Question: We just bought a 12" European Cypress tree from a nursery store. The label says to "protect from temperatures below 20 degrees". It says that we may repot, and that "later it can be used as an outdoor landscape tree". I would like to know the age or height when the tree will be able to stand Illinois winters if planted outdoors, and also where I could find tips to care for this tree while it is small and growing indoors.
Answer: If your "European" cypress is a true cypress (of the genus Cupressus), then it's not a hardy tree. Cupressus species prefer the climate of the Gulf States and Coastal California. Some species of false cypress (Chamaecyparis) are hardy - there's even one native to the Himalayas!At any rate, keep the soil evenly moist - don't let it dry out, but the soil shouldn't be wringing wet, and it should drain well. Mulch the top of the soil with peat moss or the like to help maintain moisture. It needs full sun and good air circulation - a stuffy space will not suit it. If it is a hardy Chamecyparis, you can transplant it in spring to a spot that will provide it with these same conditions. Enrich the planting soil with compost, 1/4c bone meal and peat moss, and water it well. During the first season, give it TLC to help it get established (that is, keep it watered in dry spells and mist it once per month with seaweed fertilizer). Come fall, water regularly until the ground freezes, and mulch again after it freezes. If you live in an area where it's very windy, protect the tree with a windbreak of burlap or other plant-guard.
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