Hinoki Cypress Tree Plant Profile

hinoki cypress tree

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 

A tall, evergreen coniferous tree, the Hinoki cypress hails from southern Japan. The soaring tree is often used for privacy screens because it's so tall and dense. It is also a favorite for ornamental plantings, and dwarf forms of this tree are popular for bonsai. Hinoki cypress trees feature globose cones that are 8 to 12 millimeters in diameter. Although dwarf cultivars exist that are just a couple of feet tall, Hinoki cypress trees can grow to be as tall as 130 feet in its native areas.

This tree has a slow to medium growth rate and can grow about 12 inches per year (some cultivars grow much more slowly). It is typically planted in fall or early spring and can be grown from seed sown in spring.

Botanical Name Chamaecyparis obtusa
Common Name Hinoki cypress, hinoki falsecypress, Japanese cypress
Plant Type Evergreen coniferous tree or shrub
Mature Size 15 to 30 feet wide and up to 115 feet tall
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Moist, fertile, well-drained
Soil pH 5.0 to 6.0
Bloom Time Non-flowering
Flower Color Non-flowering
Hardiness Zones 5 to 8
Native Area Japan
hinoki cypress tree
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 
closeup of a hinoki cypress tree
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 
closeup of hinoki cypress tree
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 
hinoki cypress tree leaf detail
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 

How to Grow Hinoki Cypress Trees

Hinoki cypress trees don't do well as transplants when fully matured. Therefore, if you want to grow this type of tree, place it as a sapling or plant the seeds in a location that can handle its large size at maturity. These cypress trees, once established, do not require much maintenance.

Light

A Hinoki cypress tree does best in an area that gets full sun for six hours a day or in part shade. Avoid areas that get direct sun the majority of the day because the tree can develop sun scorch.

Soil

Hinoki cypress prefers moist soil that's neutral to slightly acidic. Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree to help retain moisture, keep the soil cool, and fend off weeds that could harm the tree. The soil should be porous and well-drained to prevent an excess of water around the plant.

Water

When you first plant your cypress tree, water it weekly for the first year. Keep the soil around the tree moist by watering during the spring, summer, and fall months. When winter arrives, stop watering the tree—it will harden itself to survive the harsh weather. After the tree has established, you need to water only during severe and prolonged droughts.

Temperature and Humidity

The Hinoki cypress tree enjoys a humid climate. In the U.S., it's best suited for USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through 9, which covers the majority of the middle of the country.

Fertilizer

Feed newly planted trees (in fall or early spring) with a slow-release, acidifying fertilizer. Otherwise, mature trees may need no feeding unless the soil is deficient.

Pruning

When the upright branches of a Hinoki cypress tree forks, you can prune it. Cut into new wood, rather than the older brown branches. Prune back dead branches, as well as those that seem out of place, in order to keep the tree looking its best. Ideally, prune during the summer months.

Varieties of Hinoki Cypress Trees

There are more than 200 cultivars of Hinoki cypress trees, including dwarf species that only grow to 12 inches. The Taiwan cypress (Chamaecyparis taiwanesis) isn't a cultivar of a Hinoki cypress but is closely related to the Japanese species. It differs by having smaller cones, smaller scales, and leaves with a more acute apex. True cultivars of the Japanese cypress include:

  • 'Butter Ball': A globose dwarf variety that showcases bright yellow tips on its foliage with darker green inner foliage
  • 'Confucious': An intermediate-size plant that has yellow outer foliage and shades of green and yellow inner foliage
  • 'Ellie B.': A miniature variety with dark green foliage in the warm months and bronze tones in the winter
  • 'Gemstone': Features an irregular upright form and matures slowly; has varied shades of light and dark green foliage
  • 'Gracilis': Showcases open branches and a pyramidal form; has more of a slender shape than other types of cultivars
  • 'Fernspray Gold': Grows to about 11 feet and needs ample moisture; features sprays of green and yellow branches
  • 'Just Dandy': Grows to the size of a large beach ball within a few years and remains wider than it is tall; has tight foliage
  • 'Kosteri': Grows to between 6.6 feet and 9.8 feet tall; features brilliant green foliage
  • 'Melody': Features bright yellow foliage and requires well-drained soil; narrow when young but fills out as it matures
  • 'Nana': Dark green and grows to about 3 feet tall; considered an industry standard that grows well throughout the entire year
  • 'Nana Gracilis': Features tiny, richly textured branches; despite its classification as a dwarf cultivar, it has been known to grow up to 11 feet tall
  • 'Nana Lutea': The slow-growing golden-yellow counterpart to 'Nana Gracilis'; prefers a little bit more shade than other cultivars, particularly during harsh summer months
  • 'Reis Dwarf': A dwarf variety that can be pruned into unusual formations as a bonsai tree
  • 'Sunny Swirl': Characterized by the cockscombs that sometimes develop at the tips; features mahogany-red bark and yellow, green, and gold foliage
  • 'Tetragona Aurea': Grows to 59 feet tall; features a narrow crown and irregular branches