Care of Lemon Cypress & Norfolk Island Pines

Care of Lemon Cypress & Norfolk Island Pines

After the holidays it’s worthwhile to care for the small cypress or Norfolk Island pine trees that you’ve used for holiday decorations. These make excellent, long lasting houseplants and the cypress can go into outdoor containers in the summertime. People often wonder if these plants can be planted in the landscape, however, and the answer is, “It depends on where you live.”

Those who live on Cape Cod are just on the edge of where the lemon cypress is hardy. This plant, Cupressus macrocarpa or ‘Gold Crest’ cypress, is listed as being hardy from zones 7 to 10 but local experience tells us that the plants don’t survive when winter temperatures go below 10 degrees.

All of the small holiday cypress make wonderful potted plants outdoors in the summer and inside in the winter. Grow them in a sunny window during the cold months, turning the pot every couple of weeks to expose all sides to the sun over time and keep the shape even. Don’t let these trees get too dry: in the winter when your heating is on they often need watering twice a week.

In May transplant the tree into a clay pot if it’s still in the plastic pot it came in. This will help it to stay upright when the winds blow. Adding some organic fertilizer to the soil when potting will help keep the plant fed even if you don’t use a liquid feed.

Grow your miniature cypress trees where it will get 4 to 5 hours of sunlight, but introduce it to direct sunshine gradually when first placing it outside. Bring the potted plants back inside in late-September on Cape Cod, before hard frost.

The Norfolk Island pines are even more tender; they are only hardy in zones 10 and 11. These plants are better left indoors all year as they sunburn easily. And here’s another hint about the Norfolk Island pine: don’t be too generous with the fertilizer or too quick to move this plant to a larger pot. If you give this plant a great deal of root-room, and fertilize, it will outgrow your house more quickly. Restricting the root growth and fertilizing only with earthworm castings or other mild organics will prevent it from getting too large too soon.

These small cypress trees aren’t hardy in the landscape on Cape Cod but they are easily grown as houseplants in the winter and as patio plants all summer. Put them outside in late May, moving the containers into the sun gradually so the foliage won’t burn.


  1. LEON TROMBLEY on January 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Great to get your newsletters. Very informative keep them coming.

    • CLFornari on January 9, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      Thanks, Leon. It’s great to hear that you appreciate Nan’s work on the newsletter and we’re glad you find it helpful. Stay in touch!

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