Are you looking for a unique bonsai to liven up your porch? Bald cypress bonsai might just be the perfect choice for you.
It has interesting foliage that will only fall quite far into winter and can be shaped into interesting forms. Sometimes, the dead foliage even hangs on until spring giving your tree a beautiful red appearance.
Bald cypress, also known as swampy cypress or botanically as Taxodium distichum, is a great choice as an outside bonsai which also makes it perfect for outdoor areas like your patio in USDA zones 5B though 9.
It needs a dormant season which means it also won’t be bothered by the cold in these zones, in fact, it needs to get cold to rest up to survive and thrive in the next season.
However, If you live outside of these zones or in an area that gets frost, you will need to put a few protective measures in place to keep your tree healthy.
Unlike most trees, the bald cypress needs to be kept in soggy soil. Naturally, this tree can be found growing in the wet, swampy soils along the river banks and flood plains of the southeastern part of the United States.
Being incredibly hardy, the bald cypress bonsai can also adapt to a range of soil types and conditions, whether dry, salty, swampy or submerged it will still stay alive. Its preferred state, however, is swampy and if you want your tree to thrive, this is the way to go. This type of bonsai is often kept partially submerged to make sure it never dries out.
Bald cypress is a low-maintenance bonsai that is fairly easy to care for. This makes it an ideal bonsai for beginners since it is fairly forgiving. Here are a few things you need to know about bald cypress bonsai care:
Care Guidelines For Bald Cypress Bonsai
Bald cypress bonsai thrives in full sun conditions, even though it likes soggy soil. It is best to keep this tree in an area outdoors that gets as much sun as possible.
If you live in USDA zones 5B through 9, you can keep your little tree outside all year round.
In cold climates that get frost, you will need to make an effort to protect your little tree. Bald cypress planted in a container hardly tolerates any frost and might die on you if exposed to it. If you live in an area with frost, bring your tree indoors and place it in a cold area like an outdoor shed to keep it alive.
Bald cypress bonsai are very thirsty little trees. They like their soil to be quite soggy and almost always saturated. You will need to water your tree every day to make sure the soil stays wet.
Taxodium distichum also likes full sun which speeds up evaporation. For this reason, many bonsai keepers place their tree pots in a shallow bowl of water permanently.
This way if you forget to water your bonsai, it won’t be the end of the world!
Bald cypress is also quite hardy which means if you do neglect your tree, it will temporarily adapt to the harsher conditions it finds itself in. Just make sure to never leave it in this state for too long.
In winter, the bald cypress doesn’t require as much water as during the growing season. So, you won’t have to keep it partially submerged. Just make sure you never allow the soil to dry out completely if you want to keep your bonsai in optimal condition for the next season.
Soil And Fertilizing
Bald cypress needs a lot more water than is usual for most bonsai. This means the nutrients in its soil will also be depleted much quicker due to being leached away by the water.
To keep your tree healthy, you will need to replace these nutrients on a regular basis.
If your fertilizer of choice is a liquid, you will need to fertilize either weekly or biweekly depending on the instructions. If you’d rather go for a solid fertilizer, you will need to fertilize every month during the growing season.
Once winter hit and your plant goes dormant, you don’t need to fertilize at all if you used a solid fertilizer in the last month of fall (November). You can resume monthly fertilizing in the first month of spring (March) to prepare for the growing season.
If you’re using a liquid fertilizer, you can reduce the frequency of fertilizing to once a month until the growing season starts again in spring.
Bald cypress bonsai can be pruned as soon as the new shoots develop lateral ramifications. Care should be taken with the timing of pruning since shoots that are trimmed back too early often die back in the fall.
The best time to prune your tree is in early spring or fall.
You will also notice a lot of new buds on the trunk and branches of your tree once the growing season starts. If any of those buds are undesirable, it is best to remove them early on. You can also easily bend and shape new growth where older growth becomes hard and brittle.
Bald cypress has a few styles that suit it perfectly. These styles are formal upright, informal upright, grouped, twin-trunk, literati, and slanting. If you’re going for easy maintenance, formal upright is the best style for your three.
The other styles take a bit more work but are also possible if you want something different.
Repotting of bald cypress bonsai should be done in early spring before the growing season starts. If you have a young tree, you will need to repot every two years due to the vigorous root growth. This is also a good time to do some root pruning, especially if your tree’s root ball started pushing up above ground.
Older trees can be repotted every three to five years depending on their health and root growth.
If your tree’s growth appears stunted or if the root ball pushes above the pot, it might be time to repot.
Bald cypress needs to be planted in soil with good water retention. Many keepers of this bonsai use mushroom compost to serve this purpose. It is very difficult to overwater this tree so no need to worry about root rot.
Bald cypress usually looks best planted in a very shallow pot. Since these trees like water so much and are often placed in a tray of water, it is a good idea to make sure the outside of your pot won’t get damaged. Glazing the outside is a good way to prevent damage.
Pots with a natural color like dark green or different shades of brown also usually look best with bald cypress bonsai.
You can also go for other natural colors like dark gray, auburn or dark red to complement its autumn colors.
Bald cypress is usually propagated by making use of cuttings or air layering. It is also possible to grow one from seed.
Bald cypress grows very quickly so you will have a bonsai in no time.
The best time to propagate bald cypress is during the growing season. This way your tree will have a faster recovery time and your cuttings will have time to develop roots before becoming dormant in winter.
Potential Pests And Diseases
Bald cypress is rarely affected by any pests and diseases. It is also nearly impossible to overwater your bonsai until it develops root rot.
The only real affliction you need to look out for is twig blight. Twig blight is a pathogen that attacks weakened, injured, or dead foliage. This fungus commonly attacked over pruned trees.
These trees are vulnerable due to being stressed already thanks to the multitude of cuts on their branches. This makes it easy for twig blight to take hold and cause newly pruned branches to die back even further.
If you notice any dying tips, prune those branches immediately to prevent the twig blight from spreading.
If pruning is done correctly, you should be able to avoid this problem altogether.
Wiring Your Bonsai
Wiring bald cypress bonsai is not recommended. This tree grows very quickly which may lead to bark damage if wiring isn’t checked very regularly. In fact, this tree grows so quickly that wiring doesn’t have a chance to shape the tree effectively before you need to remove the wires to prevent scarring.
A much better alternative for bald cypress is twine.
The use of twine to train the branches of this little tree will prevent any damage to the bark.
Sometimes, when a branch needs to be trained downward, you will need to cut a small V-shaped notch into the node of the branch. Make sure that this cut is small enough that it will seal when healing in a bent position.
Keep the branch bent in your desired position with a piece of twine to help the tree heal and prevent damage from the wiring.