Why Is My Gold Mop Cypress Turning Brown? (9 Reasons with Quick Fixes)

We are all familiar with the lush, evergreen appeal of the Gold Mop Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’), a low-maintenance and eye-catching staple in many landscapes.

However, an often-encountered issue of gold mop cypress turning brown causes distress to both the plant and its owner.

Here I will discuss the possible causes of the disheartening transformation and provide actionable solutions to revive your Gold Mop Cypress.

Gold mop cypress turning brown

Equipped with this knowledge, you’ll be able to better understand and ultimately prevent this widespread, concerning phenomenon.

Gold mop cypress turning brown

An otherwise low-maintenance plant, it’s not uncommon for Gold Mop Cypress to unexpectedly turn brown, causing concern to a gardener. By identifying the root causes and providing solutions, this guide aims to help you address and prevent this issue of gold mop cypress turning brown.

Lack of Water

Reason: Gold Mop Cypress thrives in well-drained soil and can tolerate small periods of drought. Nevertheless, prolonged water deficiency can lead to browning of the foliage as the plant becomes stressed from dehydration. The plant may also drop its leaves in extreme drought conditions to conserve water.

Solution: Ensure your Gold Mop Cypress receives adequate water, especially during hot summer. A good rule of thumb is to water the plant thoroughly once or twice a week, soaking the soil to a depth of about 8-12 inches.

This encourages deeper root growth, leading to a healthier and more drought-tolerant plant. Additionally, consider applying a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to help retain soil moisture and maintain consistent temperature levels.



Reason: While inadequate watering can cause browning, overwatering can also harm Gold Mop Cypress. Excessive moisture in the soil may result in root rot, a fungal condition that can severely damage your plant and cause browning foliage. Overly saturated soil can suffocate the roots and prevent them from absorbing the oxygen they need.

Solution: Make sure you are not over-watering your plants. Check the soil’s moisture content regularly by sticking your finger about an inch into the soil – if it feels moist, you can wait another day or two to water.

Alternatively, you can use a moisture meter to more accurately monitor the soil’s moisture levels. Adjust the watering frequency accordingly, providing enough water to maintain consistently moist soil without causing waterlogging.

As part of this process, ensure that the Gold Mop Cypress is planted in well-draining soil and, if necessary, amend the existing soil with coarse materials such as sand or perlite to improve its drainage.

Winter Burn

Reason: Cold, harsh winter winds can cause the plant’s foliage to dry out and turn brown—an issue known as “winter burn.” This browning can also be exacerbated by the fluctuations of freezing and thawing cycles.

Winter burn is more prevalent in evergreens, like Gold Mop Cypress, as they continue to transpire (lose water through their leaves) throughout the winter when their roots may be frozen and unable to absorb water from the soil.

Solution: Protect your Gold Mop Cypress from winter burn by planting it in a sheltered area protected from prevailing winds. Another effective method is providing a windbreak, either natural or man-made, such as a grouping of trees, a fence, or even a burlap screen.

Additionally, watering your Gold Mop Cypress thoroughly in the fall, before the ground freezes, can help ensure adequate moisture going into the winter. Applying a layer of mulch at the base of the tree can also help insulate the soil and roots from extreme cold.

Nutrient Imbalance

Reason: An imbalance of nutrients in the soil, particularly a nitrogen deficiency, can cause Gold Mop Cypress foliage to turn brown. Nitrogen is essential for plants to produce chlorophyll, which imparts the green color to the leaves and allows the plant to undergo photosynthesis. A lack of nitrogen can lead to yellowing or browning of the foliage.

Solution: Have your soil tested to determine nutrient levels. Soil testing services are often provided by local Extension offices and some garden centers. If required, provide a balanced fertilizer to help nourish your plants.

This could be a controlled-release granular fertilizer or a soluble one, depending on your soil test results. Always follow label instructions for application rates and timings. In addition to fertilizing, amendment with organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure can also improve soil fertility over the long term.

Pests & Diseases

Pests & Diseases
Pests & Diseases

Reason: Invasive pests, such as scale insects and mites, insert their mouthparts into plant tissues and suck out sap, weakening the plant and possibly leading to browning of the foliage.

Fungal diseases like Cypress Canker, caused by species of the Seridium fungus, can also result in significant browning and eventual death of infected branches or entire plants.

Solution: Regularly examine your plant for signs of pests or diseases – look for discolored or distorted foliage, sticky honeydew, or black sooty mold on leaves. If you detect any problems, treat promptly using appropriate pesticides or fungicides, and follow label instructions.

Many of these products are contact-acting, so thoroughly covering all plant parts is necessary for effective control. For fungal diseases, it may be necessary to prune and destroy affected parts of the plant to prevent further spread.

Improper Pruning

Reason: Pruning helps you maintain the desired shape and size of your Gold Mop Cypress. However, incorrect pruning techniques might cause the plant stress, leading to the foliage’s browning and slow recovery. This may occur if branches are torn instead of cut cleanly, if too much of the plant is removed at once, or if pruning is done at the wrong time of year.

Solution: Prune your Gold Mop Cypress in late winter or early spring before new growth starts. This timing avoids disrupting the plant’s dormancy and capitalizes on fresh spring growth, which helps the plant recover quickly.

When pruning, remove dead or damaged branches and any that cross or rub against each other. Make clean cuts using sharp tools to avoid crushing or tearing the wood. Cut outside the branch collar (the swollen area at the branch’s base) without leaving a stub.

Clean your tools with bleach and water (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) before and after pruning to avoid spreading disease.

Inadequate Sunlight

Reason: Gold Mop Cypress trees flourish under full sun exposure. When they don’t receive enough sunlight, photosynthesis decreases, leading to a lack of nutrients and energy for the plant. This can cause the yellow or golden foliage to change to an undesirable greenish or brown color.

Solution: Ensure your Gold Mop Cypress is planted in a location that receives abundant sunlight, ideally 6-8 hours per day. If your tree is located in a shaded area, and if possible, consider relocating it to a spot that exposes the tree to sufficient direct sunlight.

Juniper Twig Blight

Juniper Twig Blight
Juniper Twig Blight

Reason: Juniper Twig Blight, a common fungal disease caused by Phomopsis juniperovora or Kabatina juniperi, can infect junipers and related species including the Gold Mop Cypress, causing afflicted branches to turn brown and die.

Solution: The fungus spreads through airborne spores, particularly during wet weather. To control this disease, promptly remove and discard any infected branches. Clean your pruning tools after use to prevent the fungus spread. Applying a preventative fungicide during the early spring can also help protect your tree.

Unsuitable Temperature

Reason: Extreme temperatures, either too hot or too cold, can cause stress for the Gold Mop Cypress, potentially leading to browning leaves or death of parts of the plant.

Solution: Even though Gold Mop Cypress is fairly resilient to temperature fluctuations, it is still essential to provide care during extreme weather conditions. In periods of intense heat, shade netting could protect trees from scorching sunlight.

On the other hand, winter protection like green burlap or tree wraps can be employed to protect against freezing temperatures or winter burn.

Potted cypress turning brown: what to do?

If your potted cypress is turning brown, it could be due to various factors. Here are common causes for these symptoms and their respective solutions:

  1. Poor drainage: Cypress trees need well-drained soil. Waterlogged or consistently damp soil may lead to root rot and consequently, browning of the foliage.
  2. Solution: Ensure the pot has adequate drainage holes and the soil allows water to pass through easily. Consider repotting the plant into a soil mix with better drainage.
  3. Insufficient watering: Cypress trees require consistent watering. Lack of adequate water can stress the tree and lead to browning.
  4. Solution: Water your cypress regularly. The soil should be moist but not wet. Find the right balance to avoid both underwatering and overwatering.
  5. Transplant shock: If you recently repotted your cypress tree, it might experience some stress due to environmental changes.
  6. Solution: Make the transplanting process as stress-free as possible by watering thoroughly before and after the process and maintaining similar light conditions.
  7. Nutrient Deficiencies: Lack of certain nutrients like iron can cause browning.
  8. Solution: Have a soil test to determine if your cypress tree lacks any nutrients. You can supplement the soil with the required nutrients depending on the results.
  9. Pests or diseases: Pests like spider mites or diseases like cypress canker can cause your tree to turn brown.
  10. Solution: Regularly inspect the tree for signs of pests or diseases. Treat your tree with an appropriate pesticide or fungicide if any are found.
  11. Environmental Factors: The plant might not receive sufficient sunlight or be exposed to unsuitable temperature conditions.
  12. Solution: Ensure that your potted cypress receives plenty of sunlight and is in an environment with suitable temperatures.

Remember that proper care and maintenance can help prevent most issues. Consult with a local horticultural extension service or nursery if problems persist or you’re unsure how to treat your cypress.

Can you save a brown cypress tree?

If your cypress tree is turning brown, proper care can often save it. Start by ensuring the tree’s sunlight, water, and soil needs are met. Check for pests or diseases, as these can cause browning. Prune dead or damaged branches to redirect the tree’s resources to healthy parts.

Can you save a brown cypress tree

Remember, both overwatering and underwatering can damage the tree. If your care adjustments don’t yield improvement, consider consulting an arborist or local extension service for further assistance. With timely intervention, a browning cypress can often be revived.


If your Gold Mop Cypress is turning brown, prompt intervention is crucial. The color change can be due to several factors such as inappropriate watering, lack of sunlight, temperature stress, pests, or diseases like juniper twig blight.

Understanding and addressing the root cause effectively can help recuperate your tree’s health.

Don’t forget to provide its basic requirements: sufficient sunlight, proper watering, and care during extreme weather conditions. If issues persist, seeking professional help can be beneficial. Thus, even a distressed Gold Mop Cypress can return to its vibrant form with proper care.

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