Hinoki bonsai [Chamaecyparis Obtusa]

Hinoki Cypress, also known as the Japanese cypress is a popular cypress tree species originally from Central Japan,  Eastern Asia. The tree is highly cultivated mostly in areas of the temperate northern hemisphere where it is harvested for its quality timber which is used for furniture and ornamental qualities that makes it one of the top choices for Bonsai collectors and lovers of house plants in general.

Hinoki cypress is very easy to raise as they exhibit a slow to medium growth rate and can grow up to 75 feet tall in the wild, but when raised according to Bonsai tradition, its growth can be cut back to about 10 to 15fts.

Hinoki Bonsai Secrets

However, growing Hinoki Bonsai may be challenging for a Gardner with no knowledge about the care requirements of the tree which is why here in this guide, I will be providing information about those requirements and other interesting facts about the tree. Keep reading for details.

General information

Common nameHinoki cypress
Scientific nameChamaecyparis obtusa
Zone4 to 8
Height3 to 6fts
Spread2 to 4fts
Bloom timeNon-flowering
Bloom descriptionNon-flowering
TypeNeedled evergreen
SunFull sun
FertilizerNitrogen-rich fertilizer

Can we Bonsai Hinoki tree?

Yes, the Hinoki tree can be used as a Bonsai specimen. Hinoki tree over the years has been one of the top choices for Bonsai enthusiasts because of its soft needles, elegant branching, and tight foliages.

Apart from all these qualities, the Hinoki cypress is also one of the most recommended tree species for inexperienced Bonsai growers because it is very easy to work with as it requires a minimal level of maintenance. So, if you are an intending Gardner looking for a tree to start with, look no further as you can go ahead with your practice with this lovely tree. You will find relevant information that will guide you through the whole process below.

Hinoki tree Bonsai history

The Hinoki tree is native to Japan and some parts of Taiwan. This tree after its discovery about 2000 years ago was collected majorly for its oil popular known as the Hinoki oil which was used as a skin treatment in Japan and some parts of Asia before builders starts to use the tree for building structures.

Years later, because of the scented nature of the tree, people started cultivating the tree according to the Bonsai tradition as it has become a popular practice among them during that period. However, the cultivation of the Hinoki tree as a Bonsai specimen became popular around the globe about 300 years ago when the tree was given to the Arnold Arboretum research institute as a gift in 1937.

The history of the arrival of the Hinoki tree began with a wealthy American named Larz Anderson. Larz Anderson was an ambassador extraordinary to Japan until his service year ended in 1913. During his stay in Japan as an ambassador, Anderson was intrigued by Japanese horticulture and loved writing about his experience with miniaturized trees alongside his wife.

Anderson and his wife, Isabel were so passionate about these small trees that they bought about 40 of them from a nursery company at Yokohama. A renowned distributor reputed to have been the sole supplier of the early dwarf trees that arrived in the united stated and Europe from the port of Japan.

Among the few early arrivals to the united states is the Chabo-Hiba, Which was one of the several species of the Hinoki cypress bought by Anderson and his wife. The Hinoki tree which is rightly pronounced as “Hachi-no-ki” means “potted tree” in Japan and is popular for its tough trunks and compact scaled leave that was trained to form a cone shape so that it can resemble the image of Mount Fuji from a distance.

Before the arrival of the tree in the USA, it has already undergone about 2 years of training under various Japanese masters. For about 24 years, this imported collection was adequately catered for by a Gardening staff named Rainosuke Yori Awano in the terraces of Anderson’s estates which was located at Brookline, Massachusetts.

Anderson and Isabel died respectively in the years 1937 and 1948 and 39 of Anderson’s three collections were donated to Arnold Arboretum together with the funds needed to build a facility to house and display his collection. After the donation, the Choba-hiba as well as every other species in the collection were diligently taken care of by the institute’s staff members for about 50 years.

This Choba-Hiba and other 4 species are part of the 36 plants that constitute the whole Arnold Arboretum and Penjing collection today.

Hinoki Bonsai scientific name

The scientific name of Hinoki Bonsai is Chamaecyparis obtusa

Hinoki Bonsai care

Before you can successfully raise a Hinoki tree as a Bonsai, you have to be aware of the necessary care requirements for the tree. These care requirements are essential to keep the tree miniaturized and healthy. Check below for details.

Hinoki Bonsai temperature

Although Hinoki Bonsai is hardy, however, it is best to protect Hinoki bonsai when the temperature drops below 20°F. This is because when your tree is exposed to low temperature and high wind, it dries out quickly and that is why it is often recommended that you shield them during winter.

Hinoki Bonsai fertilizer

During early spring, feed your Hinoki Bonsai with a dose of fertilizer rich in Nitrogen. In the summertime, you can substitute the fertilizer with the normal fertilizers and feed them with two or more doses.

During the growing season, you can also use organic fertilizers but must be applied only once a month. If it is a liquid fertilizer, apply it just once.

Hinoki Bonsai pruning

You can start to cut back secondary branches from early spring to late summer. You can pinch out the tips of new shoots several times during the growing season. You need to cut the leaves of the tree regularly so that the inner leaves will not be shielded away from the sun which may eventually cause them to die.

You should pinch the tree instead of running with scissors to prevent the leaves from turning brown, a defect that is commonly seen in areas where the leaves are cut back. Leave the new shoots to grow up to 2 5cm before you pinch them with your finger.

Also, do not heavily prune the tree during summer because the naked inner leaves may die back. And lastly, avoid messy or irregular pruning as this can lead to the formation of mishappen whorls on the leaves.

Hinoki Bonsai wiring

The best time to wire your Hinoki Bonsai is during mid-summer or spring. However, while you are at it, be careful not to trap any leave under the wire, and give the branches enough time to set. Also, you should not keep the wire on the branches for more than 10 months. If you aren’t satisfied with the wiring result after 10 months, give the tree some healing space and rewire it again. To prevent any scars or marks due to wiring, use raffia to wrap the branches of the tree before wiring.

Hinoki Bonsai repotting

If your Hinoki Bonsai is still young, it is recommended that you repot it year after year during late summer because the root will exhibit rapid growth at this stage. As a result of this, it is equally advisable that you prune back about one-third of the total root mass before repotting.

Transplant your plant into a suitable growing medium containing Akadama soil. If you have a problem getting that, create a mix containing loam, sharp sand, and peat in the proportion of 1:1:1. Older Hinoki cypress should be repotted only once in 4 to 5 years.

Hinoki Bonsai pest and diseases

Hinoki is vulnerable to only a few pests – spider mites and scales insect bagworms. The good news is, if you are fortunate enough to notice their infestation at an early stage, you can easily scrape them off the trunk surface with a knife. If the infestation has spread past the early stage,  you can curb its growth by spraying your tree with a systemic insecticide.

If your tree is attacked by Tip blight (another insect common to the Hinoki tree) it is better to treat their infestation with special fungicides because they are more dangerous. On that note, sometimes especially during autumn, you may notice that your tree is shedding most of its old leaves, do not misconstrue this as a sign of an infestation because it is a normal change process they undergo during their growth stage.

Hinoki Bonsai Soil

The best soil to plant a Hinoki Bonsai is soil that is slightly acidic, well-draining, and lime-free.

Hinoki Bonsai watering

Water your Hinoki Bonsai regularly from spring towards the end of summer/early Autumn. You should take be careful when watering your Hinoki Bonsai though because as much as they love water, they are also vulnerable to root rot if they get excessively wet.

You can mist the leaves as well, however, you also need to be cautious about it because the needle of the tree is vulnerable to sunburn and may end up having scorch when sun ray shines on the droplets of water on the leaves. Also, make sure its environment is humidified because the leaves of the tree can be affected by hot dry winds too.

Lastly, make sure to keep the compost moist during winter most especially during some time in the season when there’s always prolonged dryness.

Hinoki Bonsai sunlight requirement

During the growing season of the tree, place it where it can be exposed to full sunlight as they require enough sunlight to grow. During sunlight, make sure it also receives an adequate amount of sunlight.

Hinoki cypress Bonsai winter care

Although, Hinoki Cypress is cold tolerant to some extent, however, it is best to shield them from being exposed to a hard frost and icy wind. Also, there’s a higher chance that the tree will dry out pretty quickly during this time, therefore, you should make sure the soil stays wet to keep it from drying. Do not get the soil soggy though.

Hinoki cypress Bonsai types

There are different types of Hinoki cypress trees, but only a few are used for Bonsai because of how easy it is to raise them. Information will be provided about 4 of the most popular Hinoki tree used for Bonsai.

Sekka Hinoki Bonsai

Selma Hinoki Bonsai is one of the species of the popular Hinoki cypress. It is known for its natural stunted height and you can hardly find the tree anywhere outside Japan. It leaves off the tree responds pretty well to trimming and requires minimal maintenance.

Hinoki cypress Bonsai

The Hinoki cypress is an evergreen coniferous tree from southern Japan. Unlike some other species with stunted growth, the Hinoki cypress is a tall plant and can grow up to about 75fts if not trained as Bonsai. It exhibits medium to slow growth. It can only grow about 12 inches a year.

Tsuyama Hinoki Bonsai

Tsuyama Hinoki is a member of the same species as the Hinoki cypress tree and it is the name given to any Hinoki that is gotten from mountain Tsuyama, an area between Hiroshima and Osaka, Japan.

Tsuyama Hinoki exhibit a similar growth rate to the common Hinoki cypress and can also grow about 6 to 2 inches per year depending on how well it is treated. A typical Tsuyama hinoki tree can grow about 10fts in 10 years.

Dwarf Hinoki Bonsai

The Dwarf Hinoki Bonsai also belongs to the cypress family and can be distinctively identified with its soft, strokable, and dark green foliage. The Dwarf Hinoki Bonsai just as its name implies is a naturally miniaturized tree and will fit perfectly into tight spaces or shady areas. The Dwarf Hinoki is a popular choice for making borders, front doors, rock gardens, and beds.

Hinoki Cypress Bonsai forest

The Hinoki cypress is of many species. Each of these species complements one another and can be planted together in a pot or container to make a Hinoki cypress forest. However, one may complement a particular species more than the other. Therefore, if you are trying to create a forest, make your research and make use of species that complements one another.

Which Hinoki cypress is best for the Bonsai tree?

There are about 300 species of the Hinoki cypress tree, but not all are used for Bonsai specimens.  The most popular among the species are the Sekka, Chirimen, and Yatsubusa.

Will Hinoki cypress grow in shade?

Yes, Hinoki cypress will grow in shade. Although Hinoki cypress prefers being trained under full sun, it can also survive if lightly shaded from full sun.

Do Hinoki Cypress transplant well?

No, Hinoki cypress might suffer dieback if transplanted. Do not transplant your maturing Hinoki cypress because they are naturally not built for the stress. If you transplant them, they may die. It is best to plant Hinoki cypress from seed or by planting the tree sapling.

Do deer eat Hiroki cypress tree?

No, deers don’t eat Hiroki cypress tree.

How fast do dwarf Hinoki cypress grow?

A Dwarf Hinoki cypress tree can grow up to about 6fts in 10 years.

How big do Dwarf Hinoki cypress Bonsai get?

The Dwarf Hinoki cypress can grow up to about 5ft tall in 10 years and reach a height of about 10fts tall and 4fts wide at its maturity stage.

Why is my Hinoki Cypress turning brown?

A lot of factors might be responsible for why the leaves of your Hinoki cypress are turning brown. It may be a result of a lack of water, light, or insufficient iron or other crucial minerals.

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