Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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 Non-Natives Questions

Lantana failing to bloom from Tampa FL
October 04, 2012 - I reside in central Florida. I have planted several lantana the orange,red,yellow type. I don't have proper species name. They have been in the ground 3 weeks with 2" of potting soil around root ba...
view the full question and answer

Shrubs and trees over septic tank in Killen AL
May 20, 2013 - Our church has 5year old blue rug juniper, a crape myrtle and two shrubs I can't identify planted over the septic tank which is surrounded with concrete and asphalt. I am afraid these will cause a pr...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock for non-native Plumbago auriculata
May 19, 2008 - I planted some full plumbago plants that were in containers, in a partially shaded area, they had beautiful flowers when I purchased them, but have since lost them all and the plant is looking very wi...
view the full question and answer

Availability of non-native Elijah blue fescue
June 01, 2007 - I'm looking for Elijah blue fescue. Do you sell?
view the full question and answer

Care of Rio Grande Wild Petunia
July 17, 2007 - I have bought the Rio Grande Wild Petunia, Ruellia davisiorum. How should I look after it?
view the full question and answer

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