Lemon Cypress Care: How To Care For Lemon Cypress Outdoors And Inside

lemon cypress
lemon cypress
(Image credit: krblokhin)

The lemon cypress tree, also called Goldcrest after its cultivar, is a variety of Monterey cypress. It gets its common name from the powerful strong lemon scent that its branches exude if you brush against them or crush their foliage. You can start growing lemon cypress trees (Cupressus macrocarpa 'Goldcrest') indoors or outside. Lemon cypress care is not difficult if you know some basic rules.

Lemon Cypress Trees

Lemon cypress trees come in two sizes: small and smaller. Grown outdoors in their natural habitat, the trees can grow to 16 feet (5 m.) tall. This is quite small for a cypress. 

The dwarf lemon cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa 'Goldcrest Wilma') is the better choice for a houseplant. This small tree usually does not grow taller than 3 feet (91 cm.), making it perfect for indoor containers. The tree has many admirers, thanks to its green-yellow, needle-like foliage, conical growth pattern, and bright fresh citrus smell. 

If you are thinking of growing lemon cypress, you’ll need to understand basic rules of lemon cypress care.

Lemon Cypress Care Outdoors

In general, growing lemon cypress is not difficult. The trees require well-draining soil, but are not picky about whether it is loamy, sandy, or chalky. They also accept acidic, neutral, or alkaline soil. 

If you are growing lemon cypress in your backyard, you’ll need to learn about care for lemon cypress outdoors. They thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 10. Lemon cypress trees cannot survive shade, so you’ll need to plant your outdoor tree in a sunny spot

Don’t neglect irrigation, especially immediately after planting. During the tree’s first growing season, you’ll need to water twice a week. Watering is always an important part of care for lemon cypress outdoors. 

After the first year, water whenever the soil is dry. In spring, it’s time to feed the tree. Apply a standard, slow-release 20-20-20 fertilizer before new growth appears in the spring.

Lemon Cypress Houseplant Care

If you decide to start growing lemon cypress trees indoors as houseplants, remember that they do best with cool indoor temperatures. Keep your thermostat in the low 60's (15-16 C.) during winter. 

Perhaps the most difficult part of lemon cypress houseplant care is ensuring sufficient light. Select a window that provides good sunlight and turn the container regularly to give each side a turn. The houseplant requires six to eight hours of direct sun. Don’t forget water – essential for lemon cypress houseplant care. 

They won’t forgive you if you don’t give them drenching once a week – you’ll see brown needles appear. Water whenever the soil is dry.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.