the end of winter or in early spring just as the plant is waking up, but you can prune at any time in spring through midsummer. Pruning during the growing season allows the shrub to produce new, green foliage that will cover any pruning scars. Don't prune in the fall, as this could lead to tender new growth getting zapped by the cold.

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False Cypress Varieties

Gold threadleaf or threadbranch cypresses have beautiful gold foliage colors and are varieties of false cypress trees. These plants are called "false" cypress because, although they resemble cypress plants, they're not members of the ‌Cupressus‌ genus, which contains "true" cypress plants. These evergreen perennial conifers can have blue-green, creamy green, or yellow foliage and are both drought-tolerant and deer-resistant. Also known as Japanese false cypresses or Sawara false cypresses, they reach a mature height of 30 feet or taller in the wild in a conical shape. Plant breeding has resulted in a number of smaller cultivars with scaly, threadlike, golden foliage that serve as bright accent plants in the garden.



Some, like Gold Thread (‌C. pisifera '‌Filifera Aurea'), are cone-shaped shrubs that can grow to 20 feet tall and 7 feet wide. Dwarf shrub cultivars, such as the Golden Mop false cypress and Kings Gold, take years to reach 5 feet tall and have a more rounded, broad form. Golden Charm is another cultivar that slowly grows to 6 feet tall and reaches a mature width of 8 feet. Keep in mind that even dwarf false cypresses can grow taller than expected over the decades. Sungold takes 10 years to reach 3 feet tall and 4.5 feet wide but can eventually reach 8 feet tall and 12 feet wide. These plants will remain attractive over the years if you provide adequate space when you plant them in the garden. Planting appropriately reduces the need for pruning and allows the shrub to maintain a more natural form.


How to Prune Gold Threadleaf Cypress for Shape

Prune your gold threadleaf cypress for shape by cutting back any overgrown branches that stick out like a sore thumb. Avoid shearing the plant all over, which destroys the characteristically shaggy look that makes your shrub so charming. While a light shearing won't harm your gold threadleaf cypress, it could take years for the plant to regain its shape. Follow these steps to reshape your shrub:


  1. Take a pair of sanitized hand pruners and completely remove any diseased or dead branches, cutting back to the main stem or trunk. Make sure to wipe the blades with rubbing alcohol before moving on to pruning healthy branches.
  2. Examine an overgrown branch, following it to find a set of leaves growing on the stem in the interior of the shrub. You'll want this spot to be hidden a few inches inside the shrub because new shoots will emerge from the cut. Do not cut the stem beyond all signs of growth, which would prevent any new shoots from ever growing on that branch.
  3. Cut the overgrown branch just above the set of leaves you have identified in the interior of the shrub.
  4. Repeat these steps with each overgrown branch on your shrub.

Shearing Gold Threadleaf Cypress

While shearing a Gold Thread or Gold Mop cypress shrub may get quick results, pruning a conifer this way ruins its natural shape. Indiscriminate shearing also leaves unattractive stubs that the plant will be slow to cover with new growth. New shoots will emerge from the stubs, creating a denser texture than its usual moppy, shaggy look. If you choose to prune your gold thread cypress this way, shear it lightly and be careful not to cut beyond healthy growth, which will kill the branches.



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