The Lemon Cyrpess Tree as Hedges and Shade Trees

The Lemon Cyrpess Tree as Hedges and Shade Trees

The lemon cyrpess tree stopped me in my tracks as I walked into the store. Mission accomplished, Trader Joes: I *almost* bought one, its color reminding me of the lime popsicles that I bought from the corner store a quick bike ride from my childhood house.  And on a day that registered almost 100 in my part of L.A., anything that reminded me of a popsicle was a sure purchase.

But before I counted out those nine dollars and made the little bright green tree my own, I wanted to know more. SF Gate informed me that the lemon cypress is also known as the “’Golden Crest’ or “Goldcrest” cultivar of the Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), a tree that has a native range limited to the Monterey bay on the coast of central California.”

So that is why it called to me.  I love the central coast of California, winding my way up the coast highway from L.A., the beautiful bridges, the cliffs down to the rocky beaches, the cypress trees that make every golden hour photo gorgeous against the setting sun and the blues of the sea.  On a road trip to Monterey with my mother, we took our time on that drive up the 1. We stopped for coffee or hikes as often as we wanted, explored Monterey by bus, went on a guided kayak tour of the bay, during which we were regularly reprimanded as the slow boat, dragging behind the rest of the kayaks while we exclaimed about the otters popping up around us, got lost in the beauty of the day and forgot to paddle, and in general wreaked havoc in the channel as a MUCH BIGGER BOAT made its way out of the bay.

Armed with the info about where the lemon cypress hails from and the golden glow of memory that it invokes, I plan to take one home with me on my next trip to Trader Joes.  Though in their native home they can grow as tall as 100 feet and keep their conical shape until they are over 30 feet, they can easily be cultivated as small topiaries, If you want to add one to your front stoop or living room. Snug Harbor Farm notes that they can grow to 12 inches to three feet in containers, and their photos are just BEGGING to be posted on Pinterest with as wee Christmas trees decked out with white lights or handmade ornaments.

Planting your lemon cypress in the wilds of your yard or garden?

  • They thrive best in USDA zones 7-10.
  • If you live in a hotter climate, choose a sunny spot that receives some shade, and if you’re in a coastal area, plant in a sunny area.
  • Plant in the spring, before the summer heat, or early fall.
  • SF Gate recommends you water regularly in the first growing season, to encourage your tree to establish deep roots, but do not let it become water-logged.
  • Choose a well-draining, sandy soil, and use a general fertilizer in the spring.

Your new addition to your yard is low maintenance, so you can sit back and let it grow in its own way, unless you choose to prune it as a hedge.

Taking your tree inside, or planing in a container for your patio garden?

  • Keep the soil moist, but not soaked.
  • Choose its home near a window that gets lots of light, and Snug Harbor Farm suggests one that faces south.
  • Add plant food every two weeks during the growing season, from April to September, and then only once a month during the colder months.

The lemon cypress is low-maintenance, but if it starts to lose its conical shape, prune it back to where you want it. Snug Harbor notes that pruning may bruise the tips and make them brown, but the plant will quickly heal.

Bonus: It smells like lemons!  Do you have a lemon cypress in your garden or house?  Tag us in photos of it on twitter: @TheCityFarm.

(Photo Credit: Snug Harbor Farm)