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
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - July 26, 2008

From: Brooklyn, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Container Gardens, Trees
Title: Failure to thrive of potted blue-green cypress
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I received a small 14" potted blue-green cypress for Christmas 2007. Kept it in a bright window, not direct sun. It was doing great until two weeks ago when it started turning brown from the center. Not dry, just brown. Put it outside in its pot for more sun. It's getting browner by the minute. What is wrong with it? Can this little tree be saved? Thank you very much.

ANSWER:

We were puzzled about a couple of things: first, what exactly is a "blue-green cypress"? We were looking for a botanical name that might lead us to clues on what is wrong with your little tree. The closest we could come is xCupresscyparis leylandii, Naylor's Blue Leyland Cypress. The "x" in front of the botanical name is not a typo, it means this is a hybrid, and we know it is a non-native hybrid. This University of Florida Extension article Naylor's Blue Leyland Cypress tells us this is not a pot plant, but grows fairly rapidly and very large, requiring a large-scale landscape to fit in. We turned to our Native Plant Database, and found, among others, Cupressus bakeri (Modoc cypress) and Taxodium distichum (bald cypress). These are representative of the other cypresses listed, all members of the Cupressaceae family.

So, second question, what is one of these trees doing in a pot? These are all BIG trees. Furthermore, they are all conifers (cone-bearing trees) and have long, deep taproots. With a taproot like that, transplanting, even when they are quite small, is very difficult. If the taproot is broken in the process, the tree can quickly die. We're just speculating here, but we think what you got was intended as a seasonal decorative item, and never had any chance of growing or surviving much longer than it already has. When that baby tree's taproot hit the bottom of the pot, it began to decline. Putting it suddenly outside, without gradual seasoning, no doubt was the finishing touch. And, even had you transplanted that tree outside right after Christmas, it still probably would not have survived, since most of them prefer warmer temperatures than you would have in New York, although the USDA Plant Profile shows Taxodium distichum (bald cypress) growing in New York State. But it wouldn't be that particular tree, because it is one of the very few conifers that are deciduous, and drop their leaves in the Fall.

We're sorry we couldn't help you any more, and hope at least the pot was an attractive one you can reuse. But don't plant a cypress in it!

 

More Container Gardens Questions

Vine for trellis in Brooklyn, New York
June 11, 2014 - Hello, I am looking for a native vine to grow on a trellis in a large container. I live in Brooklyn, NY, and the area is in part shade. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Regulations for transporting plants to Texas from Florida
July 29, 2008 - We are relocating to TX from FL, I have a collection of potted palm trees and quite a few potted tropical plants (none are invasive)that I would like to bring with us, we will be traveling by car and ...
view the full question and answer

Disappearing oranges from Satsuma orange in Austin
June 25, 2008 - I had many tiny future oranges on my Satsuma Orange Tree until a few days ago. Suddenly, all were gone except one. They weren't on the ground and the tree itself seems incredibly healthy. It is gr...
view the full question and answer

Decline of indoor lemon cypress
June 25, 2008 - I received a lemon cypress as a gift. I have kept it indoors in bright light and tried to keep it moist. When I received the plant the foliage was soft and now it has become brittle and dry even tho...
view the full question and answer

Cedar sage not blooming in pots in Austin
September 14, 2012 - I have cedar sage (salvia roemeriana) in containers on a dappled-shade apartment patio in Austin, TX. This is their first season here, transplanted in May (it's now September). All the plants have be...
view the full question and answer

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