Bald Cypress: Prune saplings while bedded in ground?

lpearl

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Good afternoon – I am in south Florida (USDA Zone 10b), new to the forum and pretty fresh behind the ears with bonsai. This Nov I put 6 bald cypress saplings (18 – 24” straight sticks with tap root removed) in the ground over a shallow hard pan of tiles. The tiles are covered with plastic with a shallow lip to help retain moisture.

I may experiment with some options since I have a few to play with and am hoping for some feedback.

Option 1: Leave them entirely alone and just let them grow.
Option 2: BC are heavily apex-dominant, so if I’m thinking about this correctly, I may want to keep the apex bud pinched back to encourage branches low on the trunk for thicker trunk development.
Option 3: Start grow and cut after the first year.
Thanks for your thoughts!
 

choppychoppy

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What is the goal for any of the experiments and/or what would you like to achieve? What question are you trying to answer with your experiments?

The results of the three suggested things aren't experiments as the results are already well known.

#1 - a tree will grow - the longer you leave it the better -no mystery
#2 - the summation is wrong - if the goal is a thicker trunk see #1
#3 - let grow and cut back is the standard practice to build taper I a bald cypress but don't cut after 1 year - wait until thickness of trunk desired then cut and repeat
 

lpearl

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Thanks for the reply. Yes, the goal is to thicken the trunk first. While the results are well known to others -- and therefore my question is put out to those others like yourself -- it is still very much an experiment to me! So, #1 I understand. Could you expand on #2? Why am I wrong that pinching the apex bud would encourage budding & branches lower on the trunk that would help thicken the trunk below the new lower branches as opposed to just continuing to get taller growth? Obviously, I am still digesting and I appreciate feedback that helps me pull together the physiological threads.
Thanks again.
 

KiwiPlantGuy

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Thanks for the reply. Yes, the goal is to thicken the trunk first. While the results are well known to others -- and therefore my question is put out to those others like yourself -- it is still very much an experiment to me! So, #1 I understand. Could you expand on #2? Why am I wrong that pinching the apex bud would encourage budding & branches lower on the trunk that would help thicken the trunk below the new lower branches as opposed to just continuing to get taller growth? Obviously, I am still digesting and I appreciate feedback that helps me pull together the physiological threads.
Thanks again.
Hi lpearl,
I think what @choppychoppy is trying to tell you is that if you leave the tree alone for 5 plus years ( and tree grows to 10 feet plus ) you are going to get trunk girth. Then when you have waited patiently for that time you chop and after that you build all your branches. And I guess if you chop at 1 foot you should finish your tree at 3 foot. Or if you wanted a formal upright with little trunk thickness you let it grow to 3-4 foot, cut top out and work with the branches that you already have and you will also get a lot of back budding for more branches.
And because the Bald Cypress are so apically dominant most Bonsai I have seen from this website and many other photos, all you get is 2-3 foot of trunk with a smattering of tiny branches at the top of that. The BC looses its lower branches for some reason ( may not need them due to apical dominance ).
My 2 cents and I look forward to following along.
WelcoMe to site, and search threads on BC’s as they are plentiful. Research is King, and asking questions is great for everyone.
Charles
 

jeanluc83

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The general sequence is grow, cut back, grow, cut back. Repeat until you have the trunk you want and only then do you focus on branches. For the first 10 years or so all you are growing are trunks.

The timing and location of your chops will dictate your final tree size and taper. I believe the general idea is each trunk chop should be approximately 1/2 - 1/3 the height of the previous chop.
 

choppychoppy

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Thanks for the reply. Yes, the goal is to thicken the trunk first. While the results are well known to others -- and therefore my question is put out to those others like yourself -- it is still very much an experiment to me! So, #1 I understand. Could you expand on #2? Why am I wrong that pinching the apex bud would encourage budding & branches lower on the trunk that would help thicken the trunk below the new lower branches as opposed to just continuing to get taller growth? Obviously, I am still digesting and I appreciate feedback that helps me pull together the physiological threads.
Thanks again.
The fastest way to thicken the trunk mis to plant in ground or a bit box and let grow unchecked for as many years as needed to get the trunk thickness then cut back and grow the next section for the appropriate taper. Continue repeating until line is established and then build branches. The best BC are collected specimens that grew free and we're cut back to nothing but a trunk and development starts there. You need to try to replicate that with your homegrown trees. And many will also ask/tell you you can dig a large BC or purchase a large one very cheap here in florida so many skip this early growing themselves to save many years.

I mean a tree this thick is under $100 at most landscape nurseries in florida.

20171205_080715.jpg
 

Anthony

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Welcome to the group.

Tropics here -

with us, you just put the plant in a 1/3 - 55 US gallon barrel and let it grow.
It will taper for itself and you can train the branches along the way.

3 feet is what was suggested for us as an optimum height.
A trunk of 6 inches in diameter.

You might also want to source a pine for your climate, just for fun.
See Taiwan.
Good Day
Anthony
 

BillsBayou

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How far below the soil line is the tile?

How much of the tap root did you remove? BC seedlings have taproots with a few hairs coming out laterally. You can't cut too much off and just stick them in the ground. I've had good results with cutting the taproots of BC seedlings to 5". I came up with that height because that's how deep I could pot them in 1-gallon containers.

Did you plant them deeper than the uppermost roots? If you bury a BC trunk, it will grow roots on the buried trunk. They won't grow pretty.

I'm curious to see how well your seedling's lateral roots grow over the years. I don't believe you're going to get the wide-buttress flare of BCs collected from wet areas. I think your tree is going to have only a gentle taper from soil to 12" above the soil. Right at the soil line, I expect to see the seedlings grow into a tree that does nothing interesting at the soil line; just goes into the soil. Go to THIS PAGE, click on the photo of the bald cypress trees growing in the ground, and view the photo at 100% zoom (the photo may be larger than your screen; it's big). Note the bases of these trees. They're boring. This is what I see when I see BCs planted in landscapes. They're just not worth collecting. I wouldn't expect your trees to grow any different.

That said...

PROVE ME WRONG! I'm not saying I'm 100% correct on my assessment of your approach. Post some photos of the trees now, next year, and subsequent years. I'm not going anywhere. I REALLY WANT TO SEE what happens. My one piece of advice for anyone using your technique is to LEAVE THE TREE ALONE. Just feed and water until you get it to the size you want.

People here know I'm an advocate of container-grown bald cypress with the roots periodically submerged in water (submerged for at least 6-months, if not years). I've had very positive results from this technique. I want to see what you get without submerging the trees.

Right after Christmas, I'm starting a multi-year project involving BCs with soil-line diameters between 1/2" and 3". I'll post a starting photo when I get them all potted.
 

Zach Smith

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Regardless of where or how you grow your BC, the key to increasing size is to not do any premature pruning. Pruning inhibits growth extension, whether trunk or branch. With apically dominant species, room to run equals trunk heft. I have a couple of BC in my yard I grew from seed started in 2000. They are now approaching 12" trunk diameter and 20' tall. If I had trimmed them along the way, they would be shorter of course but the trunks would likely be only half their current girth. That's just how trees are.

Like Bill, I would love to see how your experiment goes. Please keep us posted.
 

rockm

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You are making basic mistake in trying to do too much at the same time. unrestricted growth is the only way to increase trunk diameter by any meaningful amount. You WANT all the apical growth you can get. That growth will correspond with increasing trunk diameter lower down. Constantly pinching the top in hope of stimulating back branch jumps two steps ahead of simply developing trunk diameter. Trying to do both will do neither.

The best and most productive way to push lower branches is to allow maximum energy to be sent between the strong apex and the roots. Allowing that gross growth pushes energy to the top of the tree. Allowing that to continue until the lower trunk has reached the size you want, THEN chopping back drastically, will reliably produce a profusion of new branching on the trunk. Futzing around with a seedling's top won't produce anywhere near the same amount, if any at all.
 

lpearl

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Great replies! They've been very helpful in twisting my head around to a bit better understanding of what to expect & some of the why. To Bill's questions, the tiles are 5" to 6" below the surface. I cut the tap roots at different lengths depending on the sapling to preserve most of the lateral feeder roots. I planted with soil line at the top-most roots, not deeper. Other than keeping them wet and fertilizing, I will leave them alone! Except... I'm tempted now to pull a few out of the ground to try the bus tub approach (I found BillBayou's posts after posting my question). Come back in a few years and I'll post pics of progress. Thanks all for your directions and additional resource links.
 

Mellow Mullet

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Submersion is the key to increasing girth in bald cypress, plant them in a tub, for seedlings I just use a plastic oil change pan. Drill holes in the bottom for drainage. In the spring, place the container that it is planted in into another with no holes and fill with water. Keep it filled with water all year until it starts getting cold the take it out and cut any roots that have grown out of the drainage holes (there will be many). If you live where it does not get cold, leave it there year round. They love water as much as a Labrador retriever. You will be surprised at how much growth you get and you can control the roots easier in a container. Check out some of my threads here or look on my site for examples.

John

PS - they will buttress some in the ground and make knees, but it will take years. Don't worry about branches until you get the trunk the size you want, especially above where you plan to chop. As others have mentioned, let the top grow, it needs to grow tall to get thick. However, it will continue to get a wider base after the chop, especially in you grow it in water.
 

sorce

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Our BC gurus jump on BC posts like there ain't been a good BC since BC.

Welcome to Crazy!

Sorce
 

lpearl

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I couldn't be more pleased with the response! Any advise on fertilizing during the trunk-development years?
 

BillsBayou

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I couldn't be more pleased with the response! Any advise on fertilizing during the trunk-development years?
Follow the 4F Rule: Fertilize the F- out of the F-ing F-er

I made that up.

You're asking good questions. Where the choice is "Learn from your mistakes" and "Learn from others' mistakes", you chose the latter. Beginning bonsai is different from being a beginner in many other arts. It takes you a full season or a few years to realize how you screwed up a tree. Screwing up an oil painting is something you see right off.

Back to fertilizing. Bonsai have differing needs depending on the different stages of their development. Joe Day (Azalea City Bonsai Society) identified 10 stages of bonsai. You're at Stage 0. You want to develop a seedling to the point where you can begin thinking about how you want to make it into a bonsai. Pre-pre-bonsai, as it were. Thus, pump the tree hard.
 

BillsBayou

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Our BC gurus jump on BC posts like there ain't been a good BC since BC.
I'm working up an idea that goes beyond immersion. The past few years have dumped science into my brain and it's time to begin a big project. No more "Gee, I guess this works." I'm moving on to "I know why."

But first, I need to read up on potatoes.
 

Mellow Mullet

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I'm working up an idea that goes beyond immersion. The past few years have dumped science into my brain and it's time to begin a big project. No more "Gee, I guess this works." I'm moving on to "I know why."

But first, I need to read up on potatoes.

Making Vodka? The ultimate chilli cheese fries?
 

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