Plant Profile: Hinoki False Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’)


Today’s post is about one of my favorite evergreen shrubs/small trees, the Hinoki False Cypress. This plant conjures up memories of my days at Virginia Tech. There used to be one right outside the classroom at the greenhouses and I would admire it as I was going to my Floriculture class. At the time, the plant was no taller than me and it was of considerable age…Hinoki False Cypress is a slow growing but striking specimen in the landscape.

It’s this slow growing tendency that makes this plant ideal in the landscape. Even though the plant tops out at around 6′ tall, its pokey growth rate enables it to be used in the smallest of gardens. It is best used as an accent or backdrop for other plants. Its rich, dark green foliage accentuates lighter colored foliage and blooms…imagine it paired with ‘Pee Wee’ Hydrangea or one of the fall blooming Anemones. Stunning! Another popular use is in the rock garden…the plant has an alpine air to it so it fits perfectly.

This particular Chamaecyparis enjoys a little protection from afternoon sun here in Zone 7. Don’t plant it in full shade or it will get rangy and look more like an awkward teenager than a striking specimen. But a little protection from the blazing hot sun can help keep it from turning brown and crispy around the edges. Hinoki False Cypress also enjoys moist well-drained soil. That doesn’t mean it won’t tolerate less…it just means that if it could pick anywhere in the world to put down its roots, moist well-drained soil would be it. If you have an area that is slow to drain after a rain, select another plant for this area; Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’ will have no parts of standing water.

In my opinion, one of the most attractive features of this small tree is the foliage when viewed up close. Its sprays of flattened foliage are dark green and whirled in appearance. To me, it resembles a miniature stand of conifers that you would see in a conifer forest. Speaking of miniature, Hinoki False Cypress is often used in bonsais due to its slow growth. And considering that it was the Japanese that perfected the art of bonsai, it makes sense that the plant is native to there. Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’ is hardy to Zone 4 so it will breeze right through Mid-Atlantic winters unscathed and look absolutely amazing with a covering of snow in the winter.

There are few pests that enjoy the Hinoki False Cypress. Bagworms can be an issue but they are easily picked off a shrub that only reaches 6′ tall at maturity. As long as it is planted in anything but wet soil, this plant should thrive for years and years in your garden. If you have experience with Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’, leave a comment in the section below or e-mail me at Happy gardening!

December 14, 2011Permalink 48 Comments