Bald Cypress (Taxodium Distichum) Bonsai: A Beginner’s Guide

The bald cypress, also known by its scientific name as Taxodium distichum, is a very popular tree often grown as a bonsai. In its normal form, it can reach an impressive 100 feet tall, making it a favorite for parks and large gardens.

The bald cypress makes a good bonsai tree as it can live for over a hundred years, if it’s provided with the right growing conditions. 

At a Glance: What You Should Know about Growing a Bald Cypress as a Bonsai Tree

A bald cypress, when grown to a bonsai shape, will reach a maximum height of 74cm depending on the shape the tree takes. In terms of width, it will reach about 55cm wide, so make sure you have the room for this bonsai tree!

The bald cypress is one of the sun-loving trees, where anything less than full sunlight for at least part of the day can mean the bald cypress will suffer.

It’s grown purely for its tree-like aesthetics in miniature form, as it does not flower. If you’d prefer one that does, you may go for an azalea or wisteria bonsai. 

The bald cypress is perfect for those who like their bonsai trees to have interesting trunks. The bark of this bonsai tree starts off a lovely rich brown, and it can become paler with time.

The leaves have a needle form, in a light green. Despite what you may assume from their shape, this tree is deciduous, so it will lose its leaves when temperatures drop. Before it does, the leaves turn a vibrant copper.

When it is in its natural state, the bald cypress will take a lot of abuse from the weather. When grown as a bonsai tree, this, unfortunately, doesn’t carry through quite as well.

A bald cypress bonsai tree needs warm temperatures in order to survive, as it won’t tolerate frost. 

It’s also an intriguing tree in that there’s only one type, but it goes by many names. You may see it labeled as the swamp cypress, the tidewater red cypress, the white cypress, and the red cypress.

Should You Grow a Bald Cypress from Seed, or from Cuttings?

You can grow a bald cypress as a bonsai from seed, or you can choose to grow it from a cutting.

This is entirely your preference, as both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Growing a bald cypress from seed can take a long time, and it can be difficult to get the seeds to germinate.

You can grow a bald cypress from cuttings, which vastly makes the whole process quicker, but it won’t be as satisfying as getting those seeds to sprout. 

Cuttings don’t always have a huge success rate, so if you do pick this method, make sure you take a few cuttings as standard practice, and then if one dies, you still have the others.

How to Make Sure Your Bald Cypress Bonsai Thrives

Position & Soil

Bald cypress trees benefit hugely from full sunlight, as well as warm temperatures. The more you can mimic their natural habitat, the better and healthier your plant will be.

If you are lucky enough to live somewhere warm, you could probably manage to grow a bald cypress as a bonsai outdoors all year round. 

But, if the temperatures drop considerably at night, or during winter, you will need to bring it indoors once the temperature lowers. 

Containers and frost are not a good combination at the best of times, even if the label says they are frost-proof. Extreme frosts can still split your containers and kill your plants, so don’t take the risk.

Make sure to use a well-draining soil, preferably formulated for growing bonsai.

Watering

While most bonsai trees are very susceptible to root rot and overwatering, the bald cypress bonsai tree loves water. 

It may even be difficult to keep up with exactly how much water a bald cypress bonsai needs during the hot summer months. 

In which case, you can take the pressure off by putting a tray underneath the container of your bonsai, and fill that with water. The soil will take up the water, ensuring that the bonsai tree doesn’t dry out.

Because of its tolerance to wet soil, this will not cause the bald cypress to get root rot.

In winter, you’ll notice that you’ll need to water it significantly less than in summer, as with most plants, but you will still need to be careful that you don’t underwater it. 

As a rule, don’t let your bald cypress bonsai tree dry out completely, as this will make the plant suffer. 

When to Feed a Bald Cypress Bonsai

Bald cypress bonsai trees benefit from regular feeds, usually once a week or every fortnight. Make sure you follow the instructions on the feed, preferably one which is formulated for bonsai trees.

If you can, go for organic fertilizer, as this will prevent the roots from burning. 

How to Repot a Bald Cypress Bonsai

It’s worth knowing that the roots of a bald cypress are robust, and they thicken rapidly. So when it comes to repotting one, you do need to make sure that you prune the roots.

Young bald cypress bonsai trees will need to be repotted every couple of years. You can prune the roots without any problems, but as it is still a bonsai tree, do so gently.

Mature cypress bonsai trees will require repotting slightly less, between three and five years.

Make sure to get rid of the old soil, as it will be fully devoid of nutrients at this point, and repot it into fresh bonsai soil which drains well. As the plant demands so much water, this last part is crucial. 

You can get bonsai soil which is specially formulated for bald cypress trees, or you can mix in some horticultural grit in order to improve drainage.

How to Prune a Bald Cypress Bonsai

The best time to give your bald cypress bonsai tree a haircut is in spring, once you notice lots of new growth forming. If you start trimming this tree before then, you’ll notice that the growth will wither long before it normally would.

Keep the shape that you want in your mind as you’re trimming back the foliage on your bonsai, and remember not to take off too much, otherwise you can damage your bonsai tree. 

A good rule of thumb is to step back and look at the bonsai, to make sure you’re not taking too much off. 

Pests and Diseases

The bald cypress is a great specimen for making into a bonsai tree, as it’s resistant to most pests and diseases. 

That doesn’t mean it is completely immune, so stick to the care guide above, to keep it healthy and prevent any problems from happening.

Where to Buy a Bald Cypress Bonsai

You can buy bald cypress bonsai trees from most plant nurseries and stores, as well as specialist bonsai sellers. 

Typically, a starter bald cypress bonsai will be about 10 years old when you get it, and if you’re ordering online, it will often come during its dormant stage, where the watering demands are much less.

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