Lemon Cypress: Facts, Growing, Caring & More

The lemon cypress tree, also known as lemon cedar, is a low-maintenance tree that smells like lemon and looks great both inside your home and outside, in your yard or garden.

So how do you plant one, and how do you take care of it?

This guide will give you all the properties you need to know about the lemon cypress tree and tips on how to grow one and care for it so that you can have your own fragrant tree!


Its scientific name is Hesperocyparis macrocarpa, and it is known as the ‘Goldcrest’ variety. However, it was previously known as Cupressus macrocarpa. Despite this, they’re both valid scientific names for the same tree variety.

Adding to the confusion, the lemon cypress tree is a variety of the Monterey Cypress tree, whose scientific name is Cupressus macrocarpa.

This one comes from the same family (Cupressaceae) and the same genus (Hesperocyparis). But, it is a different species from the lemon cypress tree and is not known as ‘Goldcrest,’ even though it’s a variety.

General Properties

Color and Shape

The lemon cypress tree or ‘Goldcrest’ has a narrow conical shape evergreen tree with greenish-yellow foliage. The foliage gives out a lemony smell that only gets stronger when cut or when you crush the foliage or brush it.

It is considered to be a conical tree because it has needles that protect its seeds, just like a pine tree with its needles. Fun fact: it reproduces by implants and seeds.

The lemon cypress tree doesn’t grow any fruit, so don’t expect any lemons, despite its name!

Country of Origin

The lemon cypress originated in North America. It can easily be found in the regions of Coastal, and Piedmont, as it is native to Coastal, California.

Now, it can grow in any climate, so that you can find it pretty much anywhere.


The lemon cypress tree grows fast and can grow between six and ten feet (1.82 meters to 3.08 meters). Sometimes, it can even reach ten feet (20 meters).

It can grow about one foot a year (0.30 meters or three cm), and in 10 years, it can grow from six to eight feet (1.82 meters to 2.43 meters). So this small tree can become really big if that’s your intention.

As for its width, it can range from one to two feet (0.30 to 0.60 meters, or three to six cm)


The only thing you really need to be wary of with this tree variety is to keep the lemon cypress tree in well-drained sandy soil. This is recommended by specialists to keep the soil filtration optimal and fast.

The soil has to be well-drained for better filtration, but it can be chalky, sandy, or loamy. It doesn’t really matter as long as it drains ok and is mixed.

So basically, it can pretty much tolerate any kind of pH soil. Ideally, the lemon cypress tree likes the soil acidity to be between 6.6 to 7.5, so the soil can either be neutral, acidic, or alkaline.


This tree variety can grow in any climate, even when it’s placed in partial shade (from two to six hours per day) or full sun (six hours or more per day). You could rotate the container of your lemon cypress to make sure each side gets the quantity of light it needs.

Rotating it also will make the silver and gold tones in the foliage apparent.

Be careful; you should never leave the tree in complete shade. Otherwise, it won’t survive. Also, if it doesn’t get enugh sun and you don’t rotate it, the tree will grow unevenly, even though the goldcrest variety likes cooler temperatures.

If you keep your lemon cypress inside, make sure your temperature doesn’t exceed 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 degrees Celsius). If you keep your tree in a hot climate, water it daily unless it’s an older dree. Just make sure the soil isn’t dry and keeps the moisture.

USDA Hardiness Zone

The lemon cypress tree can grow from zones 7 to 10, specifically 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a.

As said previously, you should keep your goldcrest in direct or partial sunlight for this tree variety to thrive.


Don’t worry; the lemon cypress tree isn’t toxic. Just be careful not to let your animals eat it. Otherwise, they’ll have uncomfortable stomach problems.

The Holiday Lemon Cypress

This is a small potted lemon cypress tree that you can find during the holiday season. People often give these small lemon cypress trees as gifts, as they often come in festive pots.

It’s known as ‘Goldcrest Wilma’ and is great as a houseplant all year round, not just for the holiday season! It grows up to three feet (91cm), so it’s really small and perfect for indoors.

These cute trees are very little in size and sapling. Its foliage will be bright green at first and turn into a yellowish-green.

You can either water these little trees, mist them, or sprinkle them. If you mist or spray the tree, do it in the morning so the water can evaporate from the leaves. Otherwise, the tree could catch fungus.

Winterizing Your Lemon Cypress Tree

Can you winterize your lemon cypress tree? To cut it short, no. The tree will suffer winter burn if you do that, or the roots might freeze, causing your goldcrest to die. But, it is possible to bring the potted lemon cypress tree inside during winter and put it back on your patio during summer.

Growing Your Lemon Cypress Tree

So how do you grow a lemon cypress tree? Here is everything you need to know about how to grow your goldcrest in a poot indoors or outdoors in your garden.

Indoor Lemon Cypress Tree

If you choose to plant your goldcrest indoors, plant it in a big pot or container, leaving room for it to grow. Leave it next to a window where it can take six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day.

The lemon cypress tree likes cool temperatures, so keep your thermostat between 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit (12.77 and 18.33 degrees Celsius). If you live in a sunny location, you can leave your potted goldcrest outside during the summer under the direct sun.

Just make sure to remove your pot from your garden before frost. Repot it every four years, using a fast-draining soil mixture (soil mixed with sand) and make sure the soil keeps moist.

Or, if you just want a smaller houseplant, you could always get the Goldcrest variety (see holiday lemon cypress tree section). It’s small and won’t grow more than three feet (91cm).

Outdoor Lemon Cypress Tree

Depending on the zone you live in, you can choose to grow your tree outdoors all year round. For example, zone 7 is great for this.

Make sure to plant your lemon cypress tree in a sunny spot that gets six to eight hours of direct sun or partial sun if you rotate it.

After planting it, water it immediately. You’ll need to water your lemon cypress tree twice when it’s growing for about a year. After that, you can water it once a week or whenever the soil gets dry.

Don’t overwater it, or the needles will turn brown, and the roots will rot.

General Care

The goldcrest variety doesn’t need that much care and is relatively easy to grow. It can grow in a big plant pot, as long as it’s watered regularly, so you can totally keep it inside as a decorative tree in a pot or container or outside in a pot if you don’t want to plant it.

Water your tree weekly or whenever the soil is dry, as it’s important for your lemon cypress tree to grow in moist soil. When it is first planted and needs growing, you should water it twice a week.

If you water your goldcrest too often, the green needles will turn brown. But don’t overwater your lemon cypress: otherwise, the roots might become rotten. It’s all about finding the right balance, and if you do, the tree is easy to maintain.


Repot your tree every three to four years or when it needs more space in fast-draining soil. Ideally, repot your lemon cypress tree in a terracotta pot, which is said to promote good root growth, but it will dry the soil faster, so you’ll need to water your tree more often.

If you keep your lemon cypress in a pot, it probably won’t grow more than 10 feet (3.04 meters) unless you keep it in a big pot or container. Or, you could plant your tree outside for it to grow bigger. Just make sure not to leave it in a spot that’s too windy.

Pruning and Fertilization

It also doesn’t require too much pruning unless you grow it as a hedge. If you decide to grow it like that, you should prune it in springtime. When pruning, be careful to maintain the tree’s cone shape and cut in an upwards direction.

Cut the branches that don’t look like they’re doing well carefully, but don’t cut all the green shoots from the branches. Otherwise, the tree branch won’t grow more.

If you want to keep your tree in great shape, you could use a fertilizer regularly with acidifying fertilizers. This is to raise the acidity level of your soil, which will keep your lemon cypress healthy. Fertilize your goldcrest once a year during spring, using the 10-10-10 formula.

Even though it’s resistant, you should watch out for pests that could damage your goldcrest, such as aphids. To prevent them and to get rid of them, it is recommended you fumigate your tree each spring.

Problems You Can Get with The Lemon Cypress Tree and Easy Solutions

Here’s a list of problems your lemon cypress tree could face, and here are the easy solutions to fix them:

  • Colorless leaves: if this happens to your tree, it’s because it’s not getting enough sunlight. Simply direct it towards more sunlight if it’s planted outdoors, or if it’s planted indoors, just put your potted tree near a sunny window.
  • Yellow leaves: if your lemon cypress tree has its green leaves turning yellow, it can be caused by two things. It’s either because you overwatered it, in which case don’t water it as much, or it could be a lack of nutrients.
    If it’s a lack of nutrients, just add vermiculite or essential nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, boron, and copper.
  • Lemon cypress tree not growing: if your tree isn’t growing, it’s probably because it was planted in too small of a pot. Just repot it in a bigger pot or outside. Or, you could plant it outside.

Is My Lemon Cypress Tree Sick?

Here are some signs your lemon tree could be sick and needs pruning and extra care:

  • It’s dry and has yellow leaves
  • It looks like it’s dying (trust your instinct!)
  • It’s not growing well
  • Appearance of fungi
  • Appearance of white balls or black/brown spots

The Importance of Magnesium in Your Lemon Cypress Tree and Pests that Dries the Lemon Cypress Out

Your tree could get some fungi, like phytophthora, or pests such as aphids or mites. The lemon cypress will dry itself out to try to remove the pests if it doesn’t have enough magnesium.

Just fumigate your lemon cypress tree during spring especially. As for magnesium, choose a fertilizer that contains magnesium.

Here’s everything you need to know about what lack of magnesium can do:

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