How to Grow Hinoki Cypress, The Polite Evergreen Shrub

Ilona Erwin

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’, Beautiful in a Japanese Garden

Chamaecyparis obtusa Templehof

Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Page Contents

Beautiful in a Japanese garden, and just as stunning in your home landscape (any style). This dwarf evergreen is what I describe as a “polite” shrub, for the following reasons. Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’ grows slowly and never needs pruning, it always has a beautiful shape, and never crowds surrounding neighbors. Many of the false cypress evergreens are lovely, and I grow several, but this particular cultivar is especially artistic -and it has a sumptuous look.

Deep green fan-like growth that is free form without any sprawling, it’s a dwarf type of tree which will grow quite slowly and keep its place for a long while. This type of evergreen looks pleasing in mixed plantings brightening the winter landscape, and giving depth to the summer views (although it needs sunshine and shouldn’t be too shaded). It is pest-resistant in my experience, a relatively low maintenance tree.

The Look of this Shrub

 Foliage of C. obtusa, the False Cypress

Foliage of C. obtusa, the False Cypress

Another name for this plant is Hinoki Cypress, the gracilis describes the form, which is graceful and more open. There are others like minima, so check the name. Its texture and color are a nice variation with other evergreens.It may be used as a specimen feature, with other plants in a dooryard planting, or even the edge of a border.

The branches are scales on branchlets in a fanlike form, and this produces the whorled look that makes the evergreen so graceful and pretty.

False Cypress Cultivation

Sunshine is very important since the inner and lower branches die without it, and won’t rebud.

I grow one bush in a morning sun situation which seems sufficient. Be careful of drying winds, and use an acidifying fertilizer for the neutral to acid condition it likes; be sure to water sufficiently. Results are vastly better with plenty of light from a position in full sun.

They need regular moisture and should not be allowed to dry out, yet good drainage should be maintained for these trees to thrive. I feel I need to repeat this, because a Hinoki cypress without sufficient moisture will never look healthy.
Here’s the low down:

  • Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8
  • Eventual Height and Width: 9′ X 5′
  • Growth Rate: Slow

Plant in fall or early spring, and once established fertilize sparingly with slow-release organic fertilizer during those same times. This is one plant that truly appreciates a blanket of mulch, but remember to keep the trunk area free of mulch (no volcano, please).

Dwarf Hinoki Cypress Tree Form
Dwarf Hinoki Cypress Tree Form

More Facts about the Hinoki Cypress:

5 Unusual Ornamental Trees

Quick Summary:


Recommended book

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You can propagate Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’ from semi-ripe cuttings in late summer

Fun Facts About The Hinoki Cypress

  • This evergreen has long been used by the Japanese for the art of bonsai.
  • Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’ makes an excellent specimen, door entry, or other foundation area planting.
  • The name ‘Chamaecyparis‘ comes from the Greek words for “ground” and “cypress”, referring to its dwarf nature; obtusa means “blunt”, maybe because it doesn’t have sharp needles? Or maybe because the foliage fans have a rounded look to them.

Also see the pages for tips on selecting a healthy shrub, and planting it properly:

Other Links

dwarf evergreen
Great Plant Pick The Chamaecyparis obtusa “Gracilis” evergreen is an Elisabeth Carey Miller Botanical Garden “Great Plant Pick”.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.