When planted right and in the right spot, Cypress trees and shrubs are exceptionally easy to grow and low-maintenance. 

Cypresses come in many, many shapes, sizes, colors and textures so have many uses in the landscape. The larger and taller trees are ideal for uses as specimens or in straight or staggered rows for tall privacy screens, or to frame in the corners of taller homes and other structures. Smaller shrub varietioes make great accents or groupings in both home foundations and landscape borders. They also serve well as low to mid size hedges and are useful in container gardening.  

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know tto plant and care for Cypresses like the pros...



Cultural Preferences



Soil Preferences

In The Landscape

Cypresses adapt to a wide range of soils. Most prefer a moist but well-drained soil when young, however become exceptionally tolerant of dry soils when established. Most do not like a constantly soggy or wet soil which can be problematic. It's a good idea to know the soil preferences for the specific varieties of cypresses you intend to plant. On every plant page in this website you'll find soil moisture preferences.

For your reference, here's a couple quick links to Cypress category pages on this site...





In Pots & Other Containers

In containers, Cypresses grow best in a very well-drained but damp to moist soil. They do not like a constantly soggy or wet soil. Therefore, I recommend using a premium potting mix or potting soil, or a 50/50 mix of the two, in a container that has a drainage hole(s). More on planting in containers below. 



How To Test Soil Drainage  

If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your Cypress, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage in the planting area before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and is a caution you might need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.


Soil pH

Different types of cypress have different soil pH preferences. It's a good idea to know the pH preferences for the specific varieties of cypresses you intend to plant. On every plant page in this website you'll find soil pH preferences. Follow the links provided above to find the variety of cypress you intend on planting. 


How To Test Soil pH  

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. 

If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing your specific cypress, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil SulfurAluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.




Light Preferences

Most cypresses will take all the sun you can give them. That said, some varieties will tolerate some shade. It's a good idea to know the light preferences for the specific variety of cypress you intend to plant. On every plant page in this website you'll find light preferences. Follow the links provided above to find the variety of cypress you intend on planting. 



Planting Cypress In The Ground

Scroll down for container planting instructions and care tips


Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and 6 inches or more deeper than the height of the rootball of your plant. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.


Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area you might need to mix in a soil amendment to the native soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in dense clay or other poor draining soils it is beneficial to thoroughly mix in some good organic matter such as bagged top soil and/or a good planting mix at a 25-50% ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in very sandy or quick-draining soil mixing in some top soil or compost will help to retain moisture in the soil.


Step 3

Be very careful not to damage your Cypress when removing it from its nursery container. If the root ball is stuck in the pot it's best to cut the container away. If the root ball is root bound, use your fingers or a claw tool to carefully loosen some feeder roots. 


Step 4

If you are planting in well-drained soil, set your cypress in the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at or just slightly above ground level to allow for settling. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height. If your soil is moderately drained, meaning it drains slowly after rain, the top of the root ball should be 2 inches or more above ground level, as shown in illustration below. 

Note:  If the soil is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet) take measures to improve drainage or select a different plant species tolerant of wet soils. 




Step 5

After setting your cypress in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. If you are planting the root ball higher than ground level, as shown in the illustration above, taper your soil mixture gradually from the top edge of the root ball to the ground level. To avoid suffocating your plant, avoid placing any soil on top of the root ball.


Step 6 (Optional)

When planting your cypress in a site far away from a water source, and in well-drained soil, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a water retaining berm (catch basin / doughnut) that is 2 inches or so high around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation, which helps to reduce the need for hand-watering. The berm can be removed after the first growing season.


Step 7

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted cypress with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development, reduces plant shock, and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.


Step 8

To conserve moisture and suppress weed growth, apply a 1 to 2" layer of cured, shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area. Avoid the use of freshly chipped wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your plant as this could cause the bark to rot.




Planting Cypress In A Container


Cypress growing in pots or other containers appreciate a moist, but well-drained soil. Constantly soggy soil can and often will cause root rot or other harmful or deadly plant diseases. Therefore, to ensure good drainage, use a pot with a drainage hole(s) and a quality potting soil or potting mix, or a 50/50 combination thereof, for planting. Optionally, you can also add some pumice or perlite (maybe 10 to 20%) to the soil mixture to help with drainage.

Choose a container that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before having to shift up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 6 inches or more in rim diameter (width) than the root ball of the plant for slow growers, and 10 inches or more for faster growers.

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the foliage color and texture of your cypress, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.


Container Planting Instructions


Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, I recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming clogged with roots and soil. If you use gravel or rocks in the bottom of the container lay the fabric on top of it. 


Step 2

Be very careful not to damage your Cypress when removing it from its nursery container. If the root ball is stuck in the pot it's best to cut the container away. If the root ball is root bound, use your fingers or a claw tool to carefully loosen some feeder roots. 


Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set your plant in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit approximately 1" below the rim of the container.




Step 4

Backfill with your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.


Step 5

Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more soil mixture if settling occurs during watering.


Step 6 (Optional)

Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips or sphagnum moss to soil surface to help conserve moisture. Stone mulch can also be used.




Cypress Care & Maintenance Tips


Cypress trees or shrubs are exceptionally easy to grow and care for. Below are some helpful care tips that will have you growing them like the pros.


How To Fertilize A Cypress


Cypress trees are not heavy feeders, however will benefit from fertilization to maintain good foliage color and support growth and overall health of the plant, especially when young. When mature, fertilizer isn't usually necessary as cypresses can get the nutrients they need from the soil, decomposing mulch, and rainfall. 


When To Fertilize?

Feed Cypresses in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins to emerge. Fast growing cypresses, such as the Leyland or Carolina or Arizona Cypress, can be fertilized again in late spring or early summer. 

Note:  To avoid damage to new growth stimulated by fertilizer, cease fertilization of Cypress two months prior to the average first-frost date in your area, 


What Type Of Fertilizer & How Much?


In The Landscape:  Fertilize Cypress fast-growing cypress trees growing in the ground at rates recommended on the product label with a slow-release shrub & tree type fertilizer that contains iron and/or sulfur for deep greening. Cut the rate in half for slower growing cypress varieties. Alternatively, you can feed plants with an organic plant food. 

Note:  If the foliage of your cypress trees or shrubs develop chlorosis (fading of foliage) this could be an indicator of a high soil pH (alkaline soil) or lack of iron in the soil. To acidify soil, and for deep greening, simply apply iron and/or soil sulfur at rates suggested on the product label.


In Pots: Feed as directed on product label with a slow-release or water-soluble plant food listed for use in containers. Cut rate in half for slow growing cypress.



How To Apply Fertilizer? 

Shrubs and trees feed themselves from their root system. The feeder roots of established shrubs and trees are found at and beyond the outside perimeter of the branch system, what many professionals call the "drip line." Therefore, this is where most of the fertilizer should be spread. 

How far outside the drip line you spread fertilizer will depend on the age and size of the shrub or tree. As a general rule, spread the fertilizer under the plant and 3-4 inches beyond the drip line for each 12-inches of plant height. For example, if a plant is 5 feet tall spread the fertilizer about 15 to 20 inches beyond the drip line.



How To Water Cypress Shrubs & Trees


Most cypress varieties prefer a moist to damp but well-drained soil. That said, when established most varieties are exceptionally tolerant to dry soil conditions. They will not tolerate constantly soggy or wet soil conditions, which can lead to root rot and other harmful plant diseases. So be careful not to over-water them!

Note:  It's a good idea to know the soil moisture preferences for the specific varieties of cypress you intend to plant. On every plant page in this website you'll find soil moisture preferences.

For your reference, here's a couple quick links to Cypress category pages on this site...





At Planting Time

Immediately after planting deep soak the soil in the planting area to a depth equal to the height of the plants root ball. For an extra boost, to stimulate early root formation and stronger root development, you can also water you newly planted cypress with a solution of Root Stimulator, which reduces transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants. When planted during the winter dormant season plants will require less water. So, be extra careful not to overwater during winter!


During the First Growing Season

In average garden soil you should not have to water your newly planted cypress every day. More often than not, this causes soggy soil conditions that can lead to root rot and other harmful plant diseases. In the absence of sufficient rainfall, water only as needed to keep the root ball and surrounding soil damp to moist. 

Note:  Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently, and allowing the soil to dry out somewhat before watering again, is much better than splashing just a little water on the plants every day. Cypress planted during the winter dormant season, when plants are not actively growing and evaporation is much slower, will require much less water. So, be extra careful not to overwater during winter!


Thereafter

Most cypress varieties are exceptionally drought tolerant when established. That said, during prolonged periods of drought they might appreciate some supplemental water. If during a drought you see leaves wilting or stem tips drooping this could be a sign your plants could use a good, deep soaking.


Note:  When watering with an automated irrigation system it's best to set your timer to water during the early morning hours and not in the late evening or at night, which can lead to the onset of fungus and other foliage diseases. During the first few weeks after planting, check soil moisture often and adjust irrigation time if necessary to keep the soil moist, not wet. 



Pruning Cypress Shrubs & Trees


Cypress trees do not require pruning. That said, most varieties can be lightly pruned for shaping purposes. It's best to provide them ample room to grow to their mature size so they never require pruning, except to remove a stray or damaged branch that is spoiling the shape or look of the plant.  


When to Prune

Light pruning for shaping can be performed almost any time of year however we suggest late winter, before new growth has begun to emerge. Cease pruning 2 months prior to the average first frost date in your area.


How to Prune

When pruning your cypress, use a sharp pair of bypass hand pruners. When shearing for shaping purposes you can use hedge trimmers or clippers. 






Plant Long & Prosper!

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