How to Grow and Care for Hinoki Cypress

hinoki cypress tree

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 

The Hinoki cypress is a tall, evergreen coniferous tree with spreading horizontal branches that droop at the tips. Hailing 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, frequently seen in traditional Japanese gardens, and dwarf forms of this tree are popular for bonsai. Hinoki cypress trees feature globose cones that are 1/3 to 1/2 inch in diameter. Although dwarf cultivars exist that are just a couple of feet tall, Hinoki cypress species can grow to 75 feet tall. The more common tree varieties are 25 to 40 feet tall.

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

Common Name Hinoki cypress, hinoki false cypress, Japanese cypress
Botanical Name Chamaecyparis obtusa
Family Cupressaceae
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 40-75 ft. tall, 10-20 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Hardiness Zones 5-8 (USDA)
Native Area Asia
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 

Hinoki Cypress Tree Care

Hinoki cypress trees don't do well as transplants. The younger you plant the tree sapling, the better. Choose a location that can handle its large size at maturity. This graceful and dense evergreen can be an ideal backdrop to a colorful border.

Once established, the trees do not require much maintenance.

Light

A Hinoki cypress tree does best in an area that gets full sun for at least six hours a day. Avoid areas that get direct afternoon sun in hot climates because the tree can develop sun scorch.

Soil

Hinoki cypress prefers moist soil that's neutral to slightly acidic (pH 5.0 to 6.0.). 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 brace itself to survive the harsh weather. After the tree is 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 8, which covers the majority of the middle of the country.

Fertilizer

If your soil is overly acidic (perform a soil test to find out!), feed newly planted trees in fall or early spring with a slow-release, acidifying fertilizer. For the amount to use, follow the product label instructions. Otherwise, mature trees may need no feeding unless the soil is deficient.

Types of Hinoki Cypress Trees

There are more than 200 cultivars of Hinoki cypress trees, including dwarf bonsai types that only grow to 12 inches. Popular small cultivars 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-gold foliage with bronze-green tips, maturing to 4 to 5 feet
  • '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 10 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 1.5 to 2 feet tall after 10 years; features light olive-green foliage
  • 'Melody': Features lacy, bright yellow foliage that resists burning in full sun. Requires well-drained soil; narrow when young but fills out as it matures
  • 'Nana': Dark green and grows to about 6 to 8 inches tall after 10 years; considered an industry standard that grows well throughout the entire year
  • 'Nana Gracilis': Features tiny, richly textured branches; a dwarf cultivar, it grows 4 to 5 feet tall after 10 years
  • '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 6 feet tall after 10 years, but old plants may reach 20 feet tall; features a narrow crown and irregular branches

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.

Propagating Hinoki Cypress

Hinoki cypress can be easily propagated through cuttings:

  1. In the winter, using a sharp knife to remove a piece of stem about 4 inches long.
  2. Remove the bottom foliage up to 2 inches from the cut end. Wet the cut end and dip it in rooting hormone. 
  3. Plant the cutting in a pot filled with moist, well-draining, rich soil.
  4. Place a plastic bag over the cutting like a tent, using sticks to keep it in place. Don't let the plastic have any contact with the cutting. Covering the cutting this way retains moisture. 
  5. Place the pot in a warm location but away from direct sunlight. Keep the soil evenly moist and water as needed.
  6. When the cutting sits firmly in the soil and does not move when you gently tug on it, roots have formed. At that point, you can remove the plastic bag and move the pot to a sunny location. Another safe sign is when roots grow out of the drain holes of the pot. Transplant the sapling in your landscape in the spring.

Growing Hinoki Cypress from Seeds

Because most Hinoki cypress trees are cultivars, growing them from seed won't produce a tree that is true to type. Vegetative propagation from cuttings is the better method.

Potting and Repotting False Cypress Trees 

Dwarf Hinoki cypress varieties can be grown in containers.

Select a pot with large drain holes that's large and deep enough to accommodate the tree as it grows. Hinoki cypress does not like to be transplanted so the fewer times you have to repot it because it has outgrown its pot, the better.

When repotting it to a larger container, gently tip the container onto its side and slice out the tree with as much soil as possible. Move it to its new container and fill it with well-draining, rich potting soil.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Hinoki cypress can be affected by juniper scale insects whose feeding causes discoloration of the foliage. Managing a heavy infestation might require the application of an insecticide. Another potential pest are bagworms; the nests they form can be removed manually.

Blight is a disease that affects primarily young trees.

FAQ
  • It Taiwan cypress the same as Hinoki cypress?

    The Taiwan cypress (Chamaecyparis taiwanesis) is another cypress species that is closely related to the Japanese species. It has smaller cones, smaller scales, and leaves with a more acute apex.

  • Does Hinoki cypress lose its leaves?

    It is an evergreen so it keeps its leaves. Some shedding of leaves is normal, in some years more than in others.

  • Is Hinoki cypress good for bonsai?

    Dwarf varieties can be grown as bonsai. Their thick dense foliage makes them especially attractive as bonsai trees.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Chamaecyparis Obtusa: Hinoki Falsecypress. University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

  2. Juniper Scale. Penn State Extension.