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Italian cypress bonsai

Italian cypress’s captivating and outshining qualities make it a favorite among bonsai hobbyists. There’s nothing more enchanting than its blue-green leaves, which have an awl-shaped spreading with a scale-like appearance. 

In its natural form, the tree looks like a pencil, because of that they are commonly known as pencil pine. 

Some features like flowers and cones are common in wild trees but rare in bonsai. But proper care can make those possibilities into reality. So, this post is about maintaining, feeding, and all kinds of care you can provide to your Italian cypress bonsai, in detail.

Italian Cypress Bonsai Quick Facts

FactDescription 
Scientific NameCupressus sempervirens
FamilyCupressaceae
Native toEastern Mediterranean includes Greece, Libya, Jordan, Iran, and Turkey zones.
LifespanOver 1000 years. It is reported that a 4000 old Italian cypress exists in Iran. 
HeightTheir average height is about 50 feet tall and 3 feet spread. If it gets its best circumstances it can reach over 115 feet and 10 feet in width. 
LeavesGreen scale-like leaves that follow a whorled arrangement.
FlowerInconspicuous flowers.
FruitSmall round cones.
CultivationPopularly cultivated for bonsai. 
SymbolismMourning.
UsesFor its ornamental values. 

Italian Cypress Bonsai Care Guide

Italian cypress is mainly known for being drought tolerant and a fast-growing tree. They like growing in dry conditions. If you take care of its water, soil, and temperature needs you will have a healthy Italian cypress bonsai. Follow the key steps for keeping your bonsai healthy and long-lasting. 

Italian Cypress Bonsai Watering

Being from the Mediterranean areas, they are equipped to dry conditions. Seedlings and young trees need to be watered regularly until their roots get established. Maturing trees need watering only once a week. In their natural habitat, they do fine with normal rainfall amounts of water. 

During watering, you need to deep soak the soil till the root ball is saturated. A three-inch mulch can help to retain the exact amount of moisture in the soil for a longer time. Focus watering on the base, instead of leaves to prevent fungal infections. 

Learn more about Watering a bonsai tree.

Italian Cypress Bonsai Temperature Tolerance

They are known for being a high-temperature-resistant tree. With good hydration, they are able to tolerate more than 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike different cypress species, they are cold-hardy and can survive in frost with temperatures below -20 °C or -4 °F. But seedlings and young trees should be protected from cold winds. In terms of humidity, dry air associated with high temperatures is more tolerable than cold winter air. 

Right Placement for Italian Cypress Bonsai

Italian cypress are sun-loving trees and they prefer sunlight over six hours in a day. They thrive outside during spring and summer. Indoors, they prefer places where light has a good amount of reach. Place the tree over a table near a window for calming appearance and light supply. Do that especially during winter, when outside temperature hits below 40 degrees mark. If every space in your house lacks sunlight, you can invest in some grow lights.

Repotting Italian Cypress Bonsai

Bonsai should be re-potted periodically every 2-3 years, and also when the root system starts to capture every corner of the container. Mature trees can be repotted every 4-5 years. 

Check the bottom of the drainage hole, if the root is coming out and getting wounds because of the compact space to detect root binding without taking the whole tree out of the pot. 

Repotting serves many purposes, like an opportunity to prune the roots, fresh soil, and root growth. Except for winter and fall in other seasons roots are growing most, so it’s the ideal time to re-pot. To re-pot;

  • Remove the soil from the old pot and take the tree out. A root hook or root rake will do the soil removal process much easier.
  • Remove the soil around the roots, and tease and untangle the root bounds. Trim one-third of the feeder root and minimize root mass by pruning. Never prune more than 30% from where you have started.
  • In the new pot put a layer of gravel for good drainage and add fresh soil, place the tree, and add more soil till its covering the whole root. Gently press and work around the soil to remove air pockets. 
  • After repotting water thoroughly and give it time to establish in the new soil.

Best Soil for Italian Cypress Bonsai

Italian cypress can put up with a vast range of soil types as long as it doesn’t get waterlogged. A reasonably fertile soil that is well draining is ideal when it comes to these evergreens. If the soil is loamy and clayey, they don’t even require heavy fertilizer or organic matter. Ideally, a pH of 5.5-7.5 is perfect, which means slightly acidic to alkaline soil.

How to Guides for Italian Cypress Bonsai

Now we will talk about pruning, feeding, wiring, propagating Italian cypress bonsai, and how you can perform each.  

How to Prune Italian Cypress Bonsai

It’s best to prune the tree right before dormancy, which means during summer. Before pruning, you have to observe whether the tree is developed enough to handle a pruning session. Italian cypress can be pruned in its young stage, but a seedling-like plant won’t be able to survive the wound. A visible knee is a tell-tale sign that the tree is mature and ready to prune. Italian cypress grows at a sharp angle, hence it’s possible to get a gnarled-looking branch. 

  • Trim the sides with sterilized bonsai shears to promote smooth and even growth. 
  • Pull the leaves that are growing in the trunk, unless you want them to extend into branches. 
  • Use your own judgment and snip here and there to your desired appearance. 
  • Old woods takes time to heal, so don’t target them while pruning, and if you did, use cut paste to boost sooner recovery. 

Learn more about Pruning

How to Wire an Italian Cypress Bonsai

Once the tree has a well-established root system, it can be wired. But, growing season wiring can be risky, as the trunk and branches will grow rapidly, if it is left unnoticed, it will create ugly marks on the barks. 

Copper and aluminum, both bonsai wires are available. Copper wire is sturdier than aluminum. I prefer aluminum because they are flexible and good for trees’ health. No matter what kind of wire you use the diameter should be 1/3rd of the branch. 

  • Coniferous trees should be wired at the end of autumn and the start of winter.
  • Picture in your mind the end result to determine where you will wire them. 
  • Anchor the wire at the base of the soil and start wrapping while pointing towards the tip of the tree, keep a 45-degree angle and a constant spacing.
  • The trunk can be wired double times but the branches should have single-binding. 
  • Once the wiring is done, start bending. Slowly hold the outside of the branches and bend them into a shape that you want them to grow.
  • Once the tree starts to outgrow the diameter of the wire, it should be removed. Never leave the wire for more than three months. 

Learn more about How to Wire a Bonsai Tree Branch

How to Fertilize Italian Cypress Bonsai

Italian cypress doesn’t require fertilizer except during the growing seasons. A ratio of 18-8-8 slow-release fertilizer once a month during the growing season will boost the growth even more. They can get fertilizer burn easily, so you must avoid heavy fertilizers. 

Check this detailed guide on How to Fertilize your Bonsai Trees the Correct Way

How to Grow an Italian Cypress Bonsai

Propagating Italian bonsai from seeds and cuttings will be fun and rewarding. Both methods possess some advantages and disadvantages. Cuttings will not always give the same features as the mother plant, so seeds are the preferred option. But seeds take more time to cultivate. The option you will choose will depend on your preference and I will show you both methods below:

How to Grow Italian Cypress Bonsai from Seed:

  • To propagate bonsai from seeds, first, you need to collect seeds. You can get them from a wild cone or you can purchase them from online. 
  • First, take a tray or a pot and apply a layer of water-draining substance like pebbles, lava rock, or grit. 
  • Over this apply bonsai potting mix.
  • Place the seeds on the surface of the soil and leave some space between each. Bigger seeds need bigger space.
  • Add another thin layer of potting mix. 
  • Compact the soil with your finger pads lightly.
  • Moist the soil generously and keep them near a windowsill to get plenty of sun. 
  • It will take a few weeks to months to germinate, but wait for at least a year to transplant them in individual pots.

Check this detailed guide on How to grow a bonsai tree from seed?

How to Grow Italian Cypress Bonsai from Cuttings:

Many prefer cutting to propagate Italian cypress as they are relatively easy and quick. Choosing a healthy mother plant is important for this method. Now let’s talk about important points for cutting propagation:

  • Use a sharp knife like shears or grafting tools for one sharp cut and to avoid further wounds.
  • The cuttings should be four to seven inches long and every cutting should have at least three needles.
  • Use a moist substrate and mix the rooting hormone to enhance the success chance of development and plant the cuttings in it. 
  • Keep it in a place where it can get enough sunlight along with humidity. Keep it like that till the roots start to develop. After that, they will be ready to move into individual pots. 

Common Italian Cypress Bonsai Problems and Solutions / Diseases & Pests

Cypress cranker

This fungus damages cypress trees by getting inside via cracks in their bark. It creates sticky and harmful substances that bother the flow of sap, These cracks can happen due to pruning cuts. The spores of the fungus spread around through the water and pruning tools. The sticky substance they produce also attracts cypress bark beetles. They are responsible to curve tunnels in the trunk. But in bonsai they are rare. 

When a tree is affected by this fungus, it shows specific symptoms. One of the signs is dieback, which starts at the top of the tree and slowly moves down. Another sign is discoloration. The needles turn brown or yellow prematurely. 

Solution: 

The only proven method to treat cypress cranker is to prune the affected parts to stop the further spreading of the disease. 

Bagworms

During their larval stage, bagworms feed on shrubs and trees. These sneaky intruders take bits of the tree and camouflage their waves with it. Because of that they are visible only when there is an extensive number of them. Severely infested trees can wither away and die.

Solution: 

Insecticides like Cyfluthrin, Carbaryl, and Acephate work well to get rid of them. They are most effective when they are in the larva phase.

Italian Cypress Bonsai Images

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