Bald Cypress

Taxodium Distichum

This rather stately deciduous conifer is most often thought of as at home in swampy areas, which it most definitely is. But surprisingly, bald cypress can also be quite successfully grown in drier conditions.

At maturity, it’s a large tree at maturity to possibly 75 feet wide and a spread of 25 – 50 feet, so it’s best not planted in a small yard.

The key issue that I see with many struggling bald cypresses in Central Texas is a struggle with our alkaline soil.  You can fertilize with a product designed for acid-loving plants.

These products contain micronutrients like iron and manganese that are not as soluble in alkaline situations, so the plant can’t take them up naturally, even if they are present in the soil. This fertilization practice is not a once-and-done solution, but will have to be repeated throughout the life of the tree, if there are issues with micronutrient deficiencies in your soil.

If you’ve been to swampy areas of east Texas, or to the San Antonio Riverwalk, you’ve seen the famous “knees” that bald cypress produce.  This is an adaption that occurs only in wet, swampy conditions, so they won’t form those knees in your yard.

I often get calls during very hot, dry summers, which we’ve had quite a few of lately, when bald cypress invariably drop all their leaves and look dead. This is especially shocking since we aren’t accustomed to seeing conifers completely bare. But like other deciduous species, bald cypress drops all its leaves in stressful situations, such as heat and drought, to conserve precious water and energy, so that it can “hibernate” and regrow when situations are better.  Another great thing about bald cypress is fall color, which we don’t have a lot of around here. Before leaves are shed, they turn a coppery bronze that adds real interest to your autumn landscape.