Shaping a bald cypress (taxodium distichum)

justintx(7B-NorthFt.Worth)November 21, 2006

Can I "re-shape" this bald cypress to its more conical form? I had to trim several lower branches this year when the needles dropped due to sprinkler system hitting them during our severe summer heat. I am also awaiting reformation of a new terminal shoot - didn't realize it was broken 6" from tip when I bought it last year.

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You're stuck with what you have my friend. That isn't a cultivar, so shape will vary indeed from seed-grown individuals. That's going to be a wide tree in other words.

As to a single leader, watch and trim until "one" is dominant. Obviously it being broken will result in more than one leader. I had to correct my Dawn Redwood twice but now it has a well-established leader.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 7:30AM
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Well, I have not seen hundreds and hundreds of baldcypress trees, but all the ones I have seen have a very, very strong tendency to grow one leader naturally and a similar tendency to have a regular conical shape until they are much older. There is no harm in pruning for a central leader, but I bet this tree will do that for itself even if the top is broken. You could certainly wait for a couple of years and see what the tree does on its own.

As for the width of the tree, I would leave that alone as Resin says, but if this is a young newly planted tree, you may not yet be seeing the form that this tree will grow into once established.

Oh, I meant to mention: as for a double leader--these trees are nearly indestructable. If one grew with a double leader (trunk) I doubt it would split in a storm anyway.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 9:34AM
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Dang, I KNEW some one was going to say that. :) The tree had more conical shape when I bought it, but this year it really spread "out" as opposed to "up". I figured the inadvertent "topping" caused it.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 10:01AM
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I know an arboretum owner who has three Dawn Redwoods. One has horizontal branching, one is conical/pyramidal, and one is quite narrow. All being grown from seeds.

Your branches are darn near horizontal. Expect the tree to continue its growth as it is currently doing. Believe me, the tree isn't going to be as conical as you would have liked it to have been.

Enough said (from me),


    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 1:06PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you know what ....

why spend the next 5 or 10 years rescuing this thing ....

if my yard was as sparse as what your picture looks like .... i would have one pristine, absolute unique, state of the art .. cool tree .... and i would adjust the sprinklers so as to not have to trim it into some weird shape ....

and i wouldn't be fooling around with a bald cypress .... maybe because i am bald.. who knows ... lol

you can do so much better ... i recommend going for it..

good luck


PS: of course... if it special ... then keep it ...

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 1:36PM
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I don't think that baldcypress grows just like a dawn redwood. I have seen dawn redwoods grow in different forms on occasion, but I have never seen it with a baldcypress. If you just leave this tree alone I am 99.5% sure it will start growing into a nice conical shape with a single leader within two or three years. If it doesn't, you may have a cultivar worth growing and propagating for its own unique growth habit.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 1:55PM
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Maybe the problem is that the central leader has been dying/ broken more than once, so the tree has grow out of shape? They are hardy, eventually it will grow properly if you are patient, I should think, but could replace it if you don't want to wait a few years

I've seen quite a bit of variablity with Bald Cypress, some with horitzontal branches, some upward like a Dawn Redwood.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 7:31PM
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Ken - I'll probably have to "wait and see" what form I end up with - my bride has "grounded" me from the nursery for a while. There are 6 different species of trees hiding back there - chineses pistache, black pine, Italian stone pine, crepe myrtle, palo verde, and Black Hills spruce (that one will be toast this summer - just looked too cute at the HD the other day.) I did find a abies numidica at ForestFarm online. Someone recommended them for our heat/humidity - that will have to be my Christmas. :)

I was going to try a "Fat Albert" blue spruce, but when I went back to the nursery in north Ft. Worth (on the sly) - the one they had left suffered from our summer.

Spruce - you've tried some different abies species over there, haven't you? What do you think about a zone 7-8 spruce?

    Bookmark   November 24, 2006 at 9:44PM
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klavier(Z7 Baltimore)

I have seen dawn redwood and bald cypress together. The dawn redwood is always more conical. I haven't personally grown either, so I can't say whether you will be able to grow yours into what you want.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 8:21AM
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Here in Winchester I have just three firs--Nordmann (which is starting verly slowly but should do OK), Korean (the species--I just planted it this last year, and Delavayi Forestii (which I moved from my harsh Md site because it got killed back by frosts every year. People tell me there is no hope for it here, but so far it has done well). But firs can look fine for a few years, but when they get older really look terrible if the climate and soil aren't right.

In the National Arboretum, A. numidica is the star along with a hybrid, Abies vilmorinii, cephalonica X pinsapo. Straight pinsapo does well here in the Virginia Arboretum, along with holophylla (I think it's holophylla), and Nordman fir. There are some others, but like in so many arboretums, there are few labels and fir identification is something I have not mastered yet.

Of all these, I would think the Vilmorinii and the numidica would do best in hot dry climates. Maybe also the pinsapo, but I don't personally care much for the color--kind of a grayish green, or the texture--kind of rough and spiny.


    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 9:54AM
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Thanks all for your input. Here I go (don't tell the DW):)

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 8:27PM
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