Hinoki (or False) Cypress - Chamaecyparis
General Information: This broad, sweeping, conical-shaped evergreen has graceful,
flattened, fern-like branchlets which gently droop at branch tips.
Falsecypress reaches 50 to 75 feet in height with a spread of
10 to 20 feet, has dark green foliage, and attractive, shredding,
reddish-brown bark which peels off in long narrow strips.
The easiest false cypress to keep alive is the
Hinoki cypress, C. obtusa. Many report great success in growing it, but
unfortunately, it seems to be one of the most difficult to keep in
proper bonsai form due to the whorling fan patern of the foliage.
Boulevard cypress (C. pisifera 'Boulevard') and Chamaecyparis thyoides
'Andelyensis Conica', Andelyensis cypress, seem to be the varieties
which cause the most grief.
Lighting: Full sun,
in all but the hottest climates, is ESSENTIAL. Without proper lighting,
lower and inner branches brown and die, which is a serious problem
because Chamaecyparis will not bud back on old wood. Many books
recommend putting these trees in the shade, but this seems to be a
strategy to avoid having the soil dry out completely (see watering,
Temperature: Most Chamaecyparis species are hardy to -10F, but are in danger of
die-back from cold, drying winds. Some degree of frost/wind protection
C. pisifera 'Plumosa,' C. pisifera
'Nana Aurea,' and C. pisifera ' Squarrosa' can be grown indoors, in a
bright, airy location away from any heat sources.
Many varieties, especially Boulevard/blue moss cypress, are very
vulnerable to root rot. However, unlike most genera that like it dry,
false-cypresses tend to drink a lot of water, especially when in an
active growth phase. And Chamaecyparis can never be allowed to dry out
completely. Also, drying winds can cause foliage die-back. The best
strategy is to use very fast-draining soil, water moderately, allow it
to dry somewhat between waterings, and supplement watering with frequent
misting. Also, an older couple in the Buffalo Bonsai Society with some
very nice Chamaecyparis advised me to water only in the morning to early
afternoon, to avoid having the trees stand in water
Feeding: Every two
weeks, from early spring to midautumn. Use Miracid, as Chamaecyparis is
a lime-hater. An extra tip from Brent: for blue varieties (Chamaecyparis
pisifera 'Boulevard, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Minima Glauca') water
occasionally with 1 teaspoon/gallon epsom salts. This will provide added
magnesium which turns the foliage an intense blue.
Pruning and wiring:
The major styling challenge for false cypress is the fatal combination
of rapid growth, die-back from lack of light, and refusal to bud on old
wood. If Chamaecyparis isn't pruned constantly, inside and lower
branches will die and never grow back, making bonsai maintenence a
headache. The tree is best shaped through constant pinching of new
foliage - never use scissors to prune as foliage browns where cut.
Hinoki cypress also tends to form awkward whorls of foliage if not
properly pruned. There is an excellent article by Kamajiro Yamada in
International Bonsai 1995/No. 3 which gives detailed instructions
accompanied with photographs of how to do this. Most false cypresses are
easy to wire, but branches may take a while to set and may need to be
re-wired several times to avoid cutting in to the tree. Can be wired at
any time of year, but as wiring seems to sap the vigor of the plant, it
is best to wait three months after repotting to wire.
can be taken from young wood in July or August. Hinoki cypress cuttings
will root readily. Can be grown from seed, but needs cold pre-treatment
and may take up to a year to germinate. Veneer grafting can be used on
Hinoki cypress in summer.
Repotting: Every two
to four years in early to mid spring for young trees, every three to
five years for older ones. Your soil mix will depend on your conditions:
fast-draining is the best idea for most people, but a richer mix might
be preferable in extremely hot areas to keep the roots from drying
completely. Hinoki cypress roots easily, and may need to be repotted
every second year, removing as much as 1/3 to 1/2 of the root mass.
Avoid using pots which are too large, especially with Boulevard cypress,
as this keeps them too wet.
Pests and diseases:
Pests: Juniper scale can be controlled by applying pesticides
when the crawlers are active. The bagworm webs dead foliage and other
debris together to make a nest. The covering makes the insect difficult
to control. The nests can be picked off by hand. Diseases: Blight
can be a problem on young plants in nurseries or old plants in landscape
situations. In young plants, branch tips turn brown and die back until
the whole branch or young tree is killed. Trees over five years old are
less susceptible. When older trees in landscapes are affected by tip
blight, entire trees are seldom killed. Tip blight can infect trees
during wet weather. The disease causes sooty pustules on the leaves,
bark and cones. Scorch may look like a disease but is caused by
excessive direct sun, freezing stress, drought or mites.
Some species suitable for bonsai:
- Chamaecyparis lawsoniana: Lawson cypress, Port
Orford cedar - neither a cedar nor a cypress. Reddish brown bark and bright green foliage with purplish brown
cones. There are several hundred cultivars of this species.
- Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Ellwoodii Improved':
Ellwood cypress - a slow-growing, bluish shrub with small, tight
- Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Minima Aurea': A dwarf
cultivar of Port Orford cedar with yellow-green young foliage.
- Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Minima Glauca' - A blue
dwarf cv. of Port Orford cedar.
- Chamaecyparis nootkatensi: Nootka cypress -
Brownish-grey bark and thick, dark green, drooping foliage. The
Chamaecyparis of choice in cold climates.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa: Hinoki cypress has reddish brown bark and dark green, fanlike foliage. Hinoki
cypress foliage turns reddish in the winter.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Blue Feathers' - very fine,
aqua green foliage, more similar to Sawara than Hinoki cypress.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Filicoides': fernspray
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Kamaeni Hiba' - a lovely
little false cypress, with graceful foliage like ocean spray, tipped
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Kosteri': Koster
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana': dwarf Hinoki
cypress, dwarf Japanese false cypress.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis': Hinoki
cypress immature foliage is bright yellow.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Yatsubusa': Hinoki cypress
- Chamaecyparis pendula - Has long, threadlike
foliage, similar to mature juniper foliage. Young growth is tipped
- Chamaecyparis pisifera: Sawara cypress. It has
reddish-brown bark and pointy foliage reminiscent of young junipers,
which make it easier to style than other Chamaecyparis varieites.
Note, however, that the foliage shape on C. pisifera cultivars varies
- Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Boulevard' (often called
C. pisifera 'Cyano Veridis' which is technically incorrect): Boulevard
cypress, blue moss cypress - grows more slowly than other false
cypresses. Has a graceful, arching habit and soft, blue
- Chamaecyparis pisifera compacta 'white' - a dwarf
Sawara cypress with distinctly ivory tipped fronds.
- Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera': threadbranch
cypress - has drooping, threadlike branches.
'Nana Aurea': Sawara cypress.
- Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Plumosa': Sawara cypress
- light green, feathery foliage.
Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Snow':
Sawara cypress - Fast growing, with green to yellow foliage.
- Chamaecyparis pisifera 'squarrosa': Sawara
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