Hinoki Cypress Bonsai Care Information

Looking for a stunning bonsai plant that only gets better with age? Hinoki cypress bonsai could be what you’re looking for!

Hinoki cypress has dark-green leaves that form fanlike layers and grow on fern-like branches, and its trunk has red-brown bark that must be peeled.

The hinoki cypress, despite its name, is a false cypress rather than a true cypress. This plant is in the Chamaecyparis family, whereas true cypresses are in the Cupressus family. Despite being in a different family, false cypress resembles cypress. The naming is perplexing, but don’t be too concerned with the label.

The hinoki cypress can grow up to 130 feet tall in its native habitat of Japan. However, there are several dwarf varieties that are commonly used for bonsai.

Unfortunately, the hinoki cypress is not the easiest bonsai tree to care for. But don’t let that deter you. The hinoki cypress’s main problem is that it grows quickly and requires extra care to keep pruned. Because the plant is relatively hardy in a container, you are unlikely to kill it. If the bonsai grows too large, it may not look exactly like you imagined.

While hinoki cypress is not the best choice for a beginner in bonsai, it is possible to provide the care that hinoki cypress requires to thrive. All you have to do is be willing to put in the extra effort.

If you carefully attend to the needs of the hinoki cypress, you will have a beautiful bonsai specimen.


The hinoki cypress is an outdoor bonsai that should not be kept indoors. The plant requires full sunlight during both the growing season and, if possible, the winter.

During the winter, keep your hinoki cypress bonsai in a protected location away from frost and wind.

Humidity and Temperature

Although hinoki cypress is hardy, it should be protected when temperatures fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. During the winter, high winds and cold temperatures can quickly dry out this plant.

When the weather turns cold in the winter, keep your hinoki cypress in a cool place. This will keep it safe from extreme temperatures. The plant still requires plenty of light, and you should avoid placing it near a heater because it will lose too much moisture.

While it is critical to keep your cypress bonsai out of the extreme cold, it is also critical to provide light. The branches will start to die if there isn’t enough light.


Hinoki cypress bonsai require fast-draining soil that is free of lime and slightly acidic. If you live in a hot climate, you may need to add material to help the soil retain a little more water.

Correct soil is especially important because hinoki cypress are particular about the amount of moisture retained by their soil. They require a lot of water, but root rot can happen quickly if there is too much water in the soil.

How Often Do You Water Hinoki Cypress Bonsai?

Water your bonsai on a regular basis from spring to fall to keep it in good condition. The soil should be allowed to dry slightly between waterings, but watering should be done frequently. While growing, hinoki cypress requires a lot of water; however, if excess moisture is allowed to remain in the soil for too long, its roots can quickly become waterlogged. This is why it is critical to plant hinoki cypress bonsai in fast-draining soil.

Depending on your climate, you should water once a day during the summer. Waterless frequently during the winter, but don’t let the root ball completely dry out between waterings.

If your climate is dry, you can mist the leaves to add humidity. Just make sure to do it first thing in the morning so that any water droplets left on the needles don’t act like a magnifying glass in the bright sunlight and harm the plant.

When to Fertilize Hinoki Cypress Bonsai?

Because bonsai are grown in containers, they do not have access to the same variety of nutrients that they would if grown in the ground. As a result, fertilizing is recommended to keep your bonsai in good condition.

Choose a balanced fertilizer when selecting a fertilizer (a balanced fertilizer is one like 15-15-15 or 10-10-10, where the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the same). During the growing season, fertilizer should be applied on a regular basis. I would suggest using a diluted liquid fertilizer. Liquid fertilizer allows you to easily control the amount of fertilizer applied and can be easily mixed in with water.

Bonsai Tree Food is an excellent choice. Using a gentle formula reduces the risk of burning the roots of your plant.

Regardless of the fertilizer you choose, start by fertilizing once a week during the growing season, which begins in the spring. You can always add fertilizer more frequently if necessary, but correcting overfertilization after the damage has occurred is a different story.

When to Repot Hinoki Cypress Bonsai Plant?

Hinoki cypress, like all bonsai, must be repotted on a regular basis. A young plant will require more frequent repotting, sometimes as frequently as every other year. The roots of hinoki cypress grow quickly.

Repotting is best done in the spring before the plants begin to grow. While the plant is young, about one-third of the roots should be pruned during repotting. Depending on the rate of growth, it may be necessary to remove up to half of the roots.

When your bonsai has reached maturity, you can reduce repotting to once every four to five years. This repotting should also take place in the spring.

While you should repot in a larger container, make sure it is not too big. Too much soil can retain excess water, and as previously stated, the roots of a hinoki cypress become dissatisfied when forced to sit in water for an extended period of time.

How Do You Bonsai Hinoki Cypress?

Although hinoki cypress is not a low-maintenance bonsai, the stunning results are well worth the effort. This particular plant appears to necessitate near-constant maintenance in order to remain in bonsai form. But don’t let that stop you from trying hinoki cypress. If you’re aware of what you’re getting yourself into, you’ll be willing to put in the effort to reap the benefits.

Hinoki Cypress Bonsai Styling

It can be difficult to style hinoki cypress as a bonsai. If you’ve never styled a bonsai before, it might be better to buy a hinoki cypress that you plan to keep rather than style it yourself.

This plant is simple to wire, but it takes time for the wiring to set, which increases the risk of damaging the plant. The main things to keep in mind when styling this plant are that it grows quickly, that it dies back quickly when not given enough light, and that it will not bud on old wood.

Hinoki Cypress Bonsai Pruning and Trimming

The same issues that make hinoki cypress difficult to style should be considered when pruning and trimming—or, more precisely, when pinching, because scissors should not be used on hinoki cypress. Because the foliage of this plant turns brown near where it is cut, you should pinch new foliage instead.

Without regular pruning, the branches on the inside of the plant do not receive enough sunlight and will eventually die.

Because old-growth does not form new buds, only prune new growth. When you prune old growth, the branches do not regrow.

While this plant requires constant pruning during the growing season, the most severe pruning should be done at the start of the season (during late spring or early summer). Lighter pruning should be done as needed throughout the rest of the growing season to ensure that light reaches all branches.

Although these instructions may appear daunting, many bonsai enthusiasts are able to care for hinoki cypress and turn them into beautiful specimens. They are not low-effort bonsai, but the results are stunning.

Cultivars of Hinoki Cypress That Bonsai Well

Dwarf varieties of hinoki cypress (also known as Chamaecyparis obtusa) are the most commonly used in bonsai. Dwarf varieties of hinoki cypress grow quickly, but not as quickly as regular varieties.

However, not all dwarf hinoki cypresses are used for bonsai. The varieties chosen are usually those with compact foliage.

Only a few of the hundreds of dwarf hinoki cypress trees are used for bonsai. Here are the three most popular bonsai cultivars.


The foliage on this hinoki cypress is dark green and compact. It has an unusual appearance due to the odd spacing of its branches. Some people think this cultivar is too prone to resembling a barber pole, but I like the chirimen’s unusual appearance.


This hinoki cypress cultivar is an excellent choice because it grows slowly, making it less high-maintenance than some other cultivars. The natural cone shape of the plant lends itself well to bonsai. You can’t let up on the care, but yatsubusa is a good option if you’re not sure how well your first foray into hinoki cypress bonsai will go.


This bonsai is another slow-growing hinoki cypress cultivar that is in high demand. This plant has tiny needles and a long branching structure. As it matures, the patterns in the bark on this bonsai become more and more appealing.

Hinoki Cypress Bonsai FAQ

Can I grow hinoki cypress indoors?

Bringing hinoki cypress bonsai indoors in the winter is unlikely to yield positive results. While you may be able to protect the plant from extreme weather and provide the proper lighting conditions indoors, the heat will likely dry out your plant too quickly. It is preferable to keep the plant in an unheated garage with access to light. Alternatively, if temperatures do not typically fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you can probably leave your bonsai outside as long as you protect it from excessive frost and winter winds.

How big does a dwarf hinoki cypress get?

In the wild, a dwarf hinoki cypress can grow to be about 10 feet tall, compared to regular varieties that can grow to be over 100 feet tall. Of course, pruning keeps hinoki cypress bonsai much smaller. Even though the dwarf variety grows to a height of 10 feet, it is easy to see why it is preferred for bonsai over regular varieties.

How do you know if you are overwatering your bonsai?

Always check the soil before watering your bonsai to avoid overwatering. Before watering hinoki cypress bonsai again, the soil should be almost dry. Overwatering will most likely cause your bonsai to turn black around the tips and edges of the leaves.

If you notice this symptom, inspect the roots for signs of root rot. Get rid of any soft, brown roots. In the future, make sure that water is properly draining and that you allow the soil to almost dry out between waterings.

Can you bonsai false cypress

The most common false cypress bonsai is hinoki cypress. While it is relatively hardy, keeping the plant shaped like a bonsai can be difficult. So, yes, you can grow false cypress as a bonsai. And you should be able to keep the plant alive. However, you must be prepared to prune on a regular basis during the growing season in order to keep the shape.

Do you have another question about how to care for your hinoki cypress bonsai plant? Please leave a comment!

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