It’s worth considering a Bald Cypress bonsai for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they are an incredibly striking and interesting tree that will create a statement piece in any environment. But secondly, some forms are native to the states and can be collected and cultivated from Louisiana and Florida through Maryland and Texas.
All about the Bald Cypress
The Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) might also be found as the Swap Cypress or Deciduous Cyrpress. It is the state tree of Louisiana and a recognizable feature of the everglades. You can also spot them in Mexico and Guatemala. They grow at a decent rate, but also live for a long time. If you create one as a bonsai it may live to see many future generations of your family.
Bald Cypress appearance
Despite their height and formidable strength, the leaf output on the Bald Cypress is actually very delicate. The foliage is shaped like flattened linear needles and very soft to the touch, generally in lighter shades of green. A fantastic display is put on in autumn when leaves turn yellow, bronze orange and even ‘fox red’. Leaves will drop as may some newer branches. The bark begins in tones of red and brown, and is soft and fibrous. Older plants have a more brittle feel and turn quite brown or even grey. The bark can develop interesting furrows, ridges and knots.
Types of Bald Cypress
If you are taking a cutting from a tree in the wild, it will likely be standard. If you are seeking to purchase, there are two types you might come across. The Cascade Falls has a weeping appearance and will need trunk support if grown as a bonsai. The branches descend almost parallel to the main trunk. The Secrest is slower growing than other forms and has a flatter top. The foliage could be considered dwarf sized.
Bald Cypress as bonsai
Can you imagine a 120ft bonsai? These trees grow to be huge in the wild, and there are some great examples of them being used as larger bonsai pieces. Of course, you will be able to contain a Bald Cypress as a bonsai plant; and doing so makes for a very interesting looking and contemporary bonsai. It is not too difficult to create some surprising forms with the root systems as they are guided to become intertwined. You may also try the formation of the roots over a piece of driftwood.
Bald Cypress bonsai likes and dislikes
Native to the warmer southern states, Bald Cypress appreciate temperate and tropical climates. They are happiest in the sunny spots in the yard. As long as they are kept well watered, they can deal with warm temperatures. In terms of colder and frost, they will need to be given some protection during cold snaps, snow and frosts. In the wild they take on a cone shaped form but they are easy to guide and structure and will be able to grow back should you over prune.
Watering Bald Cypress bonsai
I always think of that song “Love is all around” when I think of the Bald Cypress’s watering requirements. And that’s because the song is sung by Wet, Wet, Wet. These beautiful plants are accustomed to growing in marshy and swampy areas and really need consistent and copious watering. In warmer weather there is nothing wrong with standing your plant in a pot or bucket of water; in fact this is recommended. The plant needs an usually high amount of water to survive.
Repotting Bald Cypress bonsai
A fairly standard bonsai soil will suffice for the Bald Cypress, but look for one that has a loam base because problems can occur in soils which highly alkaline. Ready drainage is essential and some sand will help this. Your Bald Cypress will benefit from annual repotting, which is more frequent than many other types of bonsai- the standard is something more like every two years. An indicator to watch for is the rootball pushing upwards out of the soil.
Bugs, Pests and Problems
Although they are generally hardy, and despite the best care, Bald Cypress can sometimes develop problems. As mentioned, avoid alkaline soils and this causes problems for the leaves. Insect infestations are rare but not impossible. Use insecticide if you spot an outbreak, and hose leaves down with a jet for extra impact and bug-busting power. Problems with pests can occur around the roots so check the base as well as leaves when you are inspecting.
Bald Cypress bonsai timeline
- Spring – best time of year for fertilizing
- Summer – defoliate during the warmer months
- Autumn – apply wire just as the summer ends and leave in place for a year
- Winter – probably the best time for repotting
Tips to help your Bald Cypress bonsai
You might be surprised when you see the roots growing above the soil. These growths are called ‘Cypress knees’ and rise to enable the root systems to breath. By repotting, and doing so with a soil that has lots of space of air, you will equip your plant for the next growth season and provide more oxygen to the roots themselves. In the wild, these trees often coexist with moss, and adding some to your bonsai plant’s base will make it look even more authentic.
Advice for growing Bald Cypress bonsai
Keep an eye out for buds which you consider to be unnecessary for plant structure. Remove them as soon as possible- simply pinching to remove will suffice. Using wire is fine on a Bald Cypress and will help you lower and structure heavier branches. Try to wire younger branches rather than very well established ones as older ones do have a tendency to become brittle.
The bottom line: You can create a wonderful looking bonsai by beginning with a Bald Cypress. There’s something special about using a local plant to train as a bonsai, and with its capacity to become quite large, you will not likely regret choosing it for your garden or patio.