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Can a Hinoki Cypress Be Pruned? What You Need To Know

Can a Hinoki Cypress Be Pruned? What You Need To Know

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Willie Moore
Latest posts by Willie Moore (see all)

Pruning often encourages new growth while removing diseases, bacteria, and more. If you have a Hinoki cypress, you might wonder if a pruning session will benefit the tree. After all, some plants aren’t supposed to be pruned too often.

A Hinoki cypress can be pruned by removing the small greenery around the edges of the plant. Never remove old growth because it won’t grow back in good condition, and the main structure of the tree shouldn’t be clipped. It’s best to prune later in the spring or in the first couple of summer months. 

In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know about pruning a Hinoki cypress, including whether or not it’ll grow back. Keep reading for more information. 

How to Prune a Hinoki Cypress

To prune a Hinoki cypress, follow these steps:

  1. Only prune new growth, including thin, green stems. You should never trim the older branches on a Hinoki cypress because they’re responsible for further growth. Without the old stems, branches, and roots, your cypress won’t ever be able to grow back to its original condition. A good way to know what can be pruned is if it can be bent without breaking.
  2. Get rid of all the diseased portions, but leave the yellow ‘needle drop’ needles alone. Diseased or damaged parts will look brown, spotted black, or covered in white mildew. Some mildew can be removed with a hose, but it’s risky because it can spread spores into the soil.
  3. Trim all needles and branches that clump and prevent new growth from getting enough sunlight. Rubbing branches can open wounds, especially on newer growth. You can move the branches out of the way without pruning them if they’re layered and displaced. Always cut small pieces to achieve the desired appearance.

As a general rule, you should only prune your Hinoki cypress during the late spring and early summer. This allows the new growth to mend and replace the pruned portions without making them susceptible to winter damage. It also stops diseases and fungal growth from harming the exposed wounds on the tree.

High-quality pruning requires good shears. Consider Fiskar’s Gardening Tools Steel Tree Trimmers (link to Amazon). These heavy-duty blades slice through a Hinoki cypress with precision, preventing the stems and branches from damaging the rest of the tree. They come in multiple sizes, including an extendable handle.

Can You Top a Hinoki Cypress?

You can top a Hinoki cypress if you prune it regularly. Never top a fully-grown Hinoki cypress if you have not been pruning it. Topping any tree can cause imbalances, potentially damaging the tree’s structure. It can also make the tree grow unnaturally, which prevents lower limbs from getting enough sunlight and nutrients.

Keep these tips in mind when topping a Hinoki cypress:

  • You can thin the tops and sides of the cypress without topping it completely. This shaping and thinning process keeps the cypress looking good while helping new buds grow from the old limb. It also ensures the tree doesn’t experience abnormal growth patterns that can knock it over.
  • Never top every limb on any tree, including a Hinoki cypress. Reynolds Landscape shows topping a cypress will make the new limbs grow exponentially (source). While it might seem nice to have a bigger tree, these new limbs eventually put too much stress on the bottom of the cypress and its roots.
  • To promote new, lively growth, top your cypress at the same time that you prune it. Staggering the topping and pruning trims will make it difficult for the cypress to keep growing. It also increases the chances of wounding the tree in too many places. It’s best to spend an afternoon cutting the tree instead of multiple weekends.
  • Healthy plant limbs are more important than aesthetics. People often trim Hinoki cypress into multiple shapes and sizes, but it’s usually bad for the tree. The primary structure needs to stay intact to help it grow in the long run.

Hand shears are always the best choice for a Hinoki cypress. Power saws can rip old growth to sheds, causing unwanted limb damage to the tree. Clean the shears between pruning each plant in your yard to prevent them from spreading fungi, bacteria, etc. It’s also a good idea to sharpen the shears since dull blades can bend and snap the cypress.

Does Hinoki Cypress Bud Back?

Hinoki cypress doesn’t bud back if you remove old growth, but it can grow from old stems and limbs if you maintain them. Never cut out older limbs because you’ll risk permanent damage to the cypress. It’s important to prune your cypress in the spring every year to keep it in good shape when the new growth starts to arrive.

A Hinoki cypress will only bud back from old growth. Trimming and pruning the green, flexible stems and needles will make room for another set of needles. However, nothing can grow if you get rid of the older parts of the tree. These trees bud much slower during the fall and winter.

If your Hinoki cypress does not bud back after pruning, it could be due to the following:

  • You cut too much of the old growth, which means nothing will grow (except on other portions of old growth).
  • You might’ve pruned the Hinoki cypress too early or late (stick to spring and early summer pruning).
  • The soil might not have enough nutrients, hydration, or oxygen.
  • Cold Hinoki cypress takes a while to grow back, so you can wrap the base with a burlap sheet to warm it up.
  • Younger cypress trees typically take a lot longer to yield new growth, regardless of how well it was pruned.

Final Thoughts

Proper pruning is an integral part of maintaining a Hinoki cypress. Not only will it ensure longevity and new growth, but it also prevents diseases from spreading. Remember to follow the plant’s natural shape to prevent old growth from being removed.

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