Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans' / elegant Japanese cedar

Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans' is a large-growing, broadly columnar selection of Japanese cedar with spreading tiered branches holding seafoam-green juvenile foliage that turns purple with hints of red and orange. Its color changes throughout the year make for unique year-round interest in the landscape. It is known for having weak roots making for many many large specimens canted or leaning over.

After 10 years of growth, a mature specimen will measure 10 to 12 feet (3 - 4 m) tall and 4.5 feet (1.5 m) wide, an annual growth rate of 10 to 12 inches (25 - 30 cm).

This cultivar originated in Japan in the mid-1800s where it is known by the name 'Yawara.' It can be argued that this is the proper cultivar name for this plant were it not for the fact that it's been universally known in the nursery trade worldwide was 'Elegans.' In 1854, English plant collector, Thomas Lobb imported the first plants to the Veitch Nursery, Chelsea and Exeter, United Kingdom. Nelson named the plant in 1866.

Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegan's changing color as colder weather approaches.
Photo by ©judywhite/
judywhite /
Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans' — a summer/winter contrast of the same tree.
Photo by University of Oregon


Erika Ormerod

I have a Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans' in my garden and it has turned brown . I still looks lovely but
some branches are looking dead. My gardeners offered to cut it down . I looked it up and saw 3 trees looking very similar to mine but probably not showing dead looking branches. I am 90 years old and do not manage to visit garden centers. Should it just be trimmed ?

Thanks for reply to: [email protected]

Maxwell Cohn

Hi Erika ... 'Elegans' turns all sorts of colors in winter ... perfectly normal. It also takes well to shearing if that's what you'd like to do with it.

Coral de Losa

We've got a stand of cryptomerias and had a bushfire go through. They don't appear to be recovering very well. Will they, or as most conifer type trees are, won't recover? Getting conflicting advice from arborists.