How Do You Prune A Golden Mop Cypress?

Evergreen shrubs like cypress are a great way to keep color in your garden all throughout winter. Semi-weeping varieties like the Golden Mop Cypress also help soften up the landscape with their wispy and drooping foliage. They look especially beautiful paired with more shapely plants like hostas or oakland. 

Although Golden Mop Cypress is a slow growing shrub, there are instances where pruning may be necessary. Golden Mop Cypress pruning may be required after winter damage, or if the growth has exceeded the perimeter of your garden. 

To prune a Golden Mop Cypress, use a pair of hand pruners and gardening gloves to prune long or damaged stems by cutting right above the bud. Always prune in spring before new growth appears, and avoid pruning too much or in the wrong season so you don’t shock the plant. 

We’ll look at all the best tips and tricks for pruning your Golden Mop Cypress to keep it looking beautiful!

Pruning Cypress Shrubs

Cypress shrubs have long been a popular choice for gardeners. They’re a slow growing variety of tree that also have unique rot resistant properties. This makes them the perfect shrub for your outdoor garden.

They remain small for many years, so you can neglect them a little without fear of them becoming wild and overgrown. They also hold up well to bad weather, so they’re a good choice for climates that experience lots of snow or rain. 

That being said, a happy Golden Mop Cypress will eventually need some pruning, whether it’s to simply trim back long growth or to get rid of winter damage. Here’s how to do both. 

Pruning Overgrowth

Avoid the temptation to simply shear the outside of your Golden Mop Cypress with a hedge trimmer. This not only will ruin the naturally shaggy look of the plant, but it also isn’t the best way to train new growth. In fact, when the plant grows back, the same branches will become long and leggy. 

To get a more uniform look to your plant, it’s best to trim long growth further back on the stem. Take a pair of sterilized hand pruners and snip the stem just above the node (or bud). You can easily find the node by looking for the place where new branches are sprouting from on the stem. 

Prune your Golden Mop Cypress like this periodically and your plant will keep its droopy shape, without any spindly long growth. Here’s a great video to illustrate this technique.

Pruning Winter Damage 

Golden Mop Cypress is a sun-loving shrub. It can tolerate winter conditions, but it is susceptible to winter burn.

Winter burn is a condition that affects many evergreen shrubs, especially younger plants with shallow roots. Severely cold winters can freeze the ground and damage shallow roots so the cypress can’t take in water. You’ll generally notice winter burn symptoms in the spring once the snow melts. The lack of moisture in the plant causes dry brown patches to appear. 

To fix your damaged Golden Mop Cypress, first wait until the plant is out of dormancy. This is the best way to tell if a stem or branch is truly dead. Scratch off the bark on brown stems and look for green color. If the stem is green underneath, don’t prune it, as it may still produce new growth.

For completely brown branches and stems, use a pair of hand pruners to prune until you reach a live bud. You may need to cut quite far down on the stem to reach a live section. Your Golden Mop Cypress may look patchy for now, but in a few seasons it should fill out again with new growth. 

To avoid winter burn in the future, consider adding mulch to the base of your shrubs to retain moisture. You can also cover your plant with a burlap sack in the winter to prevent it from drying out due to wind and sun. 

When Should Cypress Trees Be Pruned?

Like with most shrubs, it’s best to prune in the spring. This allows time for new growth to emerge during the summer growing season. You can periodically cut away overgrowth in the summer months.

Avoid pruning in the fall or early winter, because any new growth will die off in the cold. The only exception to this rule is if you need to remove damaged or diseased parts of the plant. It’s better that they are removed, or else they can spread to healthy areas of your shrub and kill it. 

How to Keep a Gold Mop Cypress Small?

Golden Mop Cypress shrubs have a maximum height and width between 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 m). Often the shrubs you buy from the nursery are no bigger than 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm). It can take up to 10 years for a Golden Mop Cypress to reach its maximum height. 

Most gardeners buy this plant because of its shaggy and somewhat wild look. But if you prefer to keep your Cypress smaller and more manageable, prune it in the late summer. This way you can prune off mature growth without an abundance of new growth emerging.

How Do You Take Care of a Golden Mop?

Golden Mop Cypress is a fairly hardy plant, so it has minimal care requirements. This shrub will thrive in USDA zones 4-8 and can tolerate a variety of soil types, from sandy to clay. Moist but well-draining soils are generally best for this shrub. It prefers full sun, but will also tolerate partial shade

You can water your Golden Mop Cypress about once a week, unless it’s rainy. Always check the soil for dryness before watering. The best way to do this is to dig down about 3 inches (7.5 cm) and feel the soil with your hand. 

Although fertilization isn’t required for a mature Golden Mop Cypress, it will help make the foliage more vibrant. Fertilize in the spring before new growth appears, and opt for a 4-8-8 fertilizer.

Why is My Golden Cypress Turning Brown?

We already established that browning in the spring is often caused by winter burn and dehydration. But browning can also be caused by over pruning. Avoid pruning past the new growth on a stem, as this can cause the plant to go into shock and kill the branches. 

Although cypress are fairly disease resistant, there are a few maladies that affect this shrub. Open sores called cankers are dead areas on a tree or shrub that can infect the nearby branches by causing them to turn brown. 

Rust is another disease that affects shrubs in very moist areas. The red rust colored spores spread easily from rain or top watering. It’s best to prune any infected branches to avoid spreading this disease to the rest of the shrub. 


Can You Overwater a Cypress Tree?

Although Golden Mop Cypress shrubs enjoy moist soil, there is such a thing as too much moisture. An overwatered cypress shrub can lead to root rot and dead foliage. The best remedy against overwatering is to have good drainage in your soil. 

If you’re concerned about the drainage of your soil, there is a simple drainage test you can do. Dig a hole about 12 inches (30 cm) wide and deep in your garden. Fill it with water, then allow the water to drain. Fill the hole with water once again and this time use a timer to see how long it takes to drain. 

Soil with good drainage will see the water level reduce at a rate of 1 inch (2.5 cm) per hour. If the water reduces at a slower rate, you need to improve drainage to the soil. You can do this by adding compost, which is full of organic matter and air. 

Do Cypress Have Deep Roots?

A mature Golden Mop Cypress can establish a substantial root system, but they are not considered deep or invasive roots. Since Cypress is meant to live in moist soil, the plant doesn’t need to send its roots deep into the soil to seek out moisture. 

The roots of a Golden Mop Cypress also typically do not spread any further than the size of the plant itself. So gardeners rarely have to worry about the Golden Mop Cypress choking out nearby plants. 


Of all the hundreds of shrubs to choose from, the Golden Mop Cypress offers something out of the ordinary. Its mop-like appearance is charming and whimsical, and the perfect way to soften the landscape of your garden. 

Although this shrub grows slowly, you may need to prune it if there is excess growth or winter burn. Use hand pruners to get rid of dead or overgrown stems by cutting just above the bud. Don’t prune any further down the stem than necessary, or you may shock the plant. 

Remember to save your pruning for the spring, so new branches can become established throughout the summer.