Bald Cypress

The stately bald cypress is one of the few trees which grow in water. However, they also do well in a normal garden. Get to know this unusual tree.

Jan 18, 2021 08:36 pm
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Growth type
  • Conifer
  • Main Tree
Growth height (from)
from 3000 cm to 4000 cm
Growth width (from)
from 1000 cm to 1200 cm
Growth characteristics
  • conical
  • upright
Flower shape
  • Cones
Leaf color
  • green
page format
  • needle-shaped
Sheet properties
  • Autumn coloring
Fruit shape
  • Cone
  • sunny
Soil type
  • sandy to clayey
Soil Moisture
  • fresh to Water
ph value
  • neutral to acidic
Lime compatibility
  • sensitive to lime
Nutrient requirements
  • nutrient-rich
  • rich in humus
Decorative or utility value
  • picturesque growth
  • non-toxic
Winter Hardness
  • hardy
Climate zones according to USDA
  • 6
  • Single position
  • Group planting
  • house tree
  • Pond planting
  • Windbreak
Garden style
  • Park area
  • Rhododendron garden
  • Water garden

The Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), also known as the swamp cypress, belongs to the Cupressaceae family. It is closely related to the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) and also looks very similar to this tree.

The native region of the Bald cypress are the swamps and floodplains in temperate to subtropical south eastern North America. The deciduous conifer has adapted itself perfectly to life in the swamps and water: It forms breathing roots, also know as cypress knees, which protrude from the water around the trunk. Inside, they are filled with a roughly structured tissue and have the task of transporting oxygen to the roots.

In Europe, the Bald cypress is already relatively widespread as an ornamental tree - it was introduced around 1640 by John Tradescant the younger, an English gardener and botanist. When the trend towards English landscape gardening emerged in the 18th century, and was adapted across Europe, the bald cypress spread rapidly. Groups of Bald cypress can still be admired today in the artificial lakes of many large landscape parks. The trees can reach very advanced ages - there are specimens known to be over 700 years old in their native locations in the USA.


Bald cypresses form an upright, conical crown. They grow somewhat stouter than dawn redwoods. Mature trees can grow to a height of between 98 and 130 feet and are rarely wider than 33 to 40 feet. Bald cypresses tend to grow slowly, usually between 9.84 and 14 inches per year. The reddish-brown, lengthwise grooved bark of the trunk and older branches is striking. The lower trunk section is often conspicuously thick with elongated, board-shaped knots. It tapers drastically towards the top.


The alternating needles are light green and have a rust-brown fall foliage. This arrangement is the most important characteristic which differentiates the tree from the dawn redwood, which has needles opposite one another. They are located on short shoots on both trees and are dropped together with these shoots in the fall.

Bald cypress fall foliage
The Bald cypress foliage takes on a wonderful rust-color in the fall

The female cones reach a diameter of 0.79 to 1.18 inches. They are initially green but later turn brown and have an oval to round shape.


Bald cypresses prefer to be in full sunlight and sheltered as the young plants in particular are somewhat frost-sensitive. The Bald cypress is considered extremely heat-tolerant and does well in inner-city climates. It is also extremely wind-resistant.


The Bald cypress is naturally found in periodically wet to wet and flooded ground. However, it is extremely adaptable and also grows in moderately dry, sandy soils. However, in such conditions, the trees do not form their striking cypress knee. Acidic to neutral, moist to wet loam or clay soils are ideal. Bald cypresses do not tolerate a higher like content in the soil. In areas at risk from early and late frosts, nutrient-poor soils are advantageous, as otherwise the trees sprout very early on in the year and drop their shoots late.

Bald cypresses don’t only grow in water
Bald cypresses don’t only grow in water

Bald cypresses are often available as balls or container plants. As the previously mentioned, the young plants are somewhat frost-sensitive, therefore, the trees should be planted in spring if possible, thereby giving them enough time to take root before the first frost. The soil is thoroughly loosened and poor, sandy soils are supplemented with humus. A tree post for support is a good idea for larger bald cypresses. As the trunks are usually branched to the floor, it’s better if the post is at an angle in the soil.


Bald cypresses are extremely easy-care. After planting, you can fertilize young trees with and compost to accelerate growth. Only younger plants require additional watering in dry summers. A mulch layer of foliage or bark humus ensures that the moisture remains in the soil.


The trees naturally form a beautiful, upright and even crown, meaning corrective pruning is not usually required. If the tip of the central shoot is broken, you should cut it off via a side branch and lead this upwards as a new shoot tip with a bamboo pole. It is also possible to branch open the trunk at any time in order to create sitting space or a place for under-planting underneath.


Bald cypresses are only suitable as house trees for larger gardens, due to their growth height . However, as they do not require much ground space, they can also be planted as small groups of three specimens. The trees have a highly tolerant root system and the dropped needles create an acidic, permanent humus in which Rhododendrons, for example, grow very well.

Bald cypress with aerial roots
If Bald cypresses are planted in water they form breathing roots or breathing knees

If you want to plant bald cypresses in a body of water, according to their natural location, all you need is a natural pond without sheet waterproofing. The pond should also be 120 square yards large, otherwise it will very quickly silt up due to the annual falling foliage mass.


There are hardly any commercially available Bald cypress varieties. One of the best known is ‘Peve Minaret’, a dwarf form with only 60 to 98 inches of growth height.


For hobby gardeners, Bald cypresses are easiest to propagate through sowing seeds. For this, collect the mature cones from October to November and keep these in a air-dried place until the spring. In March, take out the seeds and leave these to pre-germinate in water for two to three weeks. Important: The water must be changed daily to prevent the seeds from becoming moldy. Sow the Bald cypress seeds from mid-March to mid-April in propagator trays with planting soil - ideally in an unheated greenhouse, in a conservatory, or in the house by a light, south-facing window.

Cutting propagation should be left to gardening professionals, as it is only successful if the cuttings are taken from very young mother plants. Garden varieties are usually propagated through grafting - either through copulation in the spring or through side placing or insertion in later summer in a greenhouse. Two to three year old Taxodium distichum seeds serve as a base.

Diseases and Pests

Bald cypresses are one of the few trees which are largely resistant to diseases and pests. They are also highly resistant to air pollution.