The Hinoki Falsecypress – Gold for the Garden

Recently, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society announced its most recent Gold Medal Awards for garden plants. I was excited to see that my own excellent taste in plants had been validated by the inclusion of Chaemacyparis obtusa ‘Nana’, or dwarf Hinoki falsecypress.

Hinoki falsecypress, Gold Medal plants, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

My very own dwarf Hinoki falsecypress, about 12 years (I think) after planting. It’s in a sunny but occasionally windswept spot on the eastern side of my yard. (iPhone 5 photo, taken with Camera+ and captioned in Over app).

I fell in love with this shrub/tree during my education as a landscape designer. I love(d) its evergreen presence, the somewhat loose (but not out of control) way its branches and needles grew in a whorl-like manner, and the idea that you could include it in a mixed border or small garden and its slow-growing nature meant it wouldn’t eat the yard/house.

As both a gardener and photographer, I’ve found other aspects of it to admire.

Hinoki falsecypress, Gold Medal plants, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

A close-up of the foliage. This image (taken at the National Zoo) wound up being used as the front page of our landscape company’s brochure.

The bark exfoliates if the plant has been mislabeled (as sometimes happens in nurseries) and it’s not a ‘Nana’ after all. See this example from Filoli.

Hinoki falsecypress, Gold Medal plants, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

The bark of a non-‘Nana’ Hinoki falsecypress on the grounds of Filoli Gardens in Woodside, California.

And last but not least, it produces these adorable little mini-cones.

Hinoki falsecypress, Gold Medal plants, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Look closely or you might miss the cones!

The PHS chose this plant because, as my friend and colleague Jane Berger wrote in her blog post announcing the awards, “it is sorely under-used compared to dwarf Alberta spruce”, which is planted in so many housing developments.” (Don’t get me started on Alberta spruces . . .). The wood is rot-resistant and in Japan has been used for building temples, shrines, palaces, Noh theatres, and goodness knows what else. But if you  aren’t in the market for hardwood to build with, plant it for its beauty. It’s hardy from Zones 5-7, and possibly into Zone 8A.

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6 Comments on “The Hinoki Falsecypress – Gold for the Garden”


  1. Love the picture of the bark its got really old gnarled look!!

    • Melissa Says:

      Yes, that’s an unexpected bonus. I hadn’t realized until I planted one of my own that the bark exfoliates over time – very beautiful

      • Maryanne Says:

        One of the greats in many ways! Thank you for bringing it to the forefront.It is one of the plants you can never go wrong with in a landscape.

  2. Laurrie Says:

    I put a nana gracilis in along the front of my house, specifically in place of a dwarf Alberta spruce (I feel as you do about them). What a lovely accent! The day after transplant I saw what the deer had done to it. Hinoki falsecypress won’t regenerate growth where it has been sheared, and the beautiful little plant looked hopeless. I tried again with another one, with protection surrounding it, but I have to say the grace and beauty are lost with wire caging, so in the end I gave up. I still love this plant — wish I could use it in my landscape.

  3. Theresa Forte Says:

    Nice post Melissa!


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