Italian Cypress Bending

by Alex

We planted 5 Italian Cypress tree about 2 months ago. We took the stakes that were along side the trunk out, because they were visibly impeding on the trunk. Now, some trees are very "bendy" and we had to help them to stand up with loose staking. Only one tree stands on its own and is very straight. However, the tip of that one is bent and other branches seem to want to go straight.

The trees are about 7 feet tall now and everywhere I read it say that they will straighten out. But it's hard to believe. So, what should we do? Stake them? Leave them be? Train the tips?

Thank you very much!

Hi Alex, great choice, those are gorgeous trees and so evocative of the Mediterranean, especially around the Tuscany region, where they are grown quite often. Many of them are really old, and still growing and healthy, so they are long lived trees in the right conditions.

As you've just planted these trees, it can take several years for them to get really established, and it's critical for them to get enough water while they do that.

I recommend deep watering for several hours once a week, or use drip irrigation of some kind. Don't over do it, or you can drown the roots, or cause them to only have fine surface roots. It's important to train them to seek out the moisture in lower levels of soil, so watering well, then letting them dry out a tiny amount will create that effect. Of course, if it's really hot, dry and windy, more moisture more often is fine until they're established.

I'm of the opinion that many trees won't show their true character until they are firmly rooted and established, so the bending of the tops in most cases is a temporary effect of their being transplanted. Keep an eye on them though. Sometimes this is the first sign of stress, and if the needles start to dry out and fall off, it could be an indication of being dried out either before you got them, or in transit.

If you're really concerned that the tops won't straighten out, I would advise a light stick or twig to help them grow in a more upright position - however, it's crucial that whatever you use to tie it on is flexible enough or will deteriorate and rot once the tree grows a bit more. Otherwise, you're not going to fix the problem, in fact you'll create more by killing off the leader.

It's also important that the trees don't move too much while the roots are seeking out new soil. This is why newly planted trees are staked for several months, sometimes several seasons. I usually use lengths of garden hose looped around to protect the tree, and then three stakes spaced out equally with wires between the stakes and the tree to hold it upright. A small amount of movement is beneficial so that the tree doesn't get too dependent on the support.

I would advise patience, as you've only just planted these trees. If they are still showing this type of growth in a years time then you can take remedial action. I'm pretty sure that as they grow more strongly as they get used to their new home, they will become straighter.

Best of luck with your beautiful trees!

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