Dwarf Hinoki Cypress: The Perfect Compact Evergreen for Your Garden

Looking for a compact evergreen that will add beauty and interest to your yard all year round? Look no further than the dwarf Hinoki cypress. Despite its small size, this shrub makes a big impact in landscaping and container gardens. With its fan-shaped foliage in shades of golden yellow to deep green, it adds texture and dimension to any planting site. Whether you have a small space or want to create a topiary or bonsai display, the dwarf Hinoki cypress is a versatile choice.

Meet the Dwarf Hinoki Cypress

The full-sized Hinoki cypress, native to southern Japan and Taiwan, is a sacred tree in the Shinto religion. However, its dwarf counterpart is much smaller and slower-growing. One popular cultivar is the ‘Nana Gracilis,’ which has a globe-like growth habit and beautiful dark green foliage with flashes of silver. Other varieties you may find include the bright green ‘Koster’s False Cypress’ and the yellowish-green ‘Night Lightâ„¢ Hinoki Cypress.’

Chamaecyparis obtusa
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Tempelhof’ is a variety of dwarf Hinoki cypress that is easy to find on the market. Credit: Mark Dwyer

When choosing a cultivar, make sure to inquire about the nursery’s plant guarantee and replacement policy in case of loss or damage during transit.

How Big Does a Dwarf Hinoki Cypress Grow?

The growth rate of a dwarf Hinoki cypress depends on the cultivar and microclimate. Generally, these shrubs grow between 1 and 6 inches per year, reaching heights of 1 to 5 feet in about 10 years. At full maturity, they can reach heights of 10 to 25 feet and have a mature width of 2 to 5 feet. However, it can take many years for them to reach their full height. Some specimens, like a bonsai tree tended by Dan Robinson, can be nearly 60 years old and only 4 feet tall.

How big does a dwarf Hinoki cypress grow?
-This dwarf Hinoki cypress is well over 30 years old and stands at just over 6 feet in height.-

Where to Plant the Dwarf Hinoki Cypress

Thanks to their slow growth, dwarf Hinoki cypress trees are perfect for containers on decks or patios, as well as plantings near front doors or in rock gardens. They also make great additions to evergreen hedges when mixed with other conifers. When choosing a planting location, make sure to give the dwarf Hinoki cypress a prominent spot in front of taller or wider trees and shrubs.

Where to grow dwarf Hinoki cypress plants
Dwarf Hinoki cypress are great candidates for topiaries, bonsai, and container plantings. This one is over a decade old and has been carefully pruned to create this triple-ball topiary.

These shrubs tolerate high heat and humidity well and thrive in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9. Early spring is the ideal time for planting, and they can grow in most soil types as long as they have good drainage. Adding mulch around the newly planted trees helps retain moisture and protects the roots from winter winds.

How Much Sun Does a Dwarf Hinoki Cypress Need?

Dwarf Hinoki cypress prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Ideally, they should receive about six hours of direct sunlight each day, but even in shady areas, they still need a minimum of three hours of sunlight daily. Different varieties may have varied responses to sunlight, with some foliage turning a bright golden color in strong sunlight.

The best dwarf evergreen shrubs for your garden
Full sun sites are best for this shrub. It looks great in rock gardens and foundation plantings.

Watering and Fertilizing a Dwarf Hinoki Cypress

During the establishment period, water your dwarf Hinoki cypress about once a week, making sure not to overwater and cause root rot. If the top few inches of soil feel dry, it’s time to water. Slowly add 3 to 5 gallons of water, allowing it to soak down to the roots. Once established, water only during drought periods.

These trees are not heavy feeders and don’t require regular fertilization. Working worm castings or compost into the soil can provide a nutrient boost. If desired, you can also use an evergreen-specific organic fertilizer or a tree and shrub fertilizer in early spring.

Evergreens with soft foliage - Chamaecyparis obtusa
The fan-like clusters of needles are soft and feathery.

Pruning and Protecting the Dwarf Hinoki Cypress

Dwarf Hinoki cypress don’t require regular pruning unless you’re growing them as bonsai or shaping them as topiary. However, it’s a good idea to remove any damaged or diseased branches. If you want to keep a specific cultivar small, some conservative pruning of new growth is enough. Late summer or early fall is the best time for pruning.

To protect your plants from deer, cover them with deer netting. This will prevent deer from nibbling on the foliage and damaging your shrubs.

Should you prune a dwarf Hinoki cypress
While you should avoid pruning dwarf Hinoki cypress, if necessary, only trim small amounts at a time.

Potential Problems

Although dwarf Hinoki cypress is generally low-maintenance, they can still encounter some pests and diseases. These include:

  • Bagworms: Inspect and hand-pick the bags before populations get out of hand, or apply Bt spray for large infestations.
  • Scale insects, aphids, and mites: Dislodge them with a strong stream of water or use beneficial insects or insecticidal soap for heavier infestations.
  • Root rot: Ensure proper drainage and avoid overwatering to prevent this soil-borne fungal disease. Remove and discard affected plants and sanitize gardening tools.

How to grow a dwarf Hinoki cypress, including watering, fertilizing, pruning, and more.
With year-round interest, Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracillis’ is a slow-growing evergreen that truly is low maintenance.