Introduction and Bald Cypress question

Hi All! I’m new here. Just found the site about two weeks ago and I’m hooked. Seems like a great community here. I live in Western Pennsylvania (east coast United States), and Mirai and Heron’s Bonsai videos have rekindled my love of Bonsai.

Which brings me to my post -

I picked up a very inexpensive Dawn Redwood over the weekend, and they delivered it today. Along with accidentally leaving me a 5’ tall Bald Cypress. They don’t want to come get it, so I’m apparently its owner now! Like I said, it’s about 5’ tall, but the lowest branch is fairly far up the trunk. It’s got some small growth lower, but that growth isn’t lignified so not counting on it sticking around.

Is it worth planting this guy in the backyard to eventually do some air layering? What would you do if it was yours? Just looking for some thoughts on this. Thanks in advance and I look forward to interacting with everyone!

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Welcome @JM27
If you grow it strong for a season and then cut it back/ prune, it should back bud from the trunck.

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It looks like the first branches are at about 2 ft. (60 cm) so that could be a good place to start a flat top. As @AndyK said it will bud from the trunk when growing strongly. I am betting that most of the small bits you see on the trunk will lignify if you let them grow. I am constantly knocking them off the lower trunk of my bald cypress.

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Pretty easy to get back-budding on Bald Cypress, even low on the trunk, especially on relatively young material. Review the bald cypress and dawn redwood streams, as they are treated almost the same.

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@AndyK - Thanks! I think that’s going to be the plan!

@MartyWeiser - Good eye! Those branches are almost exactly 2ft up! Good to know about the smaller growth. I’m fairly familiar with Dawn Redwoods but don’t have a clue about the Cypress. From watching the videos you all recommended, it seems like they’re somewhat similar.

@Zencalc - Thanks! Checked out a handful of the Cypress videos earlier. Good to know it will back-bud readily (assuming I don’t screw it up of course. lol).

Appreciate everyone’s advice!

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Can I get a close up pic of one of the leaves?

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I hope you don’t have to pay for this. They delivered the wrong product. They need to eat the cost.

If you put it in the ground, it will become quite large. You will eventually need 10-15 feet (3-5 meters) of space around the tree. I cannot speak for your area, but it will also produce knees that will challenge your lawn mower for dominance.

I recommend growing it in a shallow, wide mortar tub. 50% potting soil (I like Miracle Gro) and 50% inorganics like lava rock. This will encourage lateral growth and more fibrous roots. Flood the pot during the growing season and let the water drain during the winter (keeping it moist, don’t let it dry out). However, I’m in south Louisiana. Our winter is a few nights below freezing and almost 0% chance of snow. For you, I’d recommend contacting a local bonsai club for advice. You’ll likely get away with mulching the tree during the winter to keep the roots from getting too cold. While bald cypress are rated to survive well below freezing, that rating is for trees in the ground.

Those feathery leaves pull a great deal of water out of the pot. Be careful it doesn’t dry out the roots.

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Bill! Great to see you’re still around the forums.


In terms of flooding. How many years would you flood a tree? How often do you swap out the water? Mosquito issues? I’ve been reluctant to try flooding. Ryan says don’t do it. JG says you can, but don’t have to. I’m assuming you flood to get the flaring base we all know and love and potentially knees?

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That’s why I flood. As for how long? Like most root/trunk development techniques, you do it until you get a result you like.

Roots of BC physically change when flooded. That’s what I’m pushing. If I hadn’t encountered a family tragedy in 2018, I’d have recorded the sizes of the trees I began flooding. They’re still back there, behind the shed, and I flood/drain the trees at different times of the year. I just don’t document it the way I should.

Mosquitoes? What are those? They’re tiny, right? I’m in Louisiana. We have pterodactyls.

Worse than a joke, here’s an anecdote regarding mosquitoes: I put giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta), an ever-present invasive species, into my growing tubs. The floating fern looks interesting. I’ve also added water lettuce. Something odd is that I cannot find mosquito larvae in the tubs. I do find larvae (wrigglers) in other water-holding containers, but not the bald cypress tubs with the salvinia floating in it. So I keep a tub of it going year round and add it to the tubs that I flood.

I’ve heard of others using horticultural oil (not dormant oil) as a film on the water to suffocate the wrigglers. Some use bacteria infusions. Others use a little bleach. I recommend the horticultural oil. However, one good rain, and it is washed out of the tub. Re-apply as necessary.

Notes on giant salvinia: It is an invasive species native to Brazil. If you do not have it in your area DO NOT PUT IT IN YOUR OUTDOOR GARDENS. Birds are very good at transporting the fern spores to other bodies of water. The only reason I use it without regard for the environment is that Southeast Louisiana is overrun with it. My backyard tubs don’t have an impact either way.


This is what I’m most curious about. Ryan mentions that flooding promotes longer roots instead of fine roots. What happens when you stop flooding? Is there a transitional period that needs to happen between the flood and going into 100% akadama?

I have a couple of BC in the ground right now. They’re in grow bags and have only been in the ground a little under two years.

One of them tripled in girth in one year from a 1" base to 3". This past spring I chopped it, pulled the bag up, did some root work, and then put it back in the ground. It responded by pushing buds everywhere and looks like a mini Christmas tree.

The other didn’t expand as much because I air layered off the top 50% thus interrupting the sugar/starch supply to the base…at least that’s my theory. The other theory is that the one that grew faster was underneath my wife’s planters and got some fertilizer runoff. It didn’t expand enough to warrant doing root work. This one may be a good candidate to dig up and flood.

My BC that are in tubs are collected, so I don’t need to develop the base.

You’re right about not leaving one in the landscape where you don’t want it though. I have one that went from 3" to 8" in a couple of years. It’s pushing out huge knees at the base. I’m going to have to remove it this coming spring because I don’t want the knees to start going into my neighbor’s yard…or mine. It’s in a flowerbed that’s maybe 6’ wide.

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I think flooding them is a trade-off. I’ve seen you say before that it could encourage coarse root growth - and in my experience it absolutely does. The ones I told you about a month ago have mostly giant explosive coarse roots with a little bit of fine root growth. But the root flare, taper, and overall growth is incredible and makes it worth it imo.

Any I’ve tried developing with only normal 2-3x a day watering go dormant and are generally unhappy over our hottest parts of summer, while the ones being submerged charge through for the whole year.

So my overall plan is to flood them until their trunks / flare looks good and then figure out how to ease off of that for refinement purposes. That transitional period will be interesting, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

On the mosquito note - BTi is my best friend. I treat once a week or so with “mosquito bits” or a similar product and it keeps mosquitoes down along with some other annoying flying pests.


Hmmm, I have some of these. Is it a chemical and any concerns about what it’s doing to your trees? The smaller of my two field growing BC has to come out because I’ve had to put up a rain barrel screen basically right on top of it. Maybe I’ll go ahead and pull it up this weekend and start the process. :thinking:

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Its a “biolarvicide” species of bacteria, and seems to be the safest option out there for long-term mosquito treatment. It doesnt seem to bother the frogs, toads, or anything else that likes to live with the cypresses.


I have one in a bonsai pot and I think 1-1-1 soil. I grew it flooded for a couple of years and got quite a bit of flare and other growth. Two years ago I started treating it like a normal bonsai when I took it out of winter storage and it has continued to grow well. It is also a bit more manageable from a refinement standpoint. I will pot it in 3-1-1 this coming spring since I like to have a freer draining mix with my watering habits.


Ah, awesome. Thanks for the info. Now I’m wondering if I should wait until next year to pull the tree up. I have it guy wired to a stake in the ground to put a big bend into the trunk. It seems to rebound almost back to upright, so I’m wondering if fall vascular growth would allow that bend to set a bit more. :thinking:

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What was the soil mix while it was flooded?

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Not sure, but I think it was 1-1-1 akadama-pumice-lava. Most likely in the 3 - 9 mm size range. I have been dropping to a max of 6 mm over the past few years.


I think leaving it in the ground with the stake over fall would help a lot. They are so apically dominant its crazy. I have one I’m trying to grow in a slanting style, but no matter what it keeps shooting up vertical growth that takes over immediately.

Probably not applicable to your current setup, but I’ve had better luck by cutting back and changing the planting angle at the base. It will go straight to vertical with all its new growth, and then you can return it to its original angle and keep the bend.


Ha, ingenious idea! I have a branch right at the bend that I’m hoping to use as the new leader after the chop. When I dig it up and flood it I can try your technique. What does that do the angle of the flare though when you put the tree back “upright”? :thinking:

This could that technique to my second field growing tree. I replanted it at an angle, but not a very severe one. Now I think I want to create it as a stump with lots of vertical/lateral growth. I’d be going for a look of a big tree that snapped near the base during a storm. There are a few examples around here. The new growth forms a conical tree with a massive flaring trunk. Example pics below. I figure I have enough to make several flat tops. Might as well experiment with this one.

This is it three months after the chop. The angle is leaning away from me a bit, so it’s hard to see the movement.

Kind of like this, but I’ve seen some with fatter bases and shorter trunks.

I believe these two are just young trees