Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 157 Cunninghamia lanceolata

Common Names: China fir Family: Taxodiaceae (bald-cypress Family)

Chinafir trees
Jack's 'Glauca' Chinafir trees have grown to a height of 40 ft (12.2 m) in fourteen years.


This is an extremely large tree, growing 30-75 ft (9.1-22.9 m) high with a 10-30 ft (3.1-9.1 m) spread. It reaches an even greater size where growing wild. The shape is generally pyramidal but the branches droop somewhat. Needles are arranged in a flattened spiral around the stem with a pleasant upward arch. The overall appearance is quite exotic and beautiful, especially for 'Glauca', a cultivar whose young foliage is bright whitish blue! One characteristic that isn't readily noticed is the two white bands underneath. Flowers are small and inconspicuous; cones are small and scaly, and usually form in groups of three or more. Older specimens usually look ragged, since old needles cling to stems for up to 5 years although some selections are available, like 'Glauca', that shed dead needles and branchlets each year. Chinafirs tend to be multi-stemmed and always sucker up around the base.

A mature Chinafir
Mature Chinafirs almost always have multiple trunks like this North Florida individual.


Cunninghamia lanceolata is native to China and was introduced to the United States as an ornamental in the early 1800's.


Prefers a site protected from wind and moist, acid, well-drained soil. Chinafir constantly produces suckers which can be periodically removed to maintain a neat appearance. Light: Part shade to sun. Moisture: Evenly moist. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 9. Propagation: By cuttings in fall; a rooting hormone helps. Cuttings will grow into trees whose configuration depends on the branch from which they were taken. Cuttings from lateral branches produce wide trees with a round crown while cuttings of vertical shoots grow into the more narrow cone shape typical of the species. China fir is also propagated by seed.


A clever designer can do remarkable things with this unique tree, but it takes imagination! As an anchor plant in a grouping of varying foliage color and texture, a young Chinafir is lovely. As a freestanding specimen, it can be a horticultural oddity or conversation piece, like the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) in warmer areas. In its native habitat in China, the wood is widely used for construction of houses and shipbuilding, cabinet making and coffins.

China fir fall foliage
New growth on the cultivar 'Glauca' is a striking light blue that contrasts attractively with the darker bluish green of the mature foliage. In autumn the older leaves and branchlets turn to shades of yellow and orange before dropping from the tree.


Chinafir presents unique shape and appearance in the landscape. The bright blue foliage of variety 'Glauca' is especially appealing. This tree is fast growing, drought tolerant and able to succeed on light sandy soils. The Chinafir can quickly add "bulk" to a new landscape and provide a handsome background for flowering trees and shrubs.


Chinafir is not recommended for areas prone to wildfires as the dead needles accumulate and are very flammable.

Jack Scheper 08/16/97; updated 6/2/01, 10/26/04

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