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What Is a Dwarf Hinoki Cypress?

By L. Whitaker
Updated May 16, 2024
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The dwarf hinoki cypress is the smallest cultivar of Chamaecyparis obtuse, a type of Asian evergreen tree that tends to grow to a height of 4-15 feet (1.2-4.6 m) at maturity. With its diminutive height and a typical spread of 3-6 feet (0.9-1.8 m), this cypress is referred to as a shrub by some sources. Many gardeners use the dwarf hinoki cypress as an accent feature in Asian-themed gardens due to the drooping branches and unique curled texture of the tree's foliage.

With pruning and shaping, this dwarf cypress can be appropriate for gardens where a large tree spread or height is not desirable. Pruning is also helpful in making branches less vulnerable to snow or ice damage in winter weather. Use pruning shears or simply pinch away unwanted branches and foliage with fingers, but avoid cutting into the oldest branches, which can halt new growth. Due to its small size, this evergreen tree can also be nurtured in a large container.

Known as a slow grower among smaller trees, the dwarf hinoki cypress tends to gain height at the rate of approximately 1 foot (30.5 cm) per year. Some gardeners choose the dwarf hinoki cypress as a foundation plant to be placed close to the entrance or side of a house. Specimens with unusually long lifespans could exceed the typical height and width range for this tree. Gardeners should note that placing this dwarf conifer beneath leaf-shedding trees can result in the need to periodically clean away leaf debris from the foliage of the cypress.

The dwarf hinoki cypress is said to be hardy to USDA Zone 5. It will do well in partial shade or full sun conditions. If placed in direct full sunlight, be sure to keep the roots moist, particularly during the first warm seasons after the tree is planted. This cypress needs a well-draining soil for optimum growth response. A balance can be achieved in acidic soil by adding humus or by underplanting the dwarf hinoki cypress with a variety of heather.

Hinoki cypress is a so-called false cypress. The cultivar called slender hinoki cypress or Chamaecyparis obtusa "Gracilis," which is a semi-dwarf cypress, is frequently used in landscaping. A cultivar known as "Nana Gracilis" is a full dwarf cypress. The original Japanese cypress trees from which these cultivars originate are not dwarf trees, tending to grow to 50 feet (15.24 m) tall.

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