The Incredible Hinoki Cypress

A tapestry of miniature and dwarf conifers - how easy it was to get bitten by the conifer bug!

A tapestry of miniature and dwarf conifers - how easy it was to get bitten by the conifer bug!

Garden For All: The incredible Hinoki Cypress

There are few things in this world that can stop me in my tracks for a moment of private worship. You know what I mean. Something catches your eye, and you have no choice but to pause, even if for a second, and to marvel at how anything can be that beautiful.

For me, it’s usually something of Mother Nature’s doing; a sunset, a flower or a face. In this case, it’s the Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) and it is one of the plants that never cease to amaze, and impress me, all year round.

I just got my winter order of true miniature and dwarf trees and shrubs yesterday. Among the wide variety of conifers that I received, the Hinoki Cypress has easily become my favorite, with over 20 different mini and dwarf varieties in my possession right now, and I want to keep them all.

And, an extra-added bonus coming from Oregon, they all have their “winter blush” on them right now. There are some that have up to five different colors on them at once just because it’s cold.

Some get an amber hue to them and others turn into a palette of amber, rust and yellows, pinks and gray-greens that lighten even the dreariest of winter days.

The Hinokis are originally from Taiwan and Japan and most do well in full sun when they are established in the garden bed. They are used to extreme heat in their natural environment in Asia and most are cold hardy to -20 degreesF. The Hinokis grow best in moist, well-drained soil (not wet) and can easily stand a part sun spot if need be.

I find them great for containers too. In the Northwest climate, you can put them almost anywhere with a bit of sun, just avoid that hot, afternoon sun in the summertime so the pot won’t dry out every day, this will put undue stress on them and they’ll get cranky and die. If the roots stay cool and damp, the Hinoki will be happy.

Very little maintenance too: be sure to clean out the dead foliage from inside the shrub throughout the year. All conifers shed their leaves and some hold this dead foliage in the center of the plant, blocking the light and air, and eventually choking the plant to death.

Get a pair of gloves on and gently slough off these dead leaves to keep it happy. I tell people to pretend they’re shampooing the plant, to get their fingers inside the wee branches where the unwanted foliage is. Don’t laugh, it works.

The naturally dwarf and mini Hinokis are great for small or miniature gardens, railroad gardens and faerie gardens too and the pair well with annuals and perennials. There are all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors to suit any style or personality. Some of the miniatures are so slow growing, that they can last several years in a miniature scene, with a minimum annual growth rate of a half-inch per year.

If you haven’t tried an Hinoki Cypress in your garden yet, may I be so bold as to ask, “Why not?” This little evergreen gem is sure never to disappoint.

Visit Janit’s Web site; Her online store is, 206-352-0494.


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