defoliating, potting and styling a large bald cypress

Sneak Peek

It’s July 4th weekend, so the traditional cookouts, fireworks and defoliating Bald cypresses are in order. That’s right, defoliating Bald cypresses is a tradition for BC lovers. Today’s victim is also getting his first bonsai pot.

Defoliating, Potting and Styling a Large Bald Cypress

I wasn’t kidding when I said most BC’s get pretty shaggy as summer marches on. This one, which I’ve been working on for three years now, is a perfect example. The tree has shown good strength this year, allowing me to take the next step in building the apex and tapering transitionl that means it’s time for defoliating, potting and styling the tree.


I thought you’d like to see a closeup of the apex I’m building. You can see where I chopped the leader early this season. It dutifully pushed a bud in the right spot, and that bud took off and thickened up in just a couple of months.

Here’s the tree, almost completely nekkid. They look like weird brooms that you couldn’t use to sweep up anything, don’t they? But that’s all part of how we make a well-developed Bald cypress bonsai.

I’m sure you’re wondering why I left the foliage at the very top of the tree. I want the energy focused in the apex of the tree, in order to finish thickening that transition point. By letting the leader run, I’ll get what I need. So while the rest of the tree is rebudding, the apex will be drawing energy and extending.

Here we are after a trim and a trunk-brushing. When you defoliate your cypresses, it’s a good time to do some cleanup since you can really see all of the trunk.

Out of the nursery pot. The root system is healthy; the tree was not as root-bound as I would have expected, but that’s okay.

Here’s a shot from the backside. Good surface roots all around. I always bury collected trees sufficiently to protect the surface roots that come with them. This is an example of sacrificing current pleasure for future pleasure. When you lift a tree that has great rootage, it’s only natural to want to be able to see it. Unfortunately, if you succumb to that desire there’s a good possibility that one or more of those roots will dry out and die. So bury ’em deep!

I got this custom pot from Lary Howard just recently, and I think it goes beautifully with this specimen. The only thing left to do now is to make something out of that wild set of branches.

The styling part is always the most fun. This is another very good reason to defoliate your Bald cypresses about this time of year. You can very easily see the trunk and branch structure, and this certainly helps you correct any issues or just refresh and update the style you had in mind to begin with.

This is an exciting Bald cypress bonsai in the making. It only lacks two things: one, a fully developed apex including a smooth tapering transition; and two, maturity in the branches. But we’re well on our way.

The stats: trunk base is 5″ across 5″ above the soil surface; root spread 10″; finished height will be 34-36″.

Let me know what you think of this one.