How do I care for my new "living Christmas tree"?
December 3, 2010 9:51 AM   Subscribe

[Plant Filter] How do I care for my new dwarf conifer, a Lawson Cypress also known as "Treasure Island"? I purchased him from my local nursery two days ago, where they were selling small "living Christmas trees" as novelties. It is a very lovely little tree, and I would actually like to keep it potted inside if possible, but I'm not sure if it will be too warm for this species.

I also posted this on my Gardenweb account, but I am posting here in search of more information. I can't find any care instructions via Googling; I've tried a couple different search terms and can only find nurseries selling the trees that don't give much information about the plant.

My questions about it are:
-Can I keep it inside year-round, or will this guarantee its untimely death?
-What temperatures can it tolerate?
-Does it need a specific type or size of pot if I don't plant it in the ground?
-What types of soil are best, and should I give it any fertilizer?
-I'm keeping the soil moist, but watering sparingly to avoid root rot; is this the right approach?

My apartment stays very warm even in the winter (usually above 70 degrees F), so I especially need to figure out if it can tolerate this much heat, but I can't find anything online about this. So far it still looks healthy, but its only been two days.

posted by wansac to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you called or e-mailed the nursery with your questions?
posted by Carol Anne at 10:50 AM on December 3, 2010

I received a miniature tree as a Christmas gift and I absolutely adored it! I had dreams of planting it in my backyard after the season and watching it grow and thrive under my watchful, loving eye for years to come. Unfortunately, I lived in TX at the time. The tree did well until the summer, and all my efforts to keep it alive did nothing to stop the agonizingly slow march to death. Prior to the summer temps, though, it seemed happiest outdoors on my balcony, where it received lots od sunlight. I transferred it to a larger pot in February and used soil I purchased from a local gardening shop. Id say I watered it about once a week, just enough to keep the soil slightly damp. Good luck!
posted by bahama mama at 10:53 AM on December 3, 2010

Too warm inside, and most importantly, too dry. Lawson's Cypress comes from coastal northern California, where humidity is high and temperatures are pretty moderate (it it's range, highest average temp was 72F). Your watering regimen is fine (never let it dry out, but must have good drainage), but it won't like living in your house at all.

If you need to re-pot, a basic rhododendron mix is probably easy to find. Don't buy anything with MiraclGro in it. Generally, they don't need fertilizer, maybe a little potassium once in awhile. They might become chlorotic in pH above 7.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:06 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Much too warm/dry inside. You may be able to find more information about it by googling "Port Orford cedar." (It's not really a cedar, though. The botanical name is Chamaecyparis lawsoniana.) Bottom line, though, is that it's totally unsuited to being a houseplant. The good news is that it may be able to grow outdoors if you're in the Pacific Northwest.

If you want an indoor pine-ish houseplant (and you're willing to lower the temperature in your apartment a bit and commit to a regular misting schedule) you might try a Norfolk Island pine. (It's not really a pine, but it is a conifer.)
posted by purpleclover at 3:47 PM on December 3, 2010

Parroting what others have said more or less. It needs to be outside for the greater part of its life, to stay dormant in the winter and break dormancy in the spring. Those cycles are important for trees to maintain health. If you're in Seattle, it's probably fine outside most times; they grow in the mountains up to 4500 feet or so in Oregon. You're probably just within range, zone-wise. You don't want the pot to freeze too much because conifers are prone to winter injury; they need available water all year and if it's frozen in the soil it's not available. Occasionally take it out of the pot, tease out the outside of the root ball and prune off maybe 25 percent, put in some fresh matching soil and don't over- or under-water. You could very occasionally fertilize with a slow-acting fertilizer made for trees or woody plants (like Plant-tone or something), but refreshing the soil will do most of that. If it's brutally cold, pull it inside for a little bit.
posted by Red Loop at 6:59 PM on December 3, 2010

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