Bald Cypress Bonsai
Pictures of Bald Cypress Bonsai
The bald cypress bonsai is a native North American species that typically grows in swampy regions where freshwater is abundant for six or more months of the year.
They are an incredibly unique tree with a rare characteristic of the production of knees, which grow in wet or poor soil. The purpose of the knees is not entirely known, however, some believe they might help aerate the tree’s roots and assist in anchoring the tree in muddy soil.
As the bald cypress ages and grows, the upper canopy flattens out and creates the iconic flat-top style it’s so well-known for. The conical trunk narrows as it reaches the canopy, creating an impressive overall aesthetic.
Bald cypress trees are also one of only three known deciduous conifers that exist in the world — they shed their leaf mass every fall and produce a new leaf mass every spring.
Interestingly, the wood of the bald cypress bonsai is incredibly rot resistant, lightweight, and has been used in many ways, including as water pipes that can still be found under some cities in the Southeastern United States.
Caring for Bald Cypress Bonsai
When watering your bald cypress bonsai, you’ll want to remember that this is a tree that can exist fully submerged when in nature, so leaning on the water-heavy side of a water/oxygen balance is okay.
While you’d never want to let your bald cypress fully dry out, you also don’t want it sopping wet or submerged when in a bonsai container. When containerized, the bald cypress bonsai requires that oxygen be allowed back into the system.
When watering your bald cypress bonsai, you want to focus on the roots — there’s no need to mist the foliage or water the trunk.
Your bald cypress will appreciate full sun in the exact same way as coastal redwoods do. However, keeping the temperature in mind, you can shade your tree in high heat, low humidity areas.
The bald cypress bonsai prefers temperatures below 90 degrees Fahrenheit and above 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
If your bald cypress is in a location where the temperatures can reach 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll want to ensure you have 20-30% shade coverage to avoid burning the needles. However, if the relative humidity is above 80%, the bald cypress can withstand above 90-degree weather.
Ideally, you want your bald cypress to produce elongated shoots capable of becoming branches, so you want to fertilize heavily once leaf production begins. As the buds begin to open up in the spring, moderate to heavy applications of fertilizer are needed until you do your partial defoliation and pruning in early summer.
Fertilizing can stop in the hottest portion of summer, usually mid-July to the end of August, and resume moderately throughout the fall.
When the foliage begins to turn its natural fall color, you can stop fertilizing your bonsai until early spring when you’ll start the cycle again.
A bald cypress bonsai can be pruned twice a year. First, you’ll prune the tree in the spring, just as you see the buds beginning to swell. You can prune to any desired length along the woody structure. When you do this the tree will bud at the cut and behind the cut.
Bald cypress bonsai pruning should take place in June if the tree is in the northern hemisphere, or early December in the southern hemisphere when the fronds turn a slight degree of ruby red. Prune back elongated shoots to the desired length when they begin to produce lateral ramification.
It’s best to prune the areas where you do not want the foliage to grow, such as the bottom side of the branches, and to remove about fifty percent of the needle mass.
The only time you can wire a bald cypress, without damaging the species, is when the buds swell in the spring season. The young branches are the easiest to wire and shape as older ones may become brittle and easily break.
You may also consider using twine as an alternative to wiring the branches down.
Repotting your bald cypress should occur in the spring when the buds are swelling. Bald cypress bonsai trees do well in deep and shallow pots, but, because it’s a conifer, it’s important to leave some portion of the root mass untouched.
Young trees can be repotted every two years, while older trees need repotting every three to five years. Your bald cypress is ready to repot if the roots circle the root system or the rootball pushes itself upward from the pot.
Air layering is the main method of propagation of bald cypress and requires rooting hormone as part of the process because the tree will produce callus tissue, and is very capable of producing new roots.
The gap in the tissue needs to be substantial because bald cypress will bridge the gap of an air layer very easily if it’s not wide enough.
Bald cypress notoriously suffers from root aphids and root mealybugs that feed on the sugary excrement from the abundant amount of sugars and starches generated by the tree. The sugars and starches are generally deposited into the root systems, creating a healthy environment for the proliferation of pests.
To cure the roots, it’s best to repot the tree and remove as many pests as possible. You can also do periodic treatments of beneficial predatory nematodes to eradicate the insects in the root system.
Bald Cypress Bonsai FAQS
The bald cypress bonsai does not tolerate being submerged in water when in a containerized environment. They need oxygen in their root system and you don’t want the soil to be soaking wet at any time.
You can use wires to train a bald cypress as a traditional formal upright species by wiring the branches down. Or, you can leave the branches to grow up and move into that iconic flat-top form naturally.
Conifers of any variety should never be bare-rooted when repotting.