Description & Overview

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis,’ the Dwarf Gracilis Hinoki Cypress, is a slow-growing dwarf conifer with an irregular globose form in youth, developing an upright habit with age. Its beautiful, dense, rich green fan-like foliage offers a unique aesthetic compared to most conifers.

Core Characteristics

Category: Conifer

Wisconsin Native: No - Introduced

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 5

Mature Height: 6 feet

Mature Spread: 3-4 feet

Growth Rate: Very Slow

Growth Form: Conical. Pyramidal.

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Moist, well-draining.

Flower: Pollen bearing cones are small, and often reddish, growing at the tips of branches.

Bloom Period: Spring

Foliage: Dense, rich green, fan-like.

Fall Color: None.

Urban Approved: No

Fruit Notes: Female seed-bearing cones are green, maturing to brown. Male cones are orangey brown.

Suggested Uses

Gracilis Dwarf Hinoki Cypress brings a lovely landscape aesthetic, charming viewers with its soft, delicate, fan-like foliage and rich shades of green. New spring foliage emerges a slightly lighter green before settling to a darker shade, offering a pleasing two-toned appearance to the tufts of foliage. This is a very slow-growing plant, reaching 3-4 feet in 10 years, but will eventually mature to 6 feet tall. Over time, this plant develops beautiful, slightly reddish exfoliating bark.

Plant this Dwarf Hinoki Cypress in a location with good, well-draining soil. It does not like to be waterlogged. It wants full sun but would appreciate some shade throughout the day. If you are planting your Hinoki in a location with no shade, you better ensure your soil is good well-draining and you keep it watered. Your Hinoki will also want some protection from the cold, as they are only hardy to Zone 5, which is considered marginally hardy in southeastern WI. The prevailing wind direction in Wisconsin is from the West, so be aware of this when choosing a planting location for your Dwarf Hinoki Cypress.

Gracilis Dwarf Hinoki Cypress has become quite popular as a small accent or specimen plant. It is also a very popular species for use as bonsai.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis,' the Dwarf Gracilis Hinoki Cypress, is a slow-growing dwarf conifer with an irregular globose form in youth, deve…
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis,' the Dwarf Gracilis Hinoki Cypress, is a slow-growing dwarf conifer with an irregular globose form in youth, deve…

Wildlife Value

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’ offers little wildlife value. This non-native plant is used for its ornamental value, not its ecological benefit.

Maintenance Tips

No pruning is required to obtain an excellent form, but your plant will benefit from periodic soil acidifying. Young plants have a more rounded shape that becomes more conical with age.

However, if you want to enhance your Hinoki’s appearance with tactful pruning, it can be done in one of three ways-either with scissors, by pinching, or a combination of the two. Each technique produces a slightly different aesthetic outcome. For example, scissor pruning each shoot will produce a softer, more naturalistic appearance, whereas pinching the foliage by hand will produce a more palm-like effect. The combination method is a great middle-ground for those seeking a more refined look while still maintaining some naturalistic effect.

Regarding the best time, you’ll want to allow the new growth to elongate in spring and into early summer. Typically, you can perform the first round of pruning/pinching in June. A second flush of growth will then occur and should be left alone until late summer, at which point it can be pruned/pinched again If desired.

If the inner leaves are not exposed to sufficient sunlight, they will die and not regrow. If you want to alter the natural growth habit, anchoring or shouldering the branches can be done to obtain a more open or tiered form. This is often done in tandem with pinching/pruning of the foliage to create cloud-like pads.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis,' the Dwarf Gracilis Hinoki Cypress, is a slow-growing dwarf conifer with an irregular globose form in youth, deve…

Pests/Problems

Hinoki Cypress is typically not affected by many pests and diseases. Although, root rot can occur in poor-draining soils. Sun scorching can occur if planted in too hot and dry location.

Leaf Lore

Chamaecyparis obtusa is a member of the Cupressaceae (cypress) family and is native to Japan and parts of East Asia. Its long usefulness has led to its loss in the wild, where it’s considered an endangered species; rare throughout its traditional range, it exists only in remnant stands. Nevertheless, planted trees are ubiquitous today in Japan. It is grown readily in Japan for its very high-quality timber, where it is used extensively in Japanese architecture such as temples, shrines, palaces, traditional noh theaters, and even smaller items such as table tennis blades and masu. The wood is said to be lemon-scented, light pinkish-brown, with a rich, straight grain, and is highly rot-resistant.

Two famous examples of structures built from Hinoki Cypress wood in Japan exist. The Horyu-ji is the first example, a Buddhist temple that was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture. The temple’s Kondo (main hall) is widely recognized as the world’s oldest wooden building. The other famous example is the Osaka Castle, one of Japan’s most famous landmarks, as it played a significant role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century.

There are over 200 cultivars of Chamaecyparis obtusa, varying in size and form, with several having gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, including Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’.

The genus Chamaecyparis is derived from the combination of two Greek words, “Chamai,” meaning “dwarf,” or “low to the ground,” and “kyparissos,” meaning “Cypress.”

Companion Plants

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’ often finds itself in Japanese Gardens and can bring hints of these thematic landscapes to even the plainest of gardens. Common companion plants you may find in such gardens include Japanese Maples, Rhododendron, Cherries, Juniper both large and small, such as the Chinese Juniper or the Dwarf Japanese Garden Juniper, Japanese White Pine, Wisteria vines, Hosta, Iris, and water lily (lotus) if you have a small water feature.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis,' the Dwarf Gracilis Hinoki Cypress, is a slow-growing dwarf conifer with an irregular globose form in youth, deve…
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Written by Miles Minter