Is anyone had success with growing tall italian cypress in pots?

caribbeancupcakeApril 5, 2009

Would like to grow cupressus sempervirens Italian cypress in pots. I need to screen an ugly sheer rock wall of about 30 feet. I can't plant anything at the base as it is all rock. I would be able to use containers 24" round or 30" square and place them along the base of the rock wall. I would like to order trees that are about 6' to start. Is there a ratio of how tall a cypress can grow in a 24" pot?

Thanks in advance for help.

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

This may sound snotty, but I don't intend it that way at all.

You can grow them in containers if you know what you're doing and are willing to go the extra mile to maintain the plantings by regularly repotting, which includes replacing the soil and root-pruning. If you are not willing to learn and do these things, then do yourself a favor - save the money and look for another alternative.

I'm not sure how tall/large you intended to allow the trees to grow, but you would have some serious toppling issues with a 10" tree in a blow, even in a 30" container. That needs to be addressed as well.

If you decide to go forward, I can, and would be glad to, help you with particulars.

Take care.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 5:19PM
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Thanks for reply, Definately will repot as in our zone with lot's of sun and rain things grow quickly.My final pot width however can't be more than 30" as this wall is shear rock and is the left side of our driveway. If the cypress outgrows the pots I can plant them in the yard where they will be happy for life. I had seen a design some time ago for cedar homemade 30 x 30 containers with the ability to unscrew one side to replace soil and prune roots. I had planned to use them for citrus but sounds like they might work in this project as well. As far as how high they won't block anyones view and could easily go to 60 to 70 feet.The rock wall makes for a very protected area but will add heat due to the western exposure. Our climate is very much like the mediterranean but low humidity about 68%. Average daily temp about 83 and not below 70 at night ever. I didn't read anywhere that says they need a chill factor. Please advise of they do.
If they get too big I would have to have a trackho move and plant them. Any advice you can share would be great.I will have to have the nursery here special order them.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 6:26PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

There really is nothing too demanding about the plant. They tolerate a fairly wide range of soil pH and prefer a soil that remains well-aerated. Nothing special about the fertilizer needs, either. I'm not sure about the chill requirement - ask your nurseryman/landscaper. Info says it prefers zones 7-9, but that may be because of its susceptibility to canker when temperatures get too high. I think you'll need to arrange for the containers to be shaded, or at least white in color, to prevent heat build-up in the soil from passive solar gain.

I'm not sure what you have there for soil components, but a considerable mineral component (Turface, calcined DE, pumice, Haydite) is preferred, along with pine or fir bark, if you can find it.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 8:55PM
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Hi - I just ran across this posting. I am thinking of having some Italian cypresses growing in pots on my deck to screen the neighbor next door. They would only have to grow about 8 to 10 feet tall to provide screening, and I could anchor them to the deck railing to prevent them from toppling in a high wind. If I want to keep them that size, what size container would I plant them in, and how ofter would I need to repot and trim roots? Any information would be very much appreciated!


    Bookmark   May 30, 2009 at 8:06PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You could prolly limit container size to around or under 10 gallons for several years with regular root work every 3 years.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2009 at 9:05PM
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I use vines for screening my neighbors - maybe I'm wrong about this but it seems a smaller variety of vine might be happier in a pot than a tree would be. I'm about to plant a star jasmine in a 28" pot. I also grow a smaller variety of Ladybanks rose (Purezza) in a pot because the nursery where I purchased it said it could be grown in a container. The other varieties of Ladybanks would be much too large for this. Anyway, one vine or climber can cover a lot more space than many narrow individual trees. You only have to repot one plant and not many which is my major issue. But I know if your hearts are set on Cypresses, it's hard to consider something else.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 1:24PM
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gardenerme(z9/21 inland socal)

Sorry to go OT, but I am curious about your smaller variety of Lady Banks rose Huttnem. Can you advise where you got it? I am in socal. Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 1:06PM
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gardenerme, I got mine about 4 years ago at Capitol nursery in Sacramento. As I said the label said it was a small version of LB that could be grown in a container. I lost the tag and when I later tried to find the name of the variety I figured it must be Purezza, which is the most compact of the banksiaes. But I'm not sure Purezza was 'meant' for a container... Here's some info:

Mine does not have thorns and currently lives in a 24" container.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 6:58PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hey guys - there is no reason you can't grow the larger version in a container. If you can grow giant sequoia in a pot, the larger rose would be a snap.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 8:06PM
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But Al, do you know this specific rose? There's one in Tombstone Arizona that is 8000 sq feet!!

It eats houses and is the most vigorous of roses. Maybe someone like you or with bonsai experience could tame her in a pot but for lazy or inexperienced container gardeners most varieties would probably not work in a container.

Next year I will probably have to repot her (should have this year) and when I do I won't just have to root prune and work with a very heavy pot. I also will have to untangle and remove canes from the trellis purezza is attached to. :~(
Mine is a small one...

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 11:42PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

;o) The only reason I said that is because there is almost no woody material that can't be grown in a container, no matter what it's potential eventual mature size might be. I think the difference between the material (the roses) would only be a year (at best) before either have grown to the point where they have become so root-bound that they need to be root-pruned or potted up.

Container culture is naturally dwarfing (maybe 'naturally' isn't the right word - 'inherently' is probably better), so even the larger rose is reasonable in a container. I don't think there would be anywhere near the difference between the two that you suspect. I have lots of old trees in tiny containers that would be 30 ft+ if they were in the landscape, and a rose would be no different.

You're right though, it would take some attention to repotting, pruning, and root work, but you'll find that is just as true of the other variety if you're to keep the plant within your established bounds & save the plant from decline.

Wisteria also eats buildings & collapses arbors because of its rampant growth and mass/weight, but that plant is also fairly easily manageable in a pot. I'm not suggesting that you abandon your idea of the smaller version, but in the end, it doesn't matter much if a dwarf potentially grows to 20' instead of 40' - you'll still need to pay it roughly the same attention. ;o)


    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 9:11AM
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Al, that is all very interesting and something I would not have expected. Still my issue is that I dread repotting and root pruning, especially big, heavy pots. I grow some plants in containers mainly because I don't have enough room in my garden. In truth, I was hoping to find ways of avoiding having to repot every 3 years. (I wait for the 4th year) As I'm reading posts on this forum, I'm seeing how lacking some of my own container-gardening practices are and that if I want to do this right, I'll need to try some of what I've learned.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 1:18AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Ohhh - I wasn't trying to be contrary or change anything you're doing. ;o) Just pointing out that there are ways to let you do some amazing things with plant material in containers. I bet some of what you can do would REALLY surprise a lot of readers.

I regularly graft roots onto bonsai, reduce trees that are many feet tall to only a few inches in height, move branches to different locations on the tree, thread graft, approach-graft, split trunks longitudinally, air-layer, ground-layer, defoliate to promote twiggy growth, ...... The range of horticultural techniques available to container gardeners that wish to learn them is really astounding.

BTW - your repotting chores would be much easier if you get your woody plants into the coarse, gritty mix. After the initial repot, the time/effort it takes to root-prune and repot (change the soil) is fractionalized. Your plants will appreciate it, too.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 9:54AM
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I absolutely did NOT think you were being contrary or trying to change my ways! I was just sincerely stating I had no idea about the extent of things to learn about container gardening.

Re: my repotting chores, are you saying with gritty mix I wouldn't have to repot and root-prune every three years, that I could extend the time? That would be fabulous!

I am an organic gardener. Do you have suggestions for modifying the mix and/or fertilizer for those who prefer to use organics?

Thanks for all the great information you share.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 9:01PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If anything, you might have to repot MORE often when using the gritty mix because it's excellent aeration promotes rapid growth and good root function/metabolism. The benefit is in the fact that repots are much easier and less time consuming when plants are in the grittier soil.

There's nothing that would preclude an organic gardener from using the gritty mix, unless you feel baked clay and crushed granite don't go with the program. I mean - at a 1/3 organic component (the bark), the gritty mix STILL has more than 4 times as much organic material in it than most rich garden soils.

I'm not sure how well an organic nutritional program would go with the gritty mix, though. I'm afraid all those soil amendments you'll be adding to eventually supply nutrition will tend to negate the effectiveness of the high air porosity that makes the mix so attractive.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 9:26PM
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Why/how are the repots of plants grown in gritty mix easier if it's likely you have to repot even more frequently than you would with a standard potting mix?

Would using an organic liquid fertilizer (versus soil amendments) eliminate the possible negative effect on 'high air porosity? "

Sorry for the all the questions. - I am interested in trying the gritty mix but if it's effectiveness is contingent on using chemical fertilizers, I probably will not go there. Thanks, Marlene

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 2:28AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Why/how are the repots of plants grown in gritty mix easier if it's likely you have to repot even more frequently than you would with a standard potting mix?

Hi, M - The roots don't get intertwined with the peat fibers & the larger pieces of grit and bark fall easily off of the roots. You usually need to comb the soil out a little, or use a root pick, which is nothing more than a tool shaped like a pencil. Chopsticks work very well. I can repot most plants under 5 gallons in the gritty mix in 30-45 minutes. That includes cleaning the soil from the roots, selectively pruning the roots, preparing the pot/container, adding all new soil, securing the plant in the pot, and getting it soaking in a root stimulant.

I usually use the saw (on left) to cut off the bottom 1/3-1/2 of the root mass; then use the root rake, which is next to the saw, to remove most of the soil. You can use a coarse comb or just the root pick, which is what I use to tease old soil particles out of any stubborn pockets formed by the roots.

Would using an organic liquid fertilizer (versus soil amendments) eliminate the possible negative effect on 'high air porosity?

It would help. You wouldn't be dealing with the soil amendments (like various meals and such) clogging up the soil's macro-pores (which was what I focused on when deciding on how to build the soil) but you still have the organic component of what you're applying for nutrients feeding and increasing populations of the soil organisms that break down the 1/3 organic component of the soil.

This is not near as large a consideration, though, as it would be in a peat-based soil, or even the 5:1:1 mix. The reason is that there is still a 2/3 mineral component in the soil that remains unaffected by biotic activity and is enough to sustain porosity, even in the face of a collapsing organic component.

The gritty mix is durable enough that it almost never 'wears out'. Plants generally become severely rootbound and in dire need of a full repot long before the gritty mix has seen the end of a useful life.

I'm not attempting to change your ideology when I suggest you try the mix in a side-by-side comparison of non-food
plantings, using a chemical soluble fertilizer like Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 on half of the plantings, with the other half supplemented with your program of choice. If your set against the idea - that's fine, but I think it would be enlightening.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 10:35AM
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First of all, I'm so sorry alyceusv, for completely highjacking your thread.

Al - thank you AGAIN so much for the very useful information including the pics of the tools for root pruning. That was great. Rather than continuing to go off-topic, I am going to start another thread. :~)

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 9:13PM
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I am interested in planting Italian Cypress in my front yard I live in Houston Texas. Would someone please email me if they know what is the maximum growing height of a 5 gallons Italian Cypress tress?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 12:14PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

They grow to 125' in situ, so in containers the height would only be limited by the cultural conditions you are able to provide, and your pruning skills. IOW - it's all up to you.


    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 12:48PM
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I want to plant an Itlian cypress in my yard perhaps two in a there any issue with Italian cypress roots and foundations of homes. I am taking out a texas live oak that is 30 years old and miss a large tree.
I am enjoying them in containers but want a couple that can grow full size.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 11:17PM
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