Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Monday - April 14, 2008

From: Bertram, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Transplants, Watering, Trees
Title: Failure of Bald Cypress to fully leaf out
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My family just moved to a house in Burnet County, about 7 miles south of Bertram, close to the Balcones Canyonlands NWR, with very rocky limestone soil. We bought several trees last fall, including a couple of Shumard Oaks, a Chinese Pistache, and a Montezuma Baldcypress; of these, only the Montezuma Baldcypress has not fully leafed out so far, with leaves only appearing less than a third of the way up the tree. My dad has been watching it closely, and said that the highest branch that had started to leaf out has lost them. We bought it because we love the look of the true Baldcypress, but the Montezuma was supposed to be more drought-tolerant. At the nursery we got it from in Leander there was a nice specimen planted that was approximately 30-40ft tall. Do have any particular idea if there's anything really wrong, or if it's just being a little slow?

ANSWER:

There are a couple of things that could be causing the problem in your Taxodium mucronatum (Montezuma bald cypress). One is that you are located somewhat north of what is considered the normal range for that particular species. According to this USDA Plant Profile, the natural habitat of this tree is a few counties in the southernmost tip of Texas and northern Mexico. However, we don't think this is fatal; often the USDA Plant Profiles are somewhat out of date, and plants will migrate or be cultivated out of the original range. It could mean, though, that the tree will be a little bit slower to develop. The more likely cause of the dieback on the upper reaches of the tree is transplant shock. You didn't say when you transplanted it into your garden, or how long ago. Woody plants, especially trees, should be transplanted in the winter in this part of the country, when they are semi-dormant and most of the fluids in the tree are down near the roots. Also, once a woody plant has been transplanted, it should be watered by sticking a hose down in the dirt around the roots and letting it trickle slowly until the water appears on the surface. This should be done every other day for the first few weeks, and longer if the tree was transplanted in hotter weather.

Our suggestion on this tree is watchful waiting. You might trim off the upper trunk if you feel the wood is actually dead there. Scratch the bark a little bit, if it's green underneath, the trunk is alive, it's just resting. Keep it well watered, and hope that it will recover from the roots up. Here is a U.S. Forest Service website that will give you more information on the amount of moisture the tree needs, and what its prospects are.


Taxodium mucronatum

Taxodium mucronatum

Taxodium mucronatum

 

 

More Pruning Questions

Should black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta) plants be cut back
May 02, 2007 - I have black-eyed susan plants that were beautiful last year and flowered for a long time. Do they need to be cut back and if so, how much?
view the full question and answer

Spring care for Garrya ovata from Pflugerville, TX
February 24, 2014 - Hello again, Mr. S-P, I planted a Mexican silktassel in April 2012 (purchased at the WFC). It has done well, but the leaves are bronzed and splotchy from this winter's freezes. All the stems are...
view the full question and answer

Winter trimming and shaping of native perennials
November 08, 2006 - Granted, it's a bit early, but for planning purposes: What is the best care for shrub-like woody perennials, like Lantana, Copper Canyon Daisy, Salvia greggii, Chile Pequin, Eupatorium wrightii, Pav...
view the full question and answer

Persimmon trunk grown around fence rail in Austin
November 08, 2012 - I have a Texas Persimmon in my backyard that is about 12-15 feet tall. It's been growing next to a chain-link fence and over the years, the top rail of the fence has cut into the bark on the trunk. A...
view the full question and answer

Rocky Mountain Juniper Grazed by Deer
April 29, 2013 - I have four Colorado red cedar (Juniperus scopulorum). The deer have eaten from their height down. Now these narrow top to bottom evergreens have only tops left. Will the bottom fill in if I protect t...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.