Hinoki bonsai, also known as Hinoki Cypress, Hinoki False Cypress, and Chamaecyparis obtusa, is an evergreen coniferous tree native to Southern Japan and Taiwan.
If you’re looking for a challenge, then this outdoor bonsai is a great option.
The hinoki bonsai is remarkably hardy, but it does need foilage maintenance quite often to prevent the lower and interior branches from dying off.
In the wild, the hinoki cypress is quite a large tree even though it’s the smallest of the cypress species. Its trunk can reach a diameter of 10 feet (3 meters) and it can grow up to 130 feet (40 meters) tall.
It is easy to identify with its dark green scale-like leaves that form flat fanning fronds. The bark of this tree peels away in reddish-brown strips.
The hinoki cypress is monoclinous (the flower contains both stamens and pistils) and produces globular cones that contain small winged seeds.
When using the hinoki cypress as a bonsai, you need to be prepared to do constant foliage maintenance. If you neglect this duty, the interior and lower branches of your tree will regress and eventually die due to lack of sunlight.
There are a few dwarf cultivars available for this species. They make excellent dwarf bonsai with small, compact foliage. If you want a dwarf cultivar, consider the Yatsubusa, Sekka, or Chirimen cultivars.
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’ is quite a popular choice as a dwarf cultivar as well.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to care for and does not bud from old wood. This cultivar often produces an ugly swelling at the trunk base after being grafted.
Care Guidelines For Hinoki Bonsai
The hinoki bonsai is an outdoor bonsai, but that doesn’t mean you can place it just anywhere. For your tree to thrive, you will need to make sure it’s placed in full sun, even in winter. Protect your tree against frost and icy winds, but make sure to keep it in an unheated area.
If there isn’t sufficient sunlight available, you might have to invest in some grow lights to help your bonsai survive.
A hinoki bonsai needs to be watered as soon as the soil gets dry. Do be careful not to overwater your bonsai, however. If the roots are kept soaking wet all the time your little tree will develop root rot, therefore well-draining soil is crucial to survival. It is also best to use lime-free water.
During the winter months you can water your plant less, but do make sure that the soil around the root ball never dries out completely. If you live in a very hot, dry climate you might need to mist your little tree regularly. They prefer quite a humid environment and will suffer if exposed to low humidity for a long time.
Soild And Fertilising
During the growing season, you can use a good solid organic fertilizer every four weeks. If you prefer a liquid fertilizer, you will need to apply that every week. Keep in mind that your bonsai is growing in a small pot with little soil.
If you give too much fertilizer you can damage your plant’s roots, but if you give too little your bonsai won’t thrive either. Slow-release (pellet-based) fertilizer is perfect for this exact reason. The nutrients will slowly become available to your plant and they can be used sparingly to prevent over-fertilizing.
During winter months, you will need to decrease fertilizing to every other month if you’re using solid fertilizer and only once a month for liquid fertilizer. Slow-release fertilizer only needs to be used every 2-4 months depending on the season.
Hinoki bonsai need to be trimmed quite regularly. You will need to remove excess and overlapping foliage to help the inner and lower branches to receive sufficient sunlight. If this task is neglected, the inner and lower branches will die and most likely not regrow.
When trimming your tree, make sure to leave some of the new growth. If you trim your tree regularly, it should stay short while allowing the trunk to grow thicker.
There are several ways to propagate hinoki cypress. The simplest methods are softwood cuttings and air-layering. Seeds need cold pre-treatment and may take up to a year to germinate. If you decide to go with softwood cuttings, take them in late summer for the best results.
Potential Pests And Diseases
Hinoki bonsai can be treated for pests and diseases the same as the full-grown version of this tree. The only difference is that you will need to adjust the strength of the treatment to suit the smaller version of this plant.
Some of the pests you need to look out for are spider mites and scale. These can be treated by using a pest-specific pesticide. If you ever encounter blight, you will need a special fungicide to treat the problem.
You will need to repot your bonsai every two to four years depending on the age of your little tree. The roots of hinoki bonsai grow quite quickly and will need to be pruned considerably during repotting. Repotting is usually done once the roots have filled the pot. Check the bottom of your pot for roots to know when it’s time.
Generally, deciduous trees need repotting every 2-3 years and evergreens every 4-5 years. While this is true for hinoki bonsai, they do tend to need repotting more regularly while they are young trees. Repotting should be done mid-summer to reduce the amount of stress on your plant
Make sure to use a well-draining soil mix. If you live in a very hot climate, you might need to add a bit more hummus for water retention since your bonsai should never dry out completely. It is also best to avoid lime since hinoki prefers slightly acidic soil.
Trim about a ¼, but no more than a ⅓ of the roots while repotting. Place the tree back into its original pot or move it to a bigger pot along with all its soil. After repotting, your plant should be thoroughly watered.
Wiring Your Bonsai
Hinoki bonsai can be trained and styled at any time of the year. Unfortunately, they can be quite tricky to train and might need rewiring several times before keeping their wired positions.
All in all hinoki bonsai can be quite a fun bonsai to keep. You will get to interact with your plant regularly since quite a bit of trimming is necessary to keep this little tree healthy. If you don’t have the patience for slow growers and need to do something with your tree all the time, then this is the perfect bonsai for you.