Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi

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We were thinking about planting a tree to be used as a permanent Christmas tree for our yard. We noticed you have two in the demonstration garden, the Southern Redcedar and the Arizona cypress. Which of those two do you think would be a better choice?


Southern Red Cedar

Good question.  Both are evergreen and have the Christmas tree (pyramid) shape and they both would make a nice addition to any landscape if you have enough room.  Southern Redcedar, Juniperus silicicola, can grow to 40 feet tall with a 25 feet spread. It tolerates most any kind of soil and light conditions – full sun to light shade. Southern Redcedar is very drought and salt tolerant.  It has very few insect issues but there are a few fungal diseases which can cause twig die back of leaf galls.  Most of the diseases can easily be pruned out and controlled without chemical applications.  Arizona cypress, Cupressus arizonica var. arizonica grows to the same height and spread as the Southern Redcedar, likes similar planting conditions although we are not sure about its tolerance for salt spray.  Arizona cypress has a slight bluish cast to the leaves especially on new growth. It has no real insect enemies but has been known to develop blight in cool, humid conditions as well as stem canker.  One big difference, Southern Redcedar is native and has been known to attract birds while Arizona cypress does not.  I don’t think you could make a mistake by planting either one but I like the idea of having a native tree in my yard which is able to supply food for birds.  But don’t let me influence your final decision!

Southern Redcedar:

Arizona Cypress:


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We are trying to select trees to grow along the street areas of our homeowner association and were told not use Chinese elms as they can easily get uprooted during a storm.  What do you think?  Is that a true statement? 



We learned quite a few lessons after the four hurricanes came across Florida in 2004.  Chinese elms, along with Bradford pears, Leyland cypress, water and laurel oaks and the Washington fan palm are the least wind resistant in our area. The most resistant to the wind were dogwood, crape myrtle, holly (American, yaupon, dahoon), magnolia, oak (sand, live, turkey), bald cypress, podocarpus, sparkleberry, and some of the palms (Pindo, Canary Island Date, date, cabbage).  Our native winged elm fell into the medium resistance group along with Japanese maple, river birch, red bud, fringe tree, and several other oaks. Attached is the full list of high resistance to low resistance according to the area of Florida. However, it is important to keep all trees in the best health.  Even the strongest resistant trees can fall if the roots of the tree have been compromised by construction or other environmental factors.  Remember, do not allow mulch to pile up against the trunk of any tree or shrub as this can lead to water damage on the trunk and potentially introduce disease.  Over pruning or improper pruning, even if it is called “hurricane cutting”, may cause more damage and make the tree susceptible to failure.  Trees should not be shaped like gum drops, hat racks or lollipops.  Be sure to call a certified arborist when it is necessary for your trees to be pruned.