Microbiota decussata / Siberian Cypress

Variously called Russian arborvitae, Russian cypress and Siberian cypress, in recent years this plant has become a go-to evergreen groundcover in shady spots (but not full shade) because its soft, feathery foliage makes it a good substitute for the coarser junipers and it is more shade tolerant. With its arborvitae-like, bright green spring foliage, dark green summer foliage, and bronzed fall and winter foliage it does well in moist, fertile soil but will also tolerate dry, rocky conditions. Needs good drainage as it is subject to root rot. Can spread to 10' wide; generally 12" or less in height.

Microbiota decussata - Winter foliage Courtesy of Sandra McLean Cutler, author of Dwarf & Unusual Conifers Coming of Age
Photo by USNA
Microbiota decussata - compliments of Stanley and Sons Nursery, Inc., Boring, Oregon
Photo by Larry Stanley
Microbiota decussata The Harper Collection of Dwarf & Rare Conifers located at Hidden Lake Gardens in Tipton, MI. Photo taken August of 2005. A little dew and shade highlight this plant.
Photo by Dax Herbst
Detail of the soft, feathery Microbiota foliage in spring.
Photo by Sean Callahan
A Microbiota decussata in the lee of balsam fir and Serbian spruce, photographed in Maine in June, 2013. It was purchased in a #2 container and has been in the ground five years.
Photo by Sean Callahan
Microbiota decussata showing winter color (with frost) in December in Maine
Photo by Sean Callahan
Microbiota decussata photographed in Maine in June with ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) interplanted.
Photo by Sean Callahan


Sean Callahan

Did you know that botanists first discovered this plant in 1923 in what was then called Russian Manchuria? This was during Stalin’s reign of terror so it’s discovery was considered a state secret. It took the Soviet government about 50 years (and more than 20 years after Stalin’s death) to relax and let western scientists know of the plant’s existence.

With the kind of under-the-radar trading of scionwood we see in ACS today, to think that if that policy was still in place we could get some poor Russian collector sent to Siberia!!!

For more, check out its Genus Page.