Cypress trees, and even a cypress forest, can be a great fit depending on your location and land.
Gardeners sometimes skip over cypress trees because they believe that they only grow in wet, boggy soil.
This is false!
A cypress tree can grow on all types of land.
Although their native environment is constantly wet, they also thrive in dry land (even withstanding the periodic drought).
Here’s what you should know about the potential for cultivating this valuable tree on your land.
1. What is a cypress forest?
A cypress forest is an ecosystem in the western and southern U.S. dominated by one or more cypress species.
Most of the time, cypress species are comprised of Cupressus macrocarpa.
2. Where are cypress trees found?
Cypress forests grow all over the world.
Different types of cypress are native to the Mediterranean, Asia, North America, etc.
Cypress trees can live for over 1,000 years.
3. What do cypress trees represent?
Throughout history, cypress trees have represented a variety of things such as death, mourning, and the underworld.
This stems from the fact that — when cut back too severely — the tree fails to regenerate.
4. What are the different types of cypress trees?
Sometimes, people mix up cypress trees and conifer trees.
In this list, we’ll discuss the commonly known cypress trees that you should know.
Bald cypress trees
Unlike the other trees on this list, bald cypress trees are deciduous conifers.
They shed their needles (leave-like) in the fall.
This is where they get the name “bald” cypress because they drop the needles so early in the season.
The branches of the bald cypress are often draped with clumps of Spanish moss.
Many people use this moss to identify them along with their “knees.”
The knees are a special kind of root.
These trees are valued for being rot-resistant.
They’re often used to make fence posts, doors, flooring, caskets, cabinetry, boats, etc.
However, they’re now harvested less because they are slow growing.
Bald cypress trees grow along rivers and in wetlands, making them excellent at soaking up floodwaters and preventing erosion.
They can also trap pollutants and prevent them from spreading.
On top of this, certain animals (ex: frogs, toads, and salamanders) use bald cypress swamps as breeding grounds.
Cupressus nootkatensis – “Green Arrow”
Also known as the Green Arrow Nootka cypress, this tree is native to the west coast of North America.
Its growth extends from Alaska to Northern California.
The range of location means the tree is hardy — a USDA Zone 5.
That said, it can still grow happily in Zone 9, and it’s quite adaptable to that climate.
It has a narrow form and rich, deep green color.
It also has a fairly small footprint despite its height.
You can find this cypress over 20 feet tall, but it’s only about 2 to 3 feet wide.
Cupressus nootkatensis – “Sparkling Arrow”
This cypress doesn’t grow quite as quickly as the Green Arrow, but it has a similar form.
Because of its narrow nature, you can plant this cypress in groups of three.
Cupressus cashmeriana – “Kashmir cypress”
This is a graceful cypress that’s native to Bhutan.
However, unlike the two varieties above, it’s enormous.
Additionally, the tree is only hardy to Zone 9.
This means it doesn’t work in every climate.
You should make sure you have room as well as a relatively mild climate.
This tree is native to a monsoonal climate, and it does very well with moderate irrigation in a typical garden.
It’s blue-green, which makes it fairly compatible with any landscape.
This cypress also has the potential to commandeer all water around it, which means it’ll need some water-thrifty neighbors.
Cupressus macrocarpa – “Chandleri”
Similar to the Kashmir cypress, the Chandleri cypress is a softer option.
If you live in a mild climate, then you might consider planting this tree.
It has a narrow frame, but it’s only hardy to a Zone 9. Tradeoffs!
Many consider this cypress to be one of the best “punctuation marks” in a garden — doesn’t matter the style.
It’s relatively low maintenance and less dramatic than many of the trees above.
If you’re looking for a deep, rich green tree to add to your garden or create a forest out of…this is a great choice!
Cupressus macrocarpa – “Greenstead Magnificient”
This is a beautiful cypress with seafoam green foliage.
People love this tree because its foliage is such a unique hue.
That said, the tree is only hardy to Zone 8 and doesn’t like humid summers much, so you’ll need to make sure it’s compatible with your area before planting it.
Also, keep in mind that this cypress is horizontal and spreading in habit, which is unusual.
Cupressus macrocarpa – “Coneybearii Aurea”
If you’re looking for a tree that has a presence, the Coneybearii Aurea is your best bet.
It has an impressive height (growing over 12 inches per year), and its breadth keeps up this pace as well.
You should consider this tree if you’re located in Zones 8 to 10.
People love this cypress during the winter.
With its green-yellow hue, it lights up gray days and is particularly eye-catching.
Cupressus arizonica var. glabra – “Blue Ice”
If you need a hardier tree, the Blue Ice Arizona cypress is a great go-to.
It’s hardy to zone 6.
It can flourish in both drier summers and cooler nights.
Its needles are light, silvery, powder-blue — a really pretty option!
Cupressus arizonica var. glabra – “Sulfurea”
As its name might suggest, Sulfurea is a sulfur-yellow cypress with a whitish/pale yellow cast.
It stands out in the garden or as a full cypress forest when paired with deep greens or maroon foliage.
Cupressus x leylandii – “Gold Rider”
This is a cross between the Cupressus nootkatensis and Cupressus macrocarpa.
It has a mixed reputation, but when it’s planted appropriately, it can turn out well.
It receives the nickname “Gold Rider” because it has a uniform golden color that’s vibrant when new growth pushes in spring.
It’s recommended for zones up to 8a in the Southeast, and the Gold Rider performs well in most parts of the US.
Cupressus sempervirens – “Monshel” or “Tiny Tower Italian Cypress”
If you have a smaller space where you’d like to put a cypress, then the Tiny Tower can be a good choice.
It grows more slowly than the species listed above, and it’s often only about 8 feet tall and 1 foot wide.
It’s also well-suited to containers in addition to in-ground planting.
So, this may not be your first choice for a cypress forest, but it’s still a great option for a cypress on your land.
It’s hardy to a Zone 8, but its sweet spot is right around Zone 7a.
5. Are cypress trees toxic to humans?
No cypress trees are listed as toxic to humans by entities such as California Poison Control.
However, the Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) has been reported as poisonous at least once in online wild food databases.
Most people wondering if cypress forests are toxic are those that are foraging for food.
Trees generally offer at least one edible plant part.
For example, some needled evergreens provide nutrition through their needles, bark, and even sap.
You’ll likely hear that cypress trees can be consumed, but it’s important to understand which type of cypress the wild food enthusiasts are referencing.
Unfortunately, most botanicals referred to as cypresses are not edible.
None of the trees that have “cypress” in their common name should be eaten.
However, two trees don’t bear the name “cypress” in their common name but are considered part of the cypress family and can be eaten.
For instance, the one-seed juniper tree has berries that can be eaten cooked or raw.
They can also be ground as flour.
In addition, the inner bark can be eaten — either cooked or raw.
Another example is the summer cypress which isn’t a tree but rather an annual herb that is grown in the wild.
It can also be cultivated in ornamental and herb gardens.
The summer cypress is named for its appearance as a miniature tree, growing to 1 foot in height.
If you’re seeking food sources in a forest, consider an evergreen needled tree instead of a cypress forest.
This type of tree has more of a history as a food source than cypress trees.
6. Where is the largest cypress forest in the world?
The largest cypress forest in the world is located in East Texas on Caddo Lake.
Caddo Lake is a 25,400-acre lake and bayou on the border of Louisiana and Texas.
This lake is the only natural lake in Texas.
Scientists believe it formed when floodwater —blocked by massive log jams on the Red River — backed up into the Cypress Bayou watershed.
The lake is a big draw for the area as are the Bald Cypress trees in and surrounding the water.
The area is also known for having Bigfoot “sightings.”
People are so passionate about the existence of Bigfoot that they hold conferences and go through the cypress forest looking for proof annually.
7. Why is a cypress forest valuable?
People love cypress wood because it’s both insect and rot-resistant.
The compressed wood grain and growth rings in the wood also increase the value and make it less likely to twist or warp.
If you’re considering planting a cypress forest on your land, here are some of the uses.
It can be a valuable investment if executed the right way!
Lumber from a cypress forest creates an oily resin that makes the milled lumber water-resistant, decay-resistant, and insect-repellant
Cypress lumber can be used for roof shingles, boats, posts, pilings, caskets, water tanks, sugar crates, furniture, appliances, construction uses, and more
Cypress wood has been used for dugout canoes and boats
Lumber from a cypress forest can be used to build log homes
The wood from cypress trees can be used for boat docks and piers
Cypress wood is used for siding and roofing shingles for houses
Lumber from a cypress forest is used for outdoor furniture
Cypress wood can be used to make paneling to cover walls (it also takes on stains, oils, sealers, and paints well)
Ground cypress trees are used to make mulch
Cypress oil is sometimes used in shampoo and beauty products
8. How do you care for cypress trees?
A cypress forest doesn’t grow on its own overnight!
Before you can grow a cypress forest, you should start by planting a cypress tree and learning the nuances of caring for it.
Here are some helpful steps that can get you started.
Choose a site with full sun or partial shade
Make sure the right type of soil is present
- Many gardeners believe that the soil must be wet in order for a cypress tree to thrive. This isn’t necessarily the case. Instead, you want to make sure that rich, acidic soil is on the plot of land where you are growing cypress.
Consider your climate
- Cypress trees (depending on the type) are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 10. If you’re not familiar with these zones, make sure you do additional research
Plant the tree correctly
- Drench the soil around the tree after planting and covering the root zone with 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch
- Give the tree a good soaking every week for the first few months
- Make sure you water your cypress tree most in the spring (when they enter a growth spurt) and in the fall (just before they go dormant)
- Although it’s best for the cypress to have water, they can withstand the occasional drought if they’ve been planted and established well
Wait to fertilize
- Don’t fertilize the cypress tree until a year after planting it
- If your cypress tree is growing on a regularly fertilized lawn, then it won’t need additional fertilizer once it’s established. However, if not, you can fertilize it with a balanced fertilizer or a thin layer of compost every year or two
9. How much does a cypress tree grow per year?
Many people like the idea of having a big cypress tree in their yard.
While most yards can handle a 6- or 12-foot tree, cypress trees can become gigantic fast.
When you plant a cypress tree correctly, you encourage its growth.
On average, cypress trees grow around 24 to 36 inches per year when planted young.
They also have the ability to survive in many places.
So, if you don’t prune it back, it will grow at a significant pace.
If you’re looking to grow an entire forest of cypress trees on your property, then make sure you do it a ways from your house because they will grow to a significant size.
Cypress trees are a beautiful addition to a landscape, but you must choose the type of cypress thoughtfully and plant it correctly.
Make sure you have space for this type of tree in your yard and live in the correct climate before pursuing this option.
Otherwise, if you’re looking to plant a cypress forest for commercial reasons, this can be a great investment.
Just be sure to do your research!
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