Cypress trees are fast-growing trees that can get fairly large. They are native to America and are commonly used for reforestation in swampy areas. They are deciduous conifers, meaning they have needle like leaves and cones that change colors and fall off. While these can cause a huge mess, they also make for excellent compost and mulch. (And the cones work wonders in a number of different craft projects!)
Until recently, these trees were rarely considered when planning a landscape—not just because of the mess they can cause, but because they tend to grow the best in swampy and constantly moist areas. Well, the truth is… they do grow the best in those areas, but that doesn't mean they won't grow in drier climates.
In fact, these trees can actually survive pretty well in USDA zones 5 through 10. They may need a little help to get going, but the end result is a gorgeous tree that will give you lots of shade and create its own mulch.
Cypress trees can grow up to 150 feet tall in the right conditions. While it is rare for them to grow that tall anywhere other than the swamp, they can still get achieve impressive heights. Their straight trunks can grow to a girth of 12 feet in diameter.
Now, these numbers are usually reached after a couple of hundred years of growing, but they still get pretty large in the first several years. Growing at a rate of 1 1/2 to 2 feet a year, they will grow fairly tall within a few years. This means you will have loads of shade in a few short years with just one tree.
Another great feature about Cypress trees are their knees. Though the reason is unknown, cypress trees pull some of their larger roots out of the ground. These roots will keep their ends still buried, but the raised section gives the effect is of a bent leg with the highest point resembling a knee. These knees will grow in weird and gnarled looking shapes. They are more common on trees grown in water with the knees growing larger in deeper water, but they can be trained to grow in drier areas by creating a small 'pool' area around the section you want to raise.
So, want to know how to grow one? Follow these steps!
Step 1—Planting Cypress Seeds in a Started Pot
While it is possible to directly seed Cypress trees in the ground, it is not recommended. This is typically true of most trees, regardless of how fast or slow they grow, as it can be difficult to get them going.
The best method is to start seeds in a pot or terrarium of loamy or watery soil. Using a disposable container that can be cut, such as a plastic bottle or disposable starter pot, is the best option, especially if the trees may need to be transplanted to a larger pot before ground planting.
Do not pack the seeds into the soil; just lay them on the top and cover with wet newspaper. Set the container by a window where they receive light but won't dry out.
Step 2—Germinating the Seeds and/or Seedlings
Seeds and seedlings cannot withstand dry conditions or too-wet conditions. So, the soil should stay moist, but not flooded. Once the seed has become a seedling, you can keep more water in the container; just make sure the top half of the plant sits above the water line.
It can take as little as 30 days or as long as 90 days for the seeds to germinate. If they are kept well-watered and are growing steadily, the seedlings should be ready for ground planting within one growing cycle (about one year).
Step 3—Transplanting Your Cypress Tree to Another Container
If your tree becomes too large for the starter container, you can transplant it to a larger one, but it is advisable to use the exact same type of soil to avoid shocking the plants.
Make a hole in the soil slightly larger than the size of the old container. Cut the bottom out of the old container and set it in the new pot. Push the new dirt around the old pot before lifting it out. This helps 'trick' the plant into thinking it is in the same pot and prevents shock, which can kill the tree.
Step 4—Transplanting Your Cypress Tree Outside
When your Cypress tree is ready to transplant outside, choosing the best location is a must. When preparing the area, make sure that the hole for the seedling is not too shallow or too deep. The hole should be deep enough to cover the roots up to the collar (where the trunk meets the roots). The soil should be packed firmly over the hole and well-watered.
If you are planting the tree in direct sunlight, make sure it will have access to plenty of water, even if this means you have to go outside every day and water it yourself. Keeping it moist for the first couple of weeks to a month is important to allow it to become established. After that, you can sparse watering out a little at a time to let it become used to the drier conditions.
Images courtesy of PlantFiles