Bald cypress bonsai: a DYI project

 Shaji Mathews

 Bald cypress is one of the few trees that change color and appearance by the seasons in Florida.  If you ever drive across the “Big Cypress Preserve “section of the “alligator alley” on I-75 in summer, lush green of the groves of cypress on both sides of the highway is a welcoming sight. They change to rusty red in fall before dropping leaves in winter. Come spring, they sprout new leaves and the groves come alive.

Bald cypress is a very popular bonsai subject.  It is a very easy plant to germinate from seeds and be grown to a bonsai tree instead of buying a developed plant from a nursery.

Step one: Scope out a healthy tree in the neighborhood that has cones developing in summer.


Step two:  Cones mature in late summer /early fall. The cones break apart as they fall.  Gather some from lower branches or from the ground before the chipmunks and squirrels get to them. Note: the cones have a sticky sap, so handle them with gloves if desired.


Step three: Wrap the cones in wet paper towel and put in a freezer bag. No need to break them apart or separate the actual seed.

Step four: Leave the bag with seeds in the freezer for six to eight weeks.

Step five: Remove the bag from the freezer, thaw to room temperature.

Step six:  Plant the chunks of cone (seed and the rest the of the cone) in garden soil in starter pots.


Step seven: In about three months or so, seeds will start germinating in the pots. Wait a few months before transplanting.  


Now the waiting starts. Bald cypress are quick growers, so decide what you want to do with them and hopefully, in a few years you will have a bonsai tree or forest that you will be very proud of.