Cloud Trees are amazing, sculpture-like trees pruned and formed using the ancient Japanese art of Niwaki. Niwaki is the Japanese method of cloud pruning e.g. training trees and shrubs over time (generally 20 years plus) into shapes resembling clouds.
Cloud Trees are suitable for any style of garden
While Japanese cloud trees are synonymous with Japan and its heritage, these sculptural trees will create an immediate impact in any garden or terrace, not just Japanese themed gardens.
Types of Cloud Trees
The most popular Cloud Tree tends to be the Ilex Crenata Cloud Trees (or Japanese Holly Cloud Trees). These specimens are pruned and shaped over many years, but once formed, they are extremely easy to maintain. Other varieties of Cloud Tree include Japanese Yew (Taxus Cuspidata), Pines and Podocarpus Macrophyllus (Buddhist Pine). These varieties are slower growing than Ilex Crenata and therefore take longer to mature into Niwaki-style cloud trees.
Japanese Holly Cloud Trees
Ilex Crenata is an evergreen, native to Japan with small glossy dark green leaves. It grows in any aspect in sheltered or exposed conditions. It copes with any soil type (whether chalk, clay, sand and loam) and in any soil PH. It is also a great alternative to Buxus Sempervirens (box) being faster growing and it does not suffer from the problems plaguing Buxus has such as box blight.
Japanese Yew Cloud Trees
Taxus Cuspidata Cloud Trees (Japanese Yew) is a Japanese form of yew which is slow growing but easy to maintain. It is tolerant of shade, even deep shade as long as it has sunlight in spring. As with most Yews, it needs fertile, moist, well-draining soil and needs to be protected from strong drying winds.
Pine Cloud Trees
The pines can be trickier to look after than other varieties of Cloud Trees. The easiest pines to grow as cloud trees are the European grown Pinus Cloud Trees such as Pinus Nigra and Pinus Sylvestris Cloud Trees. These can be pruned using a normal garden secateurs or shears. Pruning should usually be done in early summer when new growth is about to emerge. Pines grow well in open sunny aspects in sheltered or exposed positions. They prefer fertile well drained soil in any PH.
Podocarpus Macrophyllus Cloud Trees
Podocarpus Macrophyllus (yew plum pine or Buddhist pine) is medium size pine conifer originating from Japan & China. Podocarpus Macrophyllus Cloud trees will grow in any soil conditions in any PH and tolerate sun or shade. These yew plum pines however prefer to be kept out of cold drying winds. These trees are especially good in pots.
An unusual cloud tree the Podocarpus Macrophyllus makes an interesting statement in the garden and has a more tropical / exotic appearance than other cloud trees with its long wide needles. It is commonly known as the Pine of the Buddhists.
Cloud Trees for Growing Indoors
Unusually, Podocarpus Macrophyllus can grow fairly successfully indoors in a well-lit spot but it will dry out without proper humidity like most coniferous plants. If kept indoors, the soil should be kept moist soil and not allowed to dry out. The leathery leaves of Podocarpus Macrophyllus will not lose much water from transpiration which makes it essential to avoid overwatering. Increase the humidity by misting and/or using a humidity tray. (A humidity tray is a shallow tray filled with small stones and has water in the bottom of the tray). Liquid feed every 2 weeks in warm weather if growing indoors.
What to look for when choosing a Japanese Cloud Tree?
When looking to buy your own Cloud Tree, these are the most important factors to keep in mind:
Natural shapes – more about irregularity
Balanced shape rather than straight lines is preferred
Naturally arching main stem
Structure and quantity of clouds
However at the end of the day when choosing a Cloud Tree it has to be a Tree that appeals to you personally as it will form a beautiful piece of art in your garden for many decades to come.
At Paramount Plants and Gardens, we specialise in Cloud Trees (and well as many other mature trees and shrubs). We have one of the largest collections of Cloud Trees to view in the UK. You can buy online or from our North London plant centre.