The need for screening is so common that many different plants are sold for this purpose. Most are fast growing, but some take longer to build a good screen, especially if height is an important consideration. This is certainly not true of the Leyland Cypress, and if speed is your priority, this is the evergreen screen to grow. In a few short years, you will have a magnificent hedge as tall as you need – a hedge that will be green all year round and create perfect privacy in your garden. It can be clipped at almost any time of year to make a formal hedge, or left alone to grow into a windbreak. It does not shed leaves or fruit all over the garden and the foliage that does fall will lie underneath the plants and make mulch that slowly rots down back into the soil.
With a very fast growth rate, Leyland Cypress is the ideal choice for a foundation hedge along your property-line. Very soon you will have privacy and a screen against an ugly view. It is a very easy plant to trim, as the foliage is soft, fine and dense. You can quickly, easily and comfortably keep it neat, tidy and the height you want. It makes a beautiful formal hedge with regular shearing. If you have more space, and height is not an issue, leave it to grow more casually and naturally. It will remain dense and beautiful all year round even if untrimmed. If you do have neighbors close beside you, keep your trees from growing too tall and throwing too much shade on their gardens.
If you need tall evergreen specimens among your large shrubs and trees, then this tree is a great choice for that too. Left to grow alone, it will soon form a tall column of green, making a perfect backdrop to flowering trees or shrubs. So don’t consider this just a ‘hedge plant’ because single specimens are beautiful and make a very attractive feature in the garden.
Leyland Cypress is one of the very fastest growing trees you can plant. Even in poor soil, you can expect it to grow 2 feet a year and in ordinary soil 3 or 4 feet is normal. With regular water and fertilizer, it may even grow 5 feet a year. With growth rates like that, it takes just a very few years to form a dense screen. Some fast growing plants produce rapid growth for the first few years, and then slow down significantly. With this tree, you will not have that problem, because it keeps growing rapidly for many years, and only when very large will it begin to slow down. If you are planting it as a hedge, you should trim it two or three times a year to keep your hedge neat and controlled – because the growth is so rapid.
Leyland cypress is an evergreen tree with an upright, columnar habit and with foliage almost to the ground. Left untrimmed, this tree can reach 100 feet tall, but this is rarely seen as the plant is mostly used for screening and hedges, and trimmed regularly or at least from time to time. The foliage is soft, with pointed leaves clinging to the stems and growing in upright sprays. In spring the foliage is a very attractive light-green color, which darkens to a rich green in late summer and stays that way all winter. The tree is conical or flame-shaped in outline, always broader at the base than the top, unless trimmed. It has a beautiful dense appearance, even without clipping. An unclipped tree may be 20 feet wide, but as a hedge it can be kept 3 feet wide and to any height needed.
Soil and Growing Conditions
Not only is Leyland Cypress rapid growing, it is also able to thrive in all types of soil from sand to hard clay. Some soil preparation is always best, to get the quickest establishment and growth rate from your plants. The good news is that even if your soil preparation is minimal, this is one tree that will still thrive. Unlike other trees that can be ‘fussy’ about the right kind of soil, this hybrid cypress is tough enough to grow well anywhere. Not only is it happy in almost all kinds of soil, it also easily grown in most conditions – everything from damp soil to drought conditions. When freshly planted you should water your plants regularly, but once established, it only needs water during hot, dry periods.
It is also tolerant of high levels of air-pollution, making it a great choice for urban gardens, and ideal for a city hedge along a busy highway. In locations like that, it will reduce noise and catch dust, snow and salt-spray, making it very superior to a tall fence. It is also salt-resistant. Whether the salt you have to deal with is from ocean spray or winter highway drift, unlike most other evergreens, this cypress will resist mild to moderate amounts of salt pollution.
Pests and diseases
This tree is normally pest and disease-free. Any diseases it suffers are mainly the result of poor growing conditions, and there are two main things to consider. This tree likes drained soil, and does not do well in soil that is always wet. If you have those conditions, use the Green Giant Arborvitae instead, an alternative fast growing and attractive evergreen that thrives in damp soil. At the other extreme, long periods of drought can also be harmful. During hot, dry weather, give your hedge a long, deep soaking once a week. Not only will this protect it against drought, but you will also see the most rapid growth.
Leyland Cypress grows well across a wide range of hardiness zones. It grows from zone 5 to zone 9, but in zone 5 it grows best in a sheltered location. Zones 6, 7 and 8 are the ideal growing areas for this tree, and you can be sure it will thrive and grow well there, with no winter damage. Although growing well also in zone 9, it is not very tolerant of long, hot summers. If you have irrigation, or water well during extended periods of drought, you will have no problems. For hot, dry regions, we also recommend the Italian Cypress, which is another attractive and fast growing evergreen, and one that is more resistant to extremes of heat.
For the best growth, choose a sunny location, or one with light shade. Growth will be strongest and densest in full, or almost full, sunlight. You can also plant in light shade, and your plants will grow well, even if a little thinner. Regular trimming will keep plants in shade denser and with a lush appearance approaching that of trees in full sun.
Getting the Right Tree
With such a special tree, it is important to get the right tree. Hybrid trees like this can never be grown from seed, as each seedling will be different and unpredictable. Seedling trees are sometimes offered cheaply, but they will not be the correct cypress, so avoid them if you want all the outstanding properties of this plant. Our suppliers grow our trees the correct way – from branch cuttings. That way every tree is identical to the original and produces a uniform effect when planted as a hedge. However growing this way takes longer, so avoid cheaper trees that will only be a disappointment.
Making your Screen or Hedge
Because of its adaptability and rapid growth, this tree will adapt to many different ways of making a hedge or screen. Obviously planted further apart it will take longer to become a solid barrier, but with such rapid growth the difference is not very great. Because it is naturally a large tree, it is best not to give in to the temptation to plant very, very closely, because the lower branches may die as the trees grow, reducing the screening you are looking for.
Single Row Of Trees
Double Row Of Trees
As an Informal Barrier or Screen
If you want a low-maintenance screen, plant your trees between 4 and 8 feet apart in a single row. You can also plant a double row, with the plants 5 to 10 feet apart in the rows, and with the rows 3-5 feet apart. Place the plants in one row so that they fill the space in the other row – this is called ‘staggered planting’. It is easy to see that the wider spacing will take a couple of years longer to fill in, but you will keep foliage right to the ground for a much longer time. Wider spacing is also good in humid states, as it prevents the potential for developing any diseases. A light trimming once a year will keep your plants extra dense, but for an informal screen, it is not necessary at all.
As a Formal Hedge
Many people want a dense hedge they can clip to keep it really neat and tidy. Regular trimming also means you can fit the hedge into a much smaller space, perhaps only 3 feet wide. When planting against a fence or wall, put your plants 2 to 3 feet away from the barrier, or they will not grow straight and they will also grow into your neighbors. If you want a hedge that is less than 6 feet tall, we recommend using a smaller-growing plant, like Thuja Green Giant, and for hedges below 3 feet, American Boxwood is an ideal choice.
The standard spacing for cypress is 3 feet apart, as narrower spacing may give a full hedge a little bit sooner, but it is hard to keep such a hedge dense, and there is a risk that the lower branches will die in a few years. If you have enough width available, planting in staggered rows is an even better system to use. Place the plants 5 feet apart in each row, with the rows 3 feet apart. Place the plants in the second row so that each plant sits in the space between the plants in the first row. As you will need a space at least 7 feet deep to use this method, if you have less space, stick to planting in a single row.
Of course, when you come to plant your trees you may need to adjust the spacing a little to keep them evenly spaced, depending on the length of the area you are filling. The first and last plants in a row should be spaced, from the end, at half the distance you use between the plants.
You can plant Leyland Cypress at any time of the year, just as long as the soil is soft enough to dig. Obviously if you plant in fall or winter, you will not see much growth until the following spring, but the roots will have been growing below ground, so in many ways winter planting is best, because your trees will get off to a flying start as soon as the first warm days of spring arrive.
Although this is a tough plant, some soil preparation is ideal. Dig or till the soil to a depth of about 8 to 12 inches. When planting a hedge, dig a strip of ground 3 feet wide. For a specimen, dig a circular area 2 to 3 feet across. Remove the roots of weeds, especially big perennial ones, but you don’t need to remove small stones. Add some organic material to the soil as you dig it. Anything from garden compost to rotted leaves, animal manure, or peat moss is suitable. Add a slow-release starter fertilizer for evergreen trees as well, to get your plants off to a strong start. We recommend you use our DIEHARD Transplant Fertilizer, as this soil additive gives you trees a healthy root system.
For a hedge, you can plant your trees in separate holes, or dig a trench the whole distance and place the plants along it. The trench method makes it easier to adjust the spacing so that everything is evenly spaced and straight. Use a tightly stretched string to keep your trench straight, and to keep all the plants in line for a perfect planting job.
Remove enough soil from the hole or trench so that the plants sit just an inch or so below the final level of the ground. Laying a stick across the hole is a good way to check this. Make sure the soil underneath is firm, so that your plant will not be pushed deeper as you plant.
Once you have the plants in the hole or trench, and standing upright, put back two-thirds of the soil, pushing it down around the root ball as you fill the hole. Once this is done, add lots of water, until the hole is completely flooded. Wait for the water to drain away and then put back the rest of the soil.
Caring for Leyland Cypress
During hot and dry weather, water your Leyland Cypress twice a week for the first month after planting and then once a week until late fall. At cooler times of year, you can water just once a week right from the start. Watering regularly will give you maximum growth, as very dry trees may stay alive, but they cannot grow.
Mulch is a great way to conserve moisture in dry weather and keep the soil cool Shredded bark is one of the best mulches to use, because it will eventually recycle in the soil. Spread a layer 2 to 3 inches thick over the area around your trees, but not right up against the stem. Cover a wide area, as the roots will spread out into the cooler, damper soil that way. After a couple of years, the mulch will have become thin, so add a fresh layer right on top of the old material.
Leyland Cypress will grow best with regular fertilizer, especially during the first few years. Select a fertilizer specially designed for evergreen trees and hedges, with the right balance of nutrients for the best growth possible. Fertilize your trees in early spring and again in mid-summer if the growth is weak. Make sure you water if you are fertilizing your trees, or they will not be able to use it effectively.
Pruning and Trimming
As a specimen evergreen to fill a corner of your garden, or stand out among shrubs and other trees, Leyland Cypress needs no trimming. This makes it a great choice for low maintenance gardening. A light clip any time between spring and early fall will encourage denser growth if you want it.
For hedges, trim at least twice a year. It is a common mistake to wait for plants to grow to their full size before trimming. Start trimming your plants as soon as they are established. Remove just an inch or two of growth all over the plants. For the perfect hedge, only trim the front and back, and allow the plants to grow naturally together. Regular trimming will develop the densest hedge and give you the best appearance. Always trim the top more than the bottom, so that your hedge has a slight slop inwards. This keeps the lowest parts green and vigorous, with your hedge healthy right to the ground. In colder areas, keep the top rounded to shed snow better. You can trim your hedge anytime between spring and early fall, although it is best not to do it during hot, dry weather. Trim regularly as needed, before your trees become overgrown. Never cut so hard that you only have brown branches without green leaves – these branches will not re-sprout.
The Origin of this Remarkable Tree
Leyland Cypress is a hybrid between Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) and Nootka cypress (Cupressus nootkatensis). It originated in a garden in Wales, when a Mr. John Naylor decided, in 1888, to sow some seeds from a Nootka cypress cone he had found on the ground near a large tree. When his son inherited a grand estate called Haggerton Hall, the son changed his name to that of the original owner – Leyland. The seedling trees, and some other seedlings from a cone taken from a Monterey Cypress growing nearby, were all grown in the garden – a total of six trees. When these came to the attention of some gardening experts of the time, they identified them as hybrids, and named the tree after Mr. Leyland. Those seedlings had what scientists call ‘hybrid vigor’, and it is that which makes these trees so fast growing and hardy. Once these trees became available, gardeners quickly adopted them as the best plant available for rapid screening. Almost all the millions of Cypress trees bearing that name and growing around the world today came from those original six trees through generations of cuttings.
We only sell you trees that are true to the original form and we have a wide range of sizes to give you the best plant for your purpose. We constantly renew our stock so our customers always get fresh, healthy plants, so supplies of this tree may be limited. To avoid disappointment order now.