Prepping a Bald Cypress

I have been stalking my trees for the last week or two. I knew with these consistent 70º F temperatures it was only a matter or time before another tree was ready for a repot. Once I saw green budding tips on one of my Bald Cypress, I knew it was time for some work.


Here is the tree as purchased at the end of October 2013.  It had already dropped leaves but needed to get out of that nursery can. Usually that isn’t the ideal time for such work as you most always have to remove some root mass. The tree has stored a lot of energy in its root system to survive over the winter. If you remove too much or too aggressively you can severely degrade the tree’s health. Depending on the species and your climate, you can get away with it. I definitely can because it’s still 70-80ºF in October here and it can safely recover before cold weather sets in.


I pulled it out of the 5 gallon can and saw this mess.ImageThose big crossing roots are not good. I’ll take off as much as I feel comfortable with in order to leave some fine rooting and not stress it out too much.


Ok, I took off a lot.


This guy went into a 13″ tub with no drainage whatsoever (on the right). It basically sat in a bowl of pine bark and potting soil cereal. Remember that post about having free draining soil and not keeping trees too wet? Not the bald cypress….they live in standing swamp water here in the Southeast US. This would not work out for any other species that I know is popular for bonsai.


Fast forward to last night.




It threw out tons of healthy roots in a very short amount of time! Those two thick roots in the third picture are still not ideal and have to be removed. My plan for this tree was to air-layer the top and make a raft out of the bottom 12″ so these roots won’t compromise my intended design.


I used some general shears to remove those roots. For a raft, the tree will be potted horizontally as pictured. It needs more training before I go ahead and pot it that way. Right now, I’m focusing on the preparation needed for potting in a raft style within the next 2 years. Now, I want all my roots to be growing downward in this position. Once potted horizontally, new shoots will grow vertical and give the illusion of a fallen tree with the will to survive. It should be great in about 10 years. Patience is the key word here, remember? Anyway, back to last night’s work.



The underside of the tree had an area that did not throw out any new roots. I need all I can get so I am trying a technique to encourage new root growth. I have shaved off the outer layer of bark, exposed the cambium, and applied rooting hormone.


Once the hormone is applied, time to pot it up. I placed a board directly against the tree where the 2 thicker roots were removed. This will prevent any roots from growing in that direction, which will eventually be close to the soil line when it is planted horizontally. Most of my root growth will continue on the eventual downward facing side of the tree. Now, frequent feeding with plenty of water and sunshine will have this tree growing like crazy.

Be on the lookout for a future post in a couple months where I air layer the top portion of the tree. Also, more repotting on the way this weekend!


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