Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Chirimen' is a dwarf form of Hinoki cypress named for the wrinkly silk crepe fabric used to make Japanese kimonos. This cultivar sends up interesting clusters of upright, irregular shoots in myriad shapes and colors, primarily a rich green but, depending on conditions, they can have grey or bluish tones. Plants tend to retain clumps of seed cones along the branches that may resemble a deformity or disease, but this is a natural occurrence; they slough off over time and are obscured by new growth.
Its congested foliage and unusual appearance makes 'Chirimen' a perfect candidate for a focal point in a small garden. It performs best planted in full sun but will tolerate some shade. Good soil drainage is a must. Typical rate of growth in most areas is up to 4 inches (10 cm) per year resulting in a naturally sculpted, irregular, upright shrubby tree, 1.5 feet (45 cm) tall and 1 foot (15 cm) wide after 10 years in the garden. Some authorities feel that, after many years in the ground, it can take on a more expansive growth rate, exceeding the definition of true dwarf.
This cultivar is sometimes seen listed in the nursery trade as 'Chairman' or 'The Chairman,' which are clearly misspellings. There is interesting speculation as to the origin of this cultivar. Oakdene nursery of Sussex, United Kingdom claims credit with this cultivar's origin and introduction in the early 1990s. While at the same time David Sampson of Cedar Lodge nursery, Australia makes the same claim. Given that the cultivar very likely originated in Japan, it can be speculated that both nurseries received propagation material at the same time. Stanley and Sons nursery, Boring, Oregon made the U.S. introduction in the early 2000s.
Chamaeycparis obtusa 'Chirimen' — a fairly old specimen in an arboretum setting.
Photo by Bill Barger
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Chirimen' — a closeup of foliage detail.
Photo by Bill Barger
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Chirimen' dwarf Hinoki cypress photographed in Brunswick, ME, fall 2013, with a ground cover of Japanese garden juniper.
Photo by Sean Callahan
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Chiriman' at Blue Horizon Nursery in Grand Junction, Michigan.
Photo by Brandon Johnson
I have recently purchased five (5) small quart size 'Chirimen' from a local nursery. I am delaying their planting until fall season. I have noticed what I hope are the 'seed cones' you describe above. They are currently in what appears to be a bark mulch type of medium. Unsure if I should try to plant them in the same soil type for their permanent home in my landscape.They came to my local retailer from Iseli Nurseries. Thank you so much for this valuable information. I love them dearly and want to give them the best possible chance to survive and thrive with me.
Hi Sarah, the potting medium Iseli uses is very appropriate for potted plants that are getting watered 4-5 times a day. It drains very fast and prevents roots from rotting while the plant's potted.
However, it's really lousy for in-ground use. When you go to plant them out this fall, try to get rid of as much of that stuff as you can and carefully inspect for problems with girdled roots and deeply buried root flares. These are the two critical things to watch out for when transitioning from a pot to the ground.
I know it’s a Chirimen, just don’t know if it’s a dwarf, are they all dwarfs? also I live in Hawaii, 900ft. ele. And plants can get out of hand here. Mahalo for replying, your knowledge is appreciated. 🤙
I purchase one chirimen and since ground is frozen a snow on the ground , should I take care of I inside ? Is it possible to keep it inside the house where is lot of light and sun if sun is on, Thank you for help. Victor
if you bring it in the house for the winter, your plant will die for certain. This species needs to be exposed to winter temperatures in order to properly rest. If you've lost your opportunity to plant it this fall, just tuck it up against your house's foundation and it should be fine (unless the temperature drops below -20ºF).
Hello, I’m about to plant a couple of 'Chirimen' but I’m not completely sure if they accept any soil (acidic, neutral, alkaline), please? Is chalky soil OK? My soil is mixture of everything really. Thank you.
Hi Ewa ... this cultivar, as well as many, prefer a neutral- to slightly acidic soil chemistry. If a professional soil test indicates that you're exceptionally alkaline, there are lots of ways to adjust that problem.
I have several Chirimen in my small collection. One, in particular, has lost a lot of the middle of its branches. It looks quite strange now, with growth only at both ends of the branches. It's been like this for a year or more, and doesn't seem to want to fill back in. Will it eventually fill in? Should I cut it back to the lower growth and hope that it will grow back in full?
Pierce, you stumbled upon one of the principle features of this conifer. Any time these plants shed either old foliage or pollen cones from branchlets, they will remain bare forever. They will never fill in; the best we hope for is new branches growing from below, obscuring the bare parts.
It's your plant, you can prune it how ever you like.
I have a potted Chirimen that I bought several months ago from Conifer Kingdom. I live in Austin, TX and my Chirimen came in a 5 gallon pot. I've transplanted it into a 10 gallon pot for it's permanent home. It's in a courtyard and receives late afternoon light for a few hours. I'm noticing that a lot of the limbs are turning brown. All of our trees and shrubs are losing their leaves and turning right now, but the Chirimen is getting brown. Is this normal? What could it be from? It receives plenty of water. Perhaps it's not getting enough sun?
Drainage & dryness ... I hope you copied the potting medium of the 5-gallong pot; quick-draining is a must. Not so much water is needed in winter ... also lots of sunshine. I hope someone else adds their two cents.
Lesley I finally got tired of what I considered to be a messy looking conifer and replaced mine with Thuja occidentalis 'IslPrim', sold as Primo arborvitae. It's a similar look to my eye and the Thuja is much less temperamental. I made a little grove of them; it looks like a miniature forest.
I have about 5 hinoki and while mine are not Chirimen unfortunately I have been trying to study up on them as I had one similar that was full and lost a lot in one winter.What I've read is during the winter when the roots are frozen the sun is not a good thing for them, it dries them out. Based on what I see this winter I believe it. Wind is also bad. They like more water than most conifers but don't soak them. Wiltstop may be something to look into