Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Chirimen' / Chirimen Hinoki cypress

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.

'Chirimen' was one of two plants selected in 2011 for inclusion into the ACS Collectors' Conifer of the Year Program.

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

Comments

Sarah Proctor

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.

David Olszyk

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.

Good luck.

Vicki Stump

I bought a foot high Chirimen Cypresd, so the label says from my local garden store. I don’t know if it’s the Hinoki dwarf or not. How to tell?

David Olszyk

you can compare your plant to the pictures in the gallery. 'Chirimen' is extremely distinctive. If it looks like the plants pictured here, it's quite likely that's what you've got.

Vicki Stump

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. 🤙

David Olszyk

Chirimen is officially a dwarf conifer, but as we like to say, individual results may vary. I look forward to you reporting what your plant has done in 10 years or so.

Victor Batka

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

David Olszyk

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).