Slender Hinoki Cypress

I. General Information

  • Common name: Slender Hinoki Cypress 
  • Scientific name/Botanical name: Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’, Chamaecyparis obtusa
  • Family name: Pine
  • Origin: Japan
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Growing Zones: 5a-8b
  • Mature Height: 12′ to 15′
  • Mature Width: 4′ to 6
  • Growth Habit / Form:  Conical, Upright
  • Sunlight: Full / Mostly Sun, Morning Sun / Evening Shade, Morning Shade / Evening Sun
  • Maintenance / Care:  Very Low
  • Uses: Slender Hinoki Cypress is useful as a specimen, on the corners of homes and buildings, or arranged in straight or curved, single or staggered rows to form a very attractive screen or buffer.

II. Identification

  • Color: Dark Green

III. Description

Attractive, small-garden, conical conifer, grown for its flattened sprays of aromatic, bright golden foliage. Bark is stringy and red-brown. Cones are round, ½in (1cm) across, and brown.

Slender Hinoki Cypress


IV. Planting & Care

The Slender Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis Obtusa ‘Gracilis’) is a small evergreen native to Japan where it was traditionally used for making palaces, shrines and theaters. With a mature height of 8-12 feet and width of only 4-5 feet, it can fit anywhere and is perfect for framing entry ways and looks especially beautiful in a Japanese garden. This cypress is good for USDA growing zones 4-8 so they can handle extreme cold temperatures and are also drought tolerant. They have a beautiful reddish-brown bark that peels off with foliage that fans out and will curl down slightly, giving the tree a softer appearance. Younger trees will often have a lot of twisting and turning to the branches and foliage.

Choosing a location: Full sun is best for exposure and it will grow in most varieties of soils.

Planting directions: It’s important to properly space your trees when creating a privacy hedge. Hinoki cypress are drought tolerant evergreens and can reach a mature height of 8-12 feet and a width of 4-5 feet, so they need enough space to flourish. Space your cypress trees about 4 to 5 feet apart, depending on how dense you want your hedge.

1) While it’s best to plant your trees when they’re semi-dormant (roughly six weeks before frosts begin) you can plant anytime providing the ground isn’t frozen.
2) Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the root ball and just as deep. Amend the soil with compost or other organic matter for a boost in nutrients and minerals. Organic matter will also improve the drainage of your soil.
3) Set your tree in the hole. Gently spread the roots outward avoiding any sharp bends.
4) Keep the tree straight as you back fill the hole and pack soil firmly until the root crown (where the root ball meets the trunk of the tree) is about two inches higher than your soil. Water the site and gently tamp down the soil.
5) Use about 3 inches of organic mulch to keep soil moist and to prevent competitive weeds from growing near the base of your tree. Be sure the mulch is not touching the trunk as this can promote rot and fungus.

Staking: Stakes provide support to keep young trees upright and allows free movement in the wind to build the trunk’s strength. Stakes are typically metal or wooden and not much taller than the tree’s lowest branch. Since a staked tree moves in the wind, take care that branches do not hit the stakes. Use a minimum of two stakes for each tree since one will not provide proper support and often leads to trees bending or snapping.

After one season of growth, you should be able to remove the stakes. To be sure that your tree is ready to stand on its own, just shake the center. If the root ball has no movement, then your tree’s roots have established and you can remove the support.

Watering: Water your cypress trees evenly until the soil becomes moist. You’ll want the area to look and feel moist but not to the point where it’s over saturated or murky. Allow the soil to dry for a few days until it feels dry to the touch about half an inch below the surface. A slow drip from a garden hose works best as it allows the water to penetrate the soil deeply down to the roots without over saturating it.

After about three months, water your cypress tree(s) twice a week. During excessive hot and dry weather you may need to up the watering to three times weekly. Some regions in the Southwestern U.S. can have very dry winters. If you’re located that area and are suffering a “winter drought,” you should water twice a month throughout the winter season.

Fertilizing: Fertilize your tree after a year of growth, once the root system has had enough time to establish. This will speed up the growth of your tree and provide beneficial nutrients in your soil. Using a general fertilizer formula such as 10-10-10 once every spring will give it a boost. Alternatively, you can feed the tree with solid tree fertilizer spikes labeled for use on evergreens. You’ll find the proper number of spikes to use in the directions on the fertilizer package.

Pruning: These trees require very little pruning. If using as an ornamental tree you will need to do minimal pruning and shaping at the end of winter while the tree is still dormant. Prune at a 45 degree angle and sterilize your clippers with rubbing alcohol to ensure a nice clean cut.

Pests and Disease: The Hinoki Cypress is extremely disease resistant but can sometimes suffer from cankers or needle blight. Trees, like people, can suffer from diseases due to stress. Under watering and extreme heat are the biggest causes of distress. In the case of cankers, trim off browning limbs. For needle blight, you will have yellowing needles and green pustules near the end of the stem. For both of these instances, spray with a copper-fungicide making sure to follow packaging instructions for the optimum effectiveness.