Microbiota is a monotypic, meaning it only has one species, conifer genus native to Russia. M. decussata, the single species in this genus, is known as the Russian or Siberian cypress, or simply “Microbiota,” and is popular as a groundcover in regions with cold, harsh winters similar to those seen in Russia. Nurseries may carry seedlings of various sizes and they can also be ordered through mail order gardening catalogs. These plants can also be cultivated from cuttings, if gardeners know someone with cuttings available for sale or trade.
These conifers grow low to the ground, producing delicate sprays of evergreen foliage. The foliage is scaly and slightly spiky, remaining bright green in summer and bronzing in the fall. Microbiota will remain a rich bronze color until the spring, when the foliage will turn green again. Like other conifers, these plants produce small cones for reproduction. The plants rarely exceed one foot (30 centimeters) in height, but can have a width 10 times that, making them an excellent choice for borders, low hedges, foundation plantings, and groundcovers.
Moist, well-drained soil conditions are preferred by Microbiota, but the plants can tolerate dry, poor soils. Their fame lies in their frost tolerance, which allows them to survive severe cold during the winter months. Being covered in snow, as occurs in some regions, does not damage the plants, and they will reemerge in good condition with the spring thaw. For gardeners working to establish landscaping in cold regions, evergreen plants like Microbiota can be an excellent choice.
Many lighting conditions are suitable for these plants, including full sun and partial shade. Full shade can cause the plants to grow more slowly and may make them susceptible to disease. Gardeners interested in controlling the sometimes sprawling growth can prune their Microbiota to shape the plants, and they can be suitable for shaping into low topiary. A wide variety of companion plantings can be established around Microbiota, including other conifers, as well as flowering annuals.
When planting a Russian cypress, it is advisable to remember that the plant will spread considerably over time. A location allowing the plant some room to sprawl should be selected. For people concerned about looking at bare ground while the plant is developing, annuals can be established around the Microbiota and removed as they die off and the cypress starts to overtake the places where the annuals are growing.