Contact Us Host an Event 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
6 ratings

Wednesday - June 25, 2008

From: Allen, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Transplants, Watering, Trees
Title: Decline of indoor lemon cypress
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

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 though the soil is moist to the touch. What am I doing wrong and is there a way to save it???

ANSWER:

For general information on this plant, we are quoting from another answer on the same plant:

"The Lemon Cypress is a cultivar called Goldcrest, or Golden Crest, of Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey cypress). You can read more about the tree from Plants for a Future, Floridata.com and from the Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Here are some intructions for outdoor care from ShootGardening and you can find care instructions for indoor Cupressus macrocarpa at indoor-plant-care.com and from the TopiaryShop."

Just at first glance, the problem you are having sounds like transplant shock. Did you move the plant to a new pot? Was it watered, but with good drainage, on a regular basis? Even if it stayed in the same pot, a sharp change in environment, such as from full sun to shade, or from outside to indoors, can cause transplant shock. For instance, the "mother" plant of this cultivar, Monterey cypress, grows naturally only in a certain part of California, which is pretty different from Collin County, Texas. Or it may have been moved from a regularly-misted greenhouse, to a truck, to a sales floor, to your home, with not much interim care, and be exhausted.

The other alternative, which we hope is not the case, is that it was already diseased when it was purchased or that it has root damage. Sadly, plants are often "forced" into attractive growth or bloom to make them easier to sell, but there is not a sufficient root system to support this growth. This plant is also susceptible to canker that kills the tree, especially if it is grown away from the cool sea breezes. We're going to assume (hope) that it's transplant shock, and try to help you save the plant.

First, no fertilizing. That's usually the first thing people do when a plant is having trouble, douse it with fertilizer. Never fertilize a plant under stress. Next, trim off a lot of the upper part of the plant, 1/2 to 1/3 of the upper structure, only taking care to leave as many leaves as possible, for nutrition. Then, to make sure that there really is moisture around the roots, we like to set the pot in a basin or tub with 2 or 3 inches of water. If your pot has good drainage and good potting soil in it, this will cause water to slowly move upwards in the soil by osmosis. You'll know it's happening because you'll see the water level dropping in the tub. Now, take it out of the tub and let it drain and drain. (Better do this on the porch, all that water might not be good for the floors.) After that initial wetting, try to give it a good dose of water (still making sure it's draining well) every day to every other day. The reason you do the initial soaking of the soil is that water will shoot right through very dry potting soil, and be gone down the drainage hole, leaving the roots thirsty.

Will this save the plant? Sorry, no guarantees, but it's better than watching it droop itself to oblivion.

 

More Trees Questions

Pruning technique for Anacacho Orchid from Austin
May 18, 2011 - I have an Anacacho Orchid tree that is about 8 ft tall and still young. It is doing quite well. I have never pruned it, but lately I have been considering it as some of the top branches are starting t...
view the full question and answer

Need suggestion for a replacement tree in Dallas, TX.
January 23, 2013 - We are going to have a 25' tall tree removed and ground out because every year squirrels chew the branches and make huge piles on the deck and into the pool. This continues for a good month 1.5. Hen...
view the full question and answer

Care of lemon cypress from Winter Springs FL
April 14, 2011 - Please send me information on care of lemon cypress plant. I have one in small container on my patio. Should I take it in the house? Send any helpful information on its care. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Fragrant tree found in Savannah
May 12, 2009 - I was in Savannah last weekend and as we were walking through one of the side streets we were hit with the fragrance of Lilac. I grew up around Lilac bushes but never expected a full in bloom single ...
view the full question and answer

Pruning Post Oaks
July 26, 2014 - I live in Houston and have two post oaks. One is right by my house. I'd like to trim them but was told they are sensitive and might die if I trim them. Is this true? What is the right course of ac...
view the full question and answer

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