How to Plant and Care For Leyland Cypress: A Complete Guide
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Table of Contents
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What You Will Learn
About Leyland Cypress | Leyland Cypress Plants Features | Uses for Leyland Cypress Plants | Alternatives to Leyland Cypress Trees | Quick Care Guide | How to Care For Leyland Cypress | 💧 Water | ☀️ Sunlight | 🌡️ Temperature and Humidity | 🌱 Best Soil for Leyland Cypress | 🌻 Fertilizer | 😎 Pruning and Maintenance | Common Leyland Cypress Problems | Where to Buy | Common FAQs
Leyland cypress, also known as Leylandii and Cypress, is a low-maintenance, evergreen tree that is adored for its foliage beauty and pyramidal growth habit. These trees are beautiful and serve many purposes in landscapes and gardens. They attract wildlife and act as windbreaks, privacy hedges, and screens.
Moreover, Leyland cypress trees are exceptionally fast-growing, adding 3 to 4 feet annually, and reach a majestic height of 70 feet in just a few years. These evergreen trees perform very well in poor soil conditions and varying light conditions. They can withstand exposed sites and coastal locations. Keep reading to learn more about planting and caring for Leyland cypress in gardens.
About Leyland Cypress
Leyland Cypress is a fertile hybrid conifer between the cross of Nootka false cypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) and Monetery cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa).
This evergreen conifer exhibits all the unique features of its parent species. Such as it features the growth habit, foliage, and winter hardiness from its Nootka false cypress parent (native of northwestern North America), and fast growth, branching pattern from the Monterey cypress side (Central California).
It brings interest and beauty to landscapes with its mid-green foliage, towering height, and non-invasive root system all year round. It belongs to the conifer plant family Cupressaceae with many popular landscape cultivars based on different foliage colors. Because of their fast-growing and low-maintenance growth style, these Leyland cypress trees are favorites of garden and landscape designers.
Leyland cypress was an accident!
This evergreen tree is an accidental hybrid created at the estate of Jhon Naylor in 1888 when the parent species were planted near each other. Pollen from the Nootka false cypress fertilizes the Monterey cypress's ball-shaped cones, resulting in a new bigeneric hybrid plant—the Leyland cypress (a plant with all the elite traits of its parents, like winter hardiness, rapid growth, and attractive appearance).
Leyland Cypress Plants Features
Leyland cypress is a fast-growing (gaining 3 to 4 feet per year) conifer tree that brings elegance to landscapes with its dense evergreen foliage. It quickly forms a handsome broad columnar to narrowly pyramidal shape or outline with slightly drooping branches.
The bluish-green to dark green foliage is tiny, scale-like, produced on branchlets in flattened sprays. The flowers are small ball-like cones of 2 mm in size and are born in summer and autumn.
Leylandii trees grow to a height of 70 feet tall with 20 feet mature width (even 100 feet tallness is not uncommon for these fast growers). They have a shallow, non-invasive root system (lacking the central tap root used to anchorage the ground).
Therefore, Leyland cypress trees form a dense network of far-reaching roots for nutrient and water absorption, preventing soil erosion.
Another best feature of these Leyland cypress trees is their winter hardiness, but in zone 6 and below, it is best to shield the young plants with burlap tents to prevent injury and burn due to heavy snowfall.
Landscape Uses for Leyland Cypress Plants
Leyland cypress is a popular choice for privacy hedges, screens, windbreaks, and group plantings on large-scale landscapes. This drought-tolerant evergreen tree tolerates severe pruning and trimming, making it an excellent formal hedge in small geographies.
Leyland cypress is a hardy plant that grows well on a variety of soils, including heavy clay, sandy loams, and sands. However, it features the best and most dramatic growth and dark green foliage on well-drained upland soils.
It also makes the perfect background plant with broadleaf evergreens and provides a home and food to most wildlife, particularly songbirds.
Alternatives to Leyland Cypress Trees
Although Leyland cypress is admired for its rapid growth and tallness, it is sometimes unsuitable for residential landscapes (thanks to the light blockage of neighbors). So, a better solution is considering substitutes for Leyland cypress in home gardens and miniature landscapes.
These substitutes are:
Thuja ‘Green Giant’ (more commonly known as Green Giant Arborvitae) is a perfect Leyland cypress alternative. It is a fast-growing hybrid cultivar of x Thuja standishii and Thuja plicata 'Green Giant'. This tree offers an incredible resemblance to the evergreen cypress with its pyramidal shape and scale-like foliage sprays. Green giant arborvitae thrives best in full-sun locations and a variety of soils. The mature growth of this tree is 40 to 60 feet and 12 to 18 feet wide, with a life span of 40 to 60 years.
American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) is an extremely cold hardy tree that grows best in the USDA hardiness zones 2 to 8. It is native to the eastern United States and Canada and has a slow to the medium growth rate. Its needled foliage and pyramidal shape make it a perfect choice for windbreaks and privacy screens.
Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’) is another best substitute for Leyland cypress with dense, emerald green foliage and an iconic narrow pyramidal form. It exhibits its shimmering green color all year round and is winter hardy in the USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8. This evergreen is an excellent choice for privacy hedging for its dense foliage.
Leyland Cypress Care Guide
USDA hardiness zone
Pests and diseases
Where to buy
How to Grow Leyland Cypress
The Leyland cypress is low maintenance and cold hardy landscape screening plant in the USDA hardiness zones 6A to 10A and easy to grow. It thrives best in cool climates with moderate temperatures, full sun, and well-draining soil.
Plant this tree in autumn or early spring and water regularly in summer and every three days in spring. Once it grows to its mature height, Leyland cypress is drought tolerant.
Key to a healthy Leyland Cypress is appropriate spacing when planting.
Spacing is one of the most critical factors in the healthy growth of Leyland cypress in gardens and landscapes. Because it ensures the vigorously growing plant will have enough space underground and aboveground to spread and flourish.
When & How To Plant Leyland Cypress
The best time to plant the fast-growing Leyland cypress tree is mid-fall (about six weeks before the first frost) in its medium dormant state. So that the hedge established itself before the start of the growing season.
Before planting, select a garden site with well-draining soil and receive full sun (six hours of unfiltered sunlight per day).
Dig a hole twice as the root ball and three times wide and add organic material to the spot. Now set the root ball in the center of the hole by keeping the root collar about two inches above the soil bottom. Backfill it with the soil and water the newly planted tree thoroughly. After planting, water it daily for the first week, then every other day to the second week. Follow this schedule throughout the growing season.
How far apart do I plant Leyland cypress for privacy?
When grown as a privacy hedge, the perfect spacing between Leyland cypress trees should be about 10 feet to provide enough space for spread and growth. On the other hand, plant the young cypress in a triangular fashion with an approximate distance of 5 to 7 feet for a more profound barrier.
How far from the fence should you plant Leyland cypress?
These trees reach a mature height of 70 feet and 20 feet spread in suitable growing conditions. So, an ideal spacing for a specimen Leylandii is 15 feet from neighboring shrubs and fences.
How to Care For Leyland Cypress
Leyland cypress trees are known as low-maintenance evergreens that can be grown and maintained in less-than-perfect conditions. They can withstand various soil conditions and lighting. However, they need regular pruning and proper spacing to flourish in landscapes.
Water the young Leyland cypress plants regularly (once or twice a week) during the first growing season. It will help the plant to establish itself in the soil and develops a wide-reaching network of roots. Once this evergreen tree sets and produces a more robust root system, water the Leyland cypress less frequently but keep the soil moist on hot summer days.
Always use a drip irrigation system to water this tree, as it will prevent overwatering and the growth of root rot pathogens.
Proper, well-draining soil is key.
Good soil drainage is essential for these fast-growing screening plants because it ensures fuller growth and lush green needled leaves.
Leyland cypress prefers full sun for their best growth (at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day). So, planting them in garden sites that receive unfiltered sunlight is best. It can also tolerate partial shade conditions but not the deep shade that causes poor to no cypress growth.
🌡️ Temperature and Humidity
Leyland cypress is grown and admired by gardeners for its fast growth habit and tolerance to the cold climate. It grows best in the USDA hardiness zones 6A to 10A, meaning it can withstand temperatures minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, the young plants need sheltering in the first growing season. Once this tree is matured, it can thrive and survive in growing zone 5 without protection from cold temperatures.
Overwintering Leyland Cypress
Leylandii is a winter hardy plant in the growing zones of 6A to 10A and can survive the winters in these regions (only the mature trees). While in zones five and below, these trees need protection in the winter, particularly young plants.
Cover them with burlap tents or wraps in the winter to prevent winter burn and branch breakage. Also, do not water them too often in winter and mulch (thick layer) the base of plants to conserve moisture.
🌱 Best Soil for Leyland Cypress
The Leyland cypress can grow well in a variety of soils such as heavy clay, sandy loam, alkaline, and acidic. However, this evergreen shows the best growth in moist, fertile, and well-drained soil.
Also, use a thick layer of mulch around the drip line to conserve moisture during the drought stress; otherwise, such prolonged conditions of soil dryness will encourage canker disease.
Don't let the soil dry out completely during the first growing season.
For the best results, do not let the soil dry out completely during the first growing season, and be very cautious about not overwatering this evergreen.
Leyland cypress needs fertilizer applications once a year to produce new sprays of foliage. Therefore, it is wise to apply plant food or slow-release fertilizer in early spring to promote healthy new growth.
Use a balanced, general-purpose fertilizer (NPK 10-10-10) for the screening plant and spread it around the drip line.
😎 Pruning and Maintenance
This evergreen tree is an excellent specimen plant in winter gardens for its hardiness and fast growth rate. Therefore, this fast-growing tree needs regular trimming to retain the desirable growth and size.
Trim the lower branches that are old and dying due to fungal canker disease. dying and brown branches. Also, cut back the top and side branches twice a year to maintain the desired forms and shapes.
Prune your tree in summer, especially in July during dry periods, to discourage the spreading of disease. Make sure not to prune in spring when birds are actively nesting.
Common Leyland Cypress Problems
Leyland cypress tree is widely grown as a fast-growing screening plant in home gardens and landscapes. The increased planting of this drought-tolerant tree has resulted in various insect pests and fungal diseases. Fungal root rot and canker disease are the most severe among these problems.
Root Rot or Phytophthora Rot
Root rot in Leyland cypress occurs due to poor soil drainage and is caused by Phytophthora fungal pathogen. Young plants are more susceptible than established cypress trees. Because these young plants have succulent and small roots that are easy for fungal species to invade and enter.
As these pathogens start an infection, the symptoms become more visible. The discoloration of leaves (yellow, brown, and tan) and stunted growth is prominent symptoms.
The best way to treat this disease is to replace the Leyland cypress tree with a new site free from Phytophthora and remove infected roots and foliage. Then, maintain good soil drainage by adding organic matter into the heavy clay soils and avoid overwatering.
Canker Disease/ Dieback
Leyland cypress canker or dieback disease is the primary reason gardeners now avoid planting this tree as a formal hedge and screen. It is caused by Seiridium unicorne and Botryosphaeria dothidea. The common symptoms are the dieback of the branches and falling off the needled foliage when running a hand through the affected branches with hand. The long periods of drought and spring freeze the disease development.
Most importantly, there is no chemical cure for this disease except prevention.
The best preventive measures are to avoid over-fertilizing the drought-stricken Leyland cypress trees.
Maintain a wise and regular watering schedule and apply water at the base of the plant to keep the branches dry and prevent the spread of overwintering spores. Also, prune out the damaged branches and discard them properly.
What causes a Leyland cypress to turn brown?
The primary cause of the browning of the branches of Leyland cypress is infections of Seiridium and Cercospora fungus. These pathogens enter the plant tissues in summer through natural openings and wounds. As they start infection and multiplication inside plant tissues, it leads to browning that looks similar to winter scalding. The only best way to prevent further damage is pruning dying and damaged branches and using a thick layer of mulch around the plant drip line to conserve moisture.
Why is my Leyland cypress dying from the bottom up?
It is due to canker disease, root rot, and improper sunlight exposure that leads to the development of dark brown lesions on lower branches and their death. To prevent the death of lower limbs, avoid overwatering during wet weather.
Where to Buy Leyland Cypress?
Leyland cypress trees are stunning evergreens of the conifer plant family that features all the iconic traits a gardener and beginner plant parent can wish for. They are hardy plants with higher adaptability to various soils and lighting conditions. In addition, these low-maintenance and drought-tolerant trees bring beauty (with their broad columnar growth habit) and uniqueness to the outdoors all year round. To add these evergreens to your garden this fall, visit Neverland for healthy and best-quality trees. For a planting and care guide, you can check our Neverland blog.
FAQ on Leyland Cypress
How big does a Leyland cypress tree get?
The Leyland tree grows as a tall tree with a mature height of 70 feet and 15 feet wide, but it can also be maintained as a garden specimen and screens through regular pruning.
How fast does Leyland cypress grow?
Leyland cypress is a favorite of landscape designers for its fast growth rate. It attains 3 to 4 feet of growth annually while outshining its neighboring trees.
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