Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Compacta' / compact Hinoki cypress

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Compacta' is a very old selection of dwarf Hinoki cypress, dating from 1875 in a description written by George Gordon and Henry Bohn in their book, The Pinetum: Being a Synopsis of All the Coniferous Plants at Present Known: With Descriptions, History and Synonyms, and a Comprehensive Systematic Index.

Humphrey Welch and Gordon Haddow present the argument in their 1993 book, The World Checklist of Conifers, that 'Compacta' is used to name several disparate clones of Hinoki cypress. These differences likely crept into the trade due to irresponsible propagation practices, i.e., selecting the strongest cuttings for propagation thereby destroying any dwarf tendencies over time, or simply through mislabeled plants passing through the trade. Regardless, this is a cultivar that probably should no longer be considered for addition to an eclectic collection of garden conifers.

Mature sizes for plants labeled as 'Compacta' range from true dwarfs growing to less than 2 feet (60 cm) tall after 10 years to proper trees that will reach mature heights of 15 feet (5 m) or more. All seem to grow with Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis' - type foliage.

This cultivar is thought to have originated in the United Kingdom.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Compacta' — field-grown specimens in an Oregon nursery.
Photo by Oregon Association of Nurseries



I find the Hinoki an awesome conifer, and many of my clients love them!

Many varieties; some bushy, some sparsely branched. Today I am looking for a taller and wider variety
That i see in more mature yards here in Portland OR.

Is it referred to as ‘Compacta’?
Or something else?

I have used plenty of Gracilis and Wells Special for my smaller yards.

I actually have another client that does not want a hinoki that gets higher than 8 feet. Understanding the ‘time window of enjoyment’ of trees/shrubs, what might be The best variety. Couple is in late 60’s early 70’s and dont want to wait forever for a dwarf to mature, yet a grcilis might over shoot the space.
Any expertise to share? Thanks

Maxwell Cohn

Hi Karla, as you can see from the write-up above, anything seen as 'Compacta' cannot likely be traced back to a unique, individual clone, so it's probably no longer an appropriate cultivar name.

Yours is a difficult problem. Many think that a conifer will magically grow to a specific size then suddenly stop. I've even seen a normally diminutive cultivar like 'Nana' grow to 10 feet tall and wide. Your best bet is to spend the big bucks on an immediate-gratification miniature. Such a plant will surely cost hundreds of dollars, but they are readily available in large garden centers.

Patty Noel

Believe it or not, i have recently found three different conifers and rare plants on Amazon. To my surprise all arrived in wonderful shape. Two of them were in 3gal. pots and beautiful. I have searched all over and Amazon was my last gasp, but it worked. I hope this helps you.

Sue Cloutier

Where can I find 'Thoweil' chamaecyparis and this compact Hinoki? These are my absolute favorites. I have 'Soft Serve' and 'Templehof' too. I recently have had trouble with an apparent beaver who has taken out my expensive 'Thoweil' and 'Templehof' and has tried getting my compact fernleaf variety. I have literally cried. I can’t seem to find these in New Hampshire right now.

Thank you,
S. Cloutier


Sue Cloutier, if you're still looking, I saw some beautiful false cypress compacta today at Wanczyk nursery in Hadley, MA.

James Overstreet

We planted a Compact Hinoki Cypress at the corner of the house where the builder had planted a holly about 10 years ago. It did not occur to me when we planted it as cypress I thought are fairly safe, but is there is a risk of foundation damage from planting 3-4 feet from the corner of the home?