How to Grow Lemon Cypress Trees

Image of Cupressus macrocarpa 'Goldcrest'

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The Lemon Cypress is a familiar little evergreen that people might recognize as the chartreuse Christmas trees that seem to show up in every big box retail store during the holidays. However, this citrusy-looking tree should be considered as more than just a one-season-a-year plant.

Also commonly referred to as the Goldcrest Monterey Cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’ is a Monterey cypress cultivar. This versatile conifer can be used as a hedge, specimen, bonsai, or kept in a container on a patio or indoors.

The unique color of the lemon cypress can play off darker greens of other conifers, while texture can be experimented with by placing the shrub next to boulders and fencing.

Of course, the lemon cypress gets its name from the light citrus fragrance the needles express when touched or crushed. This sensory trifecta of sight, smell, and touch makes the tree a perfect candidate to include in a sensory garden. 

Botanical Name  Cupressus macrocarpa 'Goldcrest' 
Common Name Lemon Cypress, Goldcrest Monterey cypress
Plant Type Coniferous Tree
Mature Size 10ft. tall 2-3 ft. spread
Sun Exposure Full Son
Soil Type Poor, Good Drainage
Soil pH  Prefers Neutral Soil
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color  Insignificant
Hardiness Zone  7-10, USA
Native Area  California

Lemon Cypress Care

One of the great things about C. macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’ is that it is an easy plant to care for in the outdoors. The only maintenance required will be some pruning if you want to keep its size down or yearly trimming if using it as a hedge.

Light

Whether planning to keep the lemon cypress outdoors or as an indoor plant, it requires a good amount of light. It will thrive in full sun to partial shade outdoors or direct sun indoors five to six hours a day. If keeping the plant as a houseplant, too little light will quickly kill the plant.

Soil

Planting this tree in soil that is too rich invites trouble. The lemon cypress is adapted to grow in poor, sandy, well-draining soils that are low in organics and not very fertile. This infertile soil allows the slow-growing tree to pace its development to match its height with its roots, helping to ensure that winds do not blow the thin and narrow plant over.

If keeping the lemon cypress in a container, it should be repotted once every three to four years. Move it to a larger pot and give it some fresh soil. Prune your plant’s roots conservatively to keep growth in check while repotting.

Water

As an outdoor shrub or tree, once established, the lemon cypress needs little supplemental watering. To allow the plant to establish itself, water once a week during the first season.

If kept as a houseplant, be sure to give a thorough deep watering once weekly, being sure never to let the soil be too dry.

Temperature and Humidity

A lemon cypress prefers cool, moist climates. Temperatures above 80oF in dry areas will tax the plant, while temperatures lower than 20oF may cause tree damage or death. In colder climates, it is best to shelter the tree from cold winds, which will burn the needles. The recommended USDA Zones are 7-10.

When used as a houseplant, the lemon cypress needs to be kept in a place that has sufficient humidity. Keeping it moist during the winter is vital and will be most difficult when a heater is being run or windows are shut. Misting or a humidifier might be needed to help supplement the ambient room humidity.

Fertilizer

Fertilizing this shrub is not suggested. The lemon cypress is adapted to thrive in poor, infertile soil conditions. Rich soils will cause quick, uneven growth and could result in the tree being unstable the tree. 

Pruning

The only regular pruning maintenance required is when the lemon cypress is used as a hedge or as a bonsai. In these cases, it needs to be done carefully and in a timely fashion. This shrub, like most conifers, does not take well to hard pruning.

This tree, however, still looks impressive in its natural, untrimmed, slow-growing upright shape.