Landscape Interest: Dwarf Hinoki Cypress

Ilona Erwin

Landscaping With Chamaecyparis obtusa

This is one evergreen you can count on to remain well-behaved by the house.

How many times have you seen the common arborvitae, or large juniper shrubs outgrowing their given space, and looking awkward and overgrown? Too many to count, right? That is because those shrubs give a quick fix for lazy landscapers who want immediate filler for a foundation. But if they gave little thought at the way these plants would eventually mature to a size that no amount of pruning will keep in check, another better choice would be a dwarf evergreen like this one. Don’t make the same mistake in your home landscaping plan.

Chamaecyparis obtusa

With a maximum size of only 8 to 9 feet high and 4 feet wide, this dwarf evergreen is an excellent choice for planting near your home in a foundation planting; much better than the popular Arborvitae which will out grow its space and crowd windows and entry ways. The False Cypress is a slow grower, and will remain very compact for years.

It still is a tree, so some thought should be given for exactly where it is situated, along with the consideration that it needs plenty of sunlight to look its best. No foundation plants should be planted too closely to the house, at any rate. The soils close to the house foundation are often poor and dry. Placing the shrubs far enough from the house to receive moisture and better soil conditions is better for the plant and better for the house. Most plants will spread enough to fill in the space.

In the Garden, Chamaecyparis Obtusa Is an Outstanding Specimen

These evergreen shrubs make fine accents in the garden, but don’t let other plants crowd them. A low partner of those perennials or shrubs which stay small (like spirea ‘Little Princess’) work well with the it.

I grow Chamaecyparis obtusa as one of a group of plantings in this way, but I feel that it is more effective if grown as a specimen without any competing plants or shrubs, perhaps simply with the addition of stone mulch and a Japanese garden accent, such as a natural bamboo fountain and a small rugged bench.

Hinoki False Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa)

The Hinoki Cypress, especially the ‘Gracilis‘ variety, would be a fine choice in a rock garden. Its evergreen branches and dwarf stature making a year-round highlight at the edge of the rock garden. It would lend height and the whorled branching would feel like a tree that is windswept in an alpine environment. If you don’t have a full rock garden feature, maybe the addition of one of these dwarf trees would create the impression of one, in tandem with some larger well-chosen rocks. It could be a real focal point in many types of features: contemporary, meditation, entry gardens.

If your soil pH is acidic in nature, consider underplanting the Hinoki Cypress with Erica carnea ‘Winter Beauty’ , or heathers of some type. Their texture and color would complement the tree and stay low so as not to compete.


In a Grouping, the Dwarf Hinoki Cypress Is a Fine Companion

A favorite way to grow dwarf conifers, especially among collectors, is in groups. As long as each one is given space, this is a very effective way to show off contrasting colors, foliage textures, and shapes. It is a big plus in the winter landscape, with an impact visually in the stark leafless surroundings. It would also provide cover for birds.

If evergreens with variation of gold or white foliage are chosen, situate the group in a place sheltered in summer from the brunt of the brightest sunshine. These color variations, which are available in the Chamaecyparis spp. and other evergreens are subject to sunscaldplant injury caused by exposure to bright sunlight especially in winter. It seems like a good corner group in a “Look-into Garden” so that it can be enjoyed all year.


See the plant profile for this shrub, Hinoki Cypress.If you live in a cold climate area where the survival seems ‘iffy’ for the Chamaecyparis, why not look for a sheltered “mini-climate” that might be more protected from the cold temperatures and winds? Borderline hardy plants often survive farther North when grown this way.

Dwarf Hindi Cypress tree form

Dwarf Hindi Cypress tree form

Dwarf Hinoki Cypress Tree Form

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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.