The Hinoki cypress is a tall, evergreen coniferous tree with spreading horizontal branches that droop at the tips. Hailing from southern Japan, it is often used for privacy screens because it's so tall and dense. It's famous in Japanese gardens, and its dwarf form can be used as bonsai.
Hinoki cypress grows best in moist, moderate zones (USDA 5 to 8), with six to eight hours of sunlight and slightly acidic soil. This tree has a slow to medium growth rate of 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|
|Mature Size||1-130 ft. tall, 10-20 ft. wide|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||5-8 (USDA)|
Hinoki Cypress Tree Care
Here are the main care requirements for growing a Hinoki cypress:
- Choose a location that can handle its large size at maturity.
- Give full sun, although avoid afternoon sun exposure in hotter zones.
- Prefers moist, well-draining soil, although once established, doesn't require much maintenance or watering.
- Give fertilizer only when the soil is poor.
A Hinoki cypress tree does best in an area with full sun for at least six hours daily. Avoid areas with direct afternoon sun in hot climates because the tree can develop sun scorch.
Hinoki cypress prefers moist, neutral soil to slightly acidic (pH 5.0 to 6.0.). The soil should be porous and well-drained to prevent excess water around the plant. Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the tree's base to help retain moisture, keep the soil cool, and fend off weeds that could harm the tree.
When Hinoki cypress is newly planted, water it weekly for the first year. Keep the soil around the tree moist by watering during the spring, summer, and fall. 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 5 through 8, which cover the majority of the middle of the country.
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. Otherwise, mature trees may need no feeding unless the soil is deficient. For the amount to use, follow the product label instructions.
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
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 and those that seem out of place to keep the tree looking its best. Ideally, prune during the summer months.
Propagating Hinoki Cypress
The best time to propagate Hinoki cypress by cuttings is late summer, fall, or winter or by sowing seeds outdoors in spring. Hinoki cypress trees feature globose seed cones that are 1/3 to 1/2 inch in diameter.
Although 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.
Hinoki cypress can be easily propagated through cuttings. Here's how:
- Use a sharp knife to remove a piece of stem about 4 inches long.
- Remove the bottom foliage up to 2 inches from the cut end. Wet the cut end and dip it in the rooting hormone.
- Plant the cutting in a pot filled with moist, well-draining, rich soil.
- 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.
- Place the pot in a warm location but away from direct sunlight. Keep the soil evenly moist and water as needed.
- 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 pot's drain holes. Transplant the sapling in your landscape in the spring.
Potting and Repotting Hinoki Cypress Trees
Dwarf Hinoki cypress varieties can be grown in containers. Select a pot with large drain holes that are 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 it onto its side and slide out the tree with as much soil as possible. Move it to its new container, filling it with well-draining, rich potting soil.
Protect the trees against hard frost and icy winds, usually when temperatures exceed 20 degrees Fahrenheit, by wrapping them in burlap or enclosing them in a burlap tent. If your Hinoki cypress is potted, it will require winterizing and continued sun exposure. Place it in an unheated greenhouse or sunny enclosed porch for the winter.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Hinoki cypress can be affected by juniper scale insects whose feeding causes foliage discoloration.Managing a heavy infestation might require the application of an insecticide. Another potential pest is bagworms; the nests they form can be removed manually.
Blight is a fungal disease that primarily affects young trees. It's usually best to water in the morning so the leaves dry during the day. Avoid watering from overhead or leaving standing water on the foliage to control blight.
Common Problems with Hinoki Cypress Trees
Hinoki cypress trees are low-maintenance, easy-going plants once they're established after a few years.
Yellowing or Browning Hinoki Cypress
Hinoki cypress will shed some of its needles each year in late fall as part of its natural life cycle, but before it does, those leaves will turn brown.
Other reasons for a plant turning brown can include too much or too little water or sunlight, poor drainage, root rot, or insufficient nutrients, usually nitrogen. These trees prefer more acidic soil with pH levels of 6.0. If too alkaline, the roots might not be able to absorb iron from the soil, which can cause chlorosis or yellowing of the needles. Check these factors, do a soil test, or wait until the spring to see how the plant rebounds.
How big does Hinoki cypress get?
This tree has many varieties—some that are miniature, growing no more than 12 inches tall, and others that are towering giants, reaching up to 130 feet tall. The more common tree varieties are 25 to 40 feet tall.
Does Hinoki cypress lose its leaves or turn brown in winter?
It is an evergreen, so it keeps its leaves. Some leaf shedding is normal, which may be preceded by yellowing or browning in some years more than in others. You can also expect the bronze pigmy Hinoki to turn a bronze color in fall and winter.
Is Hinoki cypress good for bonsai?
Dwarf varieties can be grown as bonsai. Their thick dense foliage makes them especially attractive as bonsai trees.
What is the lifespan of a Hinoki cypress?
A Hinoki cypress can grow up to 100 years old or more.
Chamaecyparis Obtusa: Hinoki Falsecypress. University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Chamaecyparis obtusa (Hinoki cypress, hinoki falsecypress) | north carolina extension gardener plant toolbox.
Juniper Scale. Penn State Extension.