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A Favorite Dwarf Conifer: Nana Gracilis Hinoki Cypress

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Virtues: Dwarf hinoki cypress is a long-lived, slow-growing evergreen dwarf conifer that boasts a deep green color year-round and beautiful, unique texture. Its fanlike foliage creates dense, deeply layered branches with tips that twist this way and that. This shrub is an interesting accent for a border and because it grows very slowly, it can be given a position close to the edge of a pathway, where it can be admired. It is a good companion shrub because it will not quickly overtake and shade out smaller neighbors. As it slowly gets larger, surrounding perennials, which often have shorter lifespans, can be swapped out for more sizable plants. In sum, its slow growth can be an asset that makes a dwarf conifer a versatile pick for a garden's evolving design.


Common name: Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis'

Botanical name: Dwarf hinoki cypress

Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Foliage: Deep green in color, scaly in texture and rounded in shape. The foliage is arranged in flattened sprays that fan out at the ends of the branches.


Habit: This evergreen shrub has the potential to reach about five or six feet tall and nearly as wide, with a pyramidal shape. It is extremely slow growing, however, putting on just one to three inches of growth each year and remaining flat-topped or rounded during the first decade of its life in the garden.

Origin: A dwarf cultivar of the species Chamaecyparis obtusa, a large evergreen tree native to Japan.

How to grow it: Site in full sun or part shade, in any soil that has good drainage. The more sun you can provide, the better the shape of the plant. This naturally dwarf conifer should not need pruning. If any foliage suffers damage, it can be snipped off. The best placement for dwarf hinoki cypress is a spot out of strong winds, especially winter winds that can dry out the foliage. This plant needs moderate soil moisture, so provide supplemental water in times of drought.

Recommended reading: Learn to choose, care for and design with conifers in Adrian Bloom’s superb classic, Gardening With Conifers.

Image credits:

Foliage detail: By Megan Hansen/CC BY-SA 2.0

Whole plant: By Lazaregagnidze - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0