I live downtown in the city of Toronto. In the spring of 2021 I planted 2 wissel’s saguro false cypress trees in my yard against my garage which is southwest facing and receives full sun. Since I received the trees in December of 2020 (odd timing, I know) the trees overwintered in their nursery pots which I placed in large tubs and insulated with foam and straw. I was so happy when they made it through the winter. They seemed to settle in well in their new home in the ground last spring and they put on a couple inches of healthy light green growth last year. This late winter/ spring (2022) I’ve noticed many of the tips are browning and there has been some shedding of some of the green needles as well as some brown needles along the trunk. The tree does still look generally heathy over all, you have to get close to notice these (possibly troubling?) signs. I did not wrap them in burlap over winter.
I did not notice brown tips last spring so this is raising alarm bells for me. Do you think I should be concerned? The soil is pretty good loam but it does have clay further down (maybe 1.5’). It’s obviously been pretty wet with all the snow and rain so I wonder if there is a drainage problem? We do not salt near the trees so that should not be an issue.
These are the jewels of my garden and I cherish these trees for sentimental and ornamental reasons. Any advice or reassurances you can offer is greatly appreciated!
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners. Your Wissel’s Saguro false cypress trees (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’) are truly striking and unusual plants ! It’s hard to be sure from your photo, but I think that the brown tips that you are seeing might be the male cones that appear in the spring. These cones are quite small, 1/4″ or less in diameter, and they grow at the tips of the branches. They may turn to more of a reddish brown colour before they drop. And some needle drop inside the tree is not unusual, as long as the rest of the tree appears healthy. It’s good that these trees are in full sun, and hopefully, situated against your garage, they are protected from strong winds. These plants prefer moist soil, but good drainage is very important, so adding compost to the surface of the soil annually in the spring to gradually work its way down in the soil to improve the soil structure below the loam would be a good idea. These are fairly slow growing trees, so a few inches of healthy growth in their first year sounds normal and positive.
I think in general all is well with your special trees. I hope you enjoy them for many years to come!