Hinoki Cypress: History, Lifespan, Cultivars & Characteristics

Hinoki Cypress, scientifically known as Chamaecyparis obtusa, is an evergreen tree native to central Japan and Taiwan. It’s also called False Cypress or Japanese Cypress. It is a slow-growing evergreen tree that can reach up to 35 meters (115 feet) in height, though it is often smaller when cultivated.

Dwarf hinoki cypress cultivars make good choices for specimens, as well as foundation plantings and rock gardens. All varieties of the hinoki cypress, including dwarf cultivars, grow best in spots where they receive at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, which is considered full sun.

Hinoki wood is highly valued for its durability, straight grain, and pleasant fragrance. It’s used in construction, furniture, and even as incense. The essential oil extracted from the tree has a woody, citrusy scent and is used in aromatherapy and grooming products.

Characteristics of Hinoki Cypress

  • Scientific name: Chamaecyparis obtusa
  • It is a tall, evergreen coniferous tree with spreading horizontal branches that droop at the tips.
  • The hinoki cypress and its cultivars are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 4-8.
  • Native to central Japan, often found in mountainous regions.
  • Evergreen coniferous tree with a conical shape and dense foliage.
  • Can grow up to 35 meters (115 feet) tall with a trunk diameter of 1 meter (3.3 feet).
  • This tree has a slow to medium growth rate of about 12 inches per year (some cultivars grow much more slowly). 
  • Prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade.
  • Can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8.
  • Has a lifespan of up to 100 years or more.
  • The bark is reddish-brown and peels in narrow strips.
  • The foliage is aromatic when crushed and has a rich, woody scent.
  • The needles are scale-like on juvenile plants and flattened branchlets on mature plants, with a white X-like line on the underside.
  • The foliage color ranges from dark green to yellow-green, depending on the cultivar.
  • The tree has male and female flowers that are not showy and are wind-pollinated.
  • The small, rounded (globose) brown cones are on short stalks.
  • The wood is highly valued for its durability, straight grain, and pleasant fragrance, and is used in construction, furniture, and even as incense.
  • Cultivated in gardens, parks, and used in bonsai cultivation worldwide
  • Graceful appearance and small size make it popular for miniature landscapes.
  • It is typically planted in fall or early spring.

Cultivars of Hinoki Cypress

Cultivar NameFoliage Characteristics
GracilisDense, dark green foliage
Nana GracilisCompact, dark green foliage
AureaGolden-yellow foliage
CrippsiiBlue-green foliage
PendulaA weeping variety with pendulous branches and dark green foliage.
KosteriCompact, deep green foliage
Nana LuteaBright yellow foliage
TempelhofDense, dark green foliage with a globe-shaped habit
SekkaA narrow, upright variety with blue-green foliage and a columnar form.
TsatsumiDark green foliage with a bushy growth habit
Nana ProstrataA dwarf, spreading variety with dark green foliage and a low, mounding habit.
VerdoniGolden-yellow foliage with a compact, conical shape
TsukumoA dwarf variety with dark green foliage and a dense, compact habit.
Well’s SpecialBlue-green foliage with a pyramidal growth habit