The Cupressus Macrocarpa is an evergreen, coniferous tree native to California. It is also known as Monterey Cypress and its binomial name is Hesperocyparis macrocarpa. It is simply referred to as Macrocarpa in New Zealand, where you can find it in abundance. This tree is a genus of Hesperocyparis belonging to the family of Cupressaceae.
If you are looking for bonsai for creating exquisite topiary, clipped hedge, and canopy, try the Cupressus Macrocarpa bonsai. The Central Coast of California is the natural habitat of the tree, with the current distribution limited to Pebble Beach and Point Lobos.
Cupressus Macrocarpa is a beautiful medium-sized evergreen conifer that can grow 40 – 70ft. (12 – 21m) tall and 20 – 30ft. (6 – 24m) wide. The trees in their youth resemble a narrow, pyramidal shape. The older trees, though, turn irregular and flat due to the effect of strong winds. A trunk can grow up to 2.5m (over 8 ft.) across. The ravishing pale reddish bark h shallow ridges that open up into grayish, scaly plates.
The Cupressus Macrocarpa foliage is thick and is bright green. An interesting feature of the leaves is that they emanate a sweet lemony aroma when crushed. The scaly leaves of the tree are 2 – 5mm long and can be found on rounded shoots. The dense, hardy foliage is made up of scales that remain soft in the initial years. The scales develop fully after 4 – 5 years.
Trivia: Physical evidence suggests the Cupressus Macrocarpa tree is 284 years old. However, due to the huge trunks, people believe that these trees could be 2,000 years old. The tree was introduced to New Zealand around 1860 and a few of them still exists. The 160-year-old tree located in St. Barnabas Church in Stoke, Nelson, New Zealand bears testimony to the fact.
This guide is an attempt to acquaint advanced bonsai enthusiasts with Cupressus Macrocarpa Bonsai Tree care.
How long does it take to grow Cupressus Macrocarpa Bonsai?
The Cupressus Macrocarpa is quite a fast-growing tree. The annual growth rate of the species varies from 30 – 60cm(16 – 23in.) a year. Generally, after 10 years of growth, the tree achieves a height of 7.5ft. (2.5m) and width of 4.5ft. (1.5m). An interesting aspect of the growth of Cupressus Macrocarpa is that it grows much larger in New Zealand and Australia than in its habitat. It happens due to the presence of favorable conditions and the absence of native pathogens. A specimen, with a trunk diameter of more than 15ft. (4.6m) is considered the largest in the world!
The growth rate of Cupressus Macrocarpa trees also depends on the cultivar. This attractive tree loves cool moist summer and mild winter oceanic climates. They grow best in places with those climatic conditions like the California coast, New Zealand, and Australia. They are also found in Great Britain, Ireland, France, Greece, and also South Africa.
Now you know how long and how big a Cupressus Macrocarpa bonsai can grow. We can now discuss the basics about the best climatic conditions, soil requirements, and other ways to take care of the Cupressus Macrocarpa bonsai.
Position and lighting
Cupressus Macrocarpa bonsai craves full sun and warmth. It thrives outdoors more than indoors. So, you have to make sure the bonsai is receiving adequate sunlight, or else its growth will stagnate.
Cupressus Macrocarpa bonsai shows a preference towards moist and warm climatic conditions with full sun exposure. They are typically hardy when grown in USDA zones between 7 and 10. It can barely tolerate freezing temperatures. However, if the temperature drops below borderline freezing, it can harm the tree.
Cupressus Macrocarpa thrives in well-drained light sandy, medium loamy as well as heavy clay soils. It can also grow in nutritionally poor soil. Dry and moist soil is ideal for the tree. Cupressus Macrocarpa can tolerate the severe dry condition of drought. It can grow in acid, neutral and alkaline soils.
The Cupressus Macrocarpa bonsai needs abundant water to stay healthy. During the hot months of summer, you need to water the plant diligently. Otherwise, the beautiful needles might turn brown and can lose their fragrance. Macrocarpa also likes to dry out a bit, in between watering. In such cases, you can skip watering for a day. You should also keep the foliage misted.
During winter, you can decrease the frequency of watering. Keep in mind to gauge the moisture level of the soil before watering.
Fertilizing is recommended for the growth of Cupressus Macrocarpa species of bonsai. You can use fish, blood, and bone organic fertilizers. Always fertilize on moist soil and do not apply it within 4 – 6 weeks of root trimming. Fertilize the plant once every two weeks from early to late autumn and early spring to early summer. For healthy roots, you can use organic seaweed tonic.
The Cupressus Macrocarpa is a versatile tree and is quite popular as a bonsai. If you are looking for a specimen plant, canopies, and hedges, look no further than the Macrocarpa. They are also perfect as ornamental Mediterranean gardens or coastal gardens. A gamut of Cupressus Macrocarpa trees has beautified the popular Golden Gate Park.
How to Plant and Grow Cupressus Macrocarpa Bonsai?
You want to know how to plant and grow Cupressus Macrocarpa bonsai? That’s great! But first, let us get an idea about the popular cultivars which are commonly used:
‘Goldcrest: ’a prize-winning cultivar consisting of semi-juvenile bright golden yellow foliage. It has received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit
‘Lutea’: it is a bushy, loosely conical tree with light yellow to green foliage
‘Aurea Saligna’: it is a pyramidal tree with soft, draping thread-like foliage
‘Golden Pillar’: it is an evergreen, upright conifer that can grow up to 20ft. (6m) tall and 4ft. (1.2m) wide
‘Brunniana Aurea’: conical conifer with gold feathery foliage standing atop thin pendant branches.
Now that you are aware of the popular Cupressus Macrocarpa bonsai cultivars, let us dig deep into the specifics of how to plant them from seeds and grow them.
It is relatively easy to germinate and grow Cupressus Macrocarpa seeds. To start with, sow the seeds in warm water for 24 hours. Drain off the water fully, put them in a freezer bag, and pop them in the refrigerator. You can use a little vermiculite before putting it in the freezer bag so that the seeds can retain moisture. The ideal temperature and duration for this treatment would be 4°C for 4 weeks.
Once they are sown ready, fill your plant container with well-drained, moist potting compost. You can use plant pots, seed trays, plug trays, or even DIY containers with drainage holes. Sow the seeds on the surface, cover the seeds with a fine layer of sieved compost or vermiculite. Gently water the soil and keep them at room temperature. Try to provide a high humid condition if possible. Germination will start within a few weeks of sowing. The seedlings require full sun to grow. After 2 – 3 years of growth, they can be placed outside.
You can propagate Cupressus Macrocarpa bonsai species from both seeds and hardwood cuttings. The hardwood cuttings taken in winter seem easier to root and grow as trees. Germinated seeds, though a viable option, requires more time and effort on your part.
Pruning and wiring
The Cupressus Macrocarpa is a low-maintenance tree that requires minimal pruning. It is best to prune and train the branches of this species in early spring or fall. You should also be cautious about not pruning the shoots too early as that might lead to die-back in the fall. When you notice the shoots have started producing lateral ramification, you can prune and shorten the new shoots.
Wiring and unwiring of the tree can be done any time of the year. Make sure the tree does not remain wired for more than 2- 3 months. During the growing seasons, the period may even get shorter. If you wire the tree for a long time, it might cause semi-permanent scarring of the tree. Do not wire or unwire when the bark is wet as it might damage the bark.
If your young Cupressus Macrocarpa tree is placed in a small pot, repotting is required every 6 months. As the tree starts growing, it can be repotted every 2 – 3 years. Spring is the best season for repotting. For younger trees, repotting should be done in spring and autumn. A few things to remember – repotting should not be done repotting out of season, n on a hot day, and avoid direct sunlight during repotting.
How to Care for Your Cupressus Macrocarpa Bonsai?
The foundation of proper Cupressus Macrocarpa bonsai care is healthy roots. Here are a few points to follow to achieve and maintain healthy roots. First and foremost, follow a routine for watering, fertilizing, and pruning.
The Cupressus Macrocarpa bonsai loves sunlight and airflow. So, it is imperative to keep the bonsai in a place where both can be achieved. Keep it in a position so that it cannot be knocked over by pets or stray animals.
Trim off the dead parts and pull out weeds whenever you notice them.
Save the tree from strong winds.
Remove caterpillars before they make their home in the foliage, especially in younger trees. Else, they will kill that part of the foliage or turn them brown.
Pests and diseases
Cupressus Macrocarpa trees are susceptible to cypress canker if they are not grown in ideal climatic conditions. This disease, caused by the fungus Seiridium Cardinale, can kill the tree after a few years.