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Valuable Tips on How to Care for a Lemon Cypress Tree

How to Care for a Lemon Cypress Tree
Native to California, the lemon cypress tree is known for its greenish-yellow foliage and fresh lemony fragrance. Gardenerdy provides information on lemon cypress tree care.
Smita Pandit
Last Updated: Apr 2, 2018
People with sensitive skin should be careful while touching the needle-like foliage of the lemon cypress tree; handling the plant can cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction.
The lemon cypress tree is a cultivar of the Monterey cypress, which is native to Monterey Bay located on the coast of central California. Monterey cypress belongs to the Cupressus genus, macrocarpa species, and Cupressaceae family. The lemon cypress is also known as the Gold crest cultivar, and gets its name from the characteristic strong lemon scent that it gives off when anyone brushes against the leaves or crushes the foliage. This evergreen coniferous tree can be grown indoors as well as outdoors.

This coniferous tree can attain a height of sixteen feet in its natural habitat. However, there's also the option of keeping a dwarf lemon cypress indoors. The maximum height of a dwarf lemon cypress is usually three feet. With their greenish-yellow, needle-like foliage and conical growing habit, these trees work wonderfully as topiaries. The fresh lemony scent is an added advantage. If you are thinking of keeping a lemon cypress or dwarf lemon cypress as a houseplant, or want to grow a lemon cypress tree in your garden, you need to be aware of its growing requirements, such as its ideal planting site, preferred soil type, watering needs, soil requirements, pruning season, fertilizer, diseases that it might be susceptible to, etc. The following sections will tell you how to grow and care for this plant.
Lemon Cypress Tree: Quick Facts
Lemon Cypress in Pots
Lemon Cypress in pots
  • Scientific name: Cupressus macrocarpa 'Goldcrest'
  •  Also called: Monterey cypress 'Goldcrest', Lemon cypress, Lemon Scented Monterey Cypress
  • Genus: Cupressus
  • Variety or Cultivar: Goldcrest
  • Plant Type: Evergreen, Coniferous
  • Leaf Type: Needleleaf
  • Height: 10-15 feet (Grows up to 15 meters in height and a spread of 4 meters after 20-50 years)
  • Spread: 2-3 feet
  • Growth Habit: Narrow conical
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-10
  • Soil: Sandy, chalky, loamy, clay
  • Soil Requirement: Well-drained soil
  • Soil pH: Acidic, neutral, and alkaline
  • Light Requirements: Needs full sun to thrive; cannot survive in shade
  • Watering Requirement: Drought-resistant plant that requires medium watering; can tolerate maritime exposure
  • Rate of Growth: Moderate to fast
  • Propagation methods: Seed, Semi-hardwood cuttings
Seeds of Cupressus Macrocarpa
Seeds of Cupressus Macrocarpa
  • Maintenance Category: Low
  • Fruit Season: Fall
  • Fruit color: Black
  • Foliage: Golden-yellow
  • Fragrance: Lemon scent when foliage is crushed or cut
  • Tree shape: Narrowly columnar, Tall, Upright
  • Award: Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit
  • Susceptible to Diseases: Yes
  • Specific Pests: Cypress aphid
  • Disease: Cypress (coryneum) canker
  • Pruning: Regularly required when used for hedging
Conditions Ideal for Growing Lemon Cypress
First of all, you need to decide whether you want a dwarf lemon cypress variety for keeping indoors, or a lemon cypress tree for growing outdoors. The dwarf variety/cultivar called Wilma Goldcrest, which is a mutation of the Goldcrest cultivar discovered in Holland in 1987, can be propagated through semi-hardwood cuttings. It can grow up to 6-8 feet, with a spread of 1-2 feet. However, lemon cypress can be grown from seeds. Here are some pointers for growing and caring for a lemon cypress tree.
Light Requirements
The lemon cypress needs a location that will get ample sunlight. It must be noted that problems can arise if this evergreen tree is grown in regions that have extreme temperatures. It is more likely to thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 7-10. Less care is needed if the plant is grown indoors. This plant does well in cool, sunny areas. It will do well in a place that gets at least 5-6 hours of sunlight daily. So, if you have placed it in a pot or container indoors, then keep the pot near a big south-facing window that receives ample sunlight. When placed indoors, this evergreen tree prefers cooler temperatures. So, even five hours of sunlight through the window will ensure that the foliage doesn't lose its color.

During winter, you can use a UV light to ensure that the light requirements of this plant are fulfilled. After the danger of frost has passed, place the plant where it will receive partial sunlight. Thereafter, reintroduce the plant to full sun gradually. So, if the weather is warm, the pot can be placed outside so that the plant can get partial sun. During the winter, place the plant indoors. Always remember to gradually transition plants from indoors to outdoors and vice versa. The ideal temperature for growing a lemon cypress tree outdoors is around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Soil Preference
This tree can tolerate soils with pH ranging from acidic to alkaline. Soil can be sandy, loamy, or chalky. It can even grow in clay. While it can grow in all types of soils, it will not survive if the soil is not well-drained. It prefers soil that is moist and well-drained. In order to prevent the roots from getting affected by root rot due to water-logging, sand can be mixed with the soil.
While the soil needs to be moist, it should not be waterlogged. During the first growing season, you will need to water the plant at least twice a week. Test the soil with a stick or skewer to find out if the soil is dry, wet, or moist. You need to ensure that the soil doesn't dry out between watering. Water the tree if the soil has dried out. The frequency of watering could be reduced during the winter. Plants that are grown indoors need to be watered more frequently than the ones growing outdoors.
You definitely need to use a 20-20-20 fertilizer before the new growth appears in the spring. Fertilize with the standard, slow-releasing fertilizer that has an equal amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium once a month. You can also supplement the soil annually with turf fertilizers that contain other nutrients such as magnesium, boron, copper, and zinc.
If this plant is used for hedging, it will need to be pruned regularly. It will have to be trimmed to maintain the required height. Use sharp pruning shears to remove the sucker branches and the errant branches that are growing in the wrong direction or making it difficult to fertilize the tree. Since lemon cypress has a conical habit, trim the tree as per its natural shape. Trimming should be done every week during the summer.
Lemon cypress is susceptible to coryneum canker, if it is grown in a region that is hot and dry. Also, when grown outdoors, it is prone to an aphid infestation, which can cause extensive damage. Therefore, steps must be taken to control the infestation in the initial stages.
The lemon cypress tree is a popular ornamental plant due to its vibrant foliage that gives off the scent of fresh lemons. It is the recommendation of the Royal Horticultural Society to use this tree as an architectural accent or a low-maintenance hedge or screen plant. Moreover, it is a low-maintenance plant, especially when grown indoors. If you are growing the plant in a pot, then make sure that you repot the plant every two years in a pot that is at least an inch wider than the previous one. Lemon cypress can grow very well when you provide it with the ideal conditions that it needs to thrive. However, do watch out for aphids, as they can cause considerable damage.