Leyland cypress cypress tree

Growing Leyland Cypress

About Leyland Cypress Trees

Soil Types for Leyland Cypress Trees

Planting Leyland Cypress Trees

Fertilizing Leyland Cypress Trees

Shearing Leyland Cypress Trees

Insect Problems with Leyland Cypress Trees

Diseases of Leyland Cypress Trees

Zone Map

Leyland Cypress is a rapid growing conifer averaging three or more feet per year. Its rapid growth makes this tree ideal for hedges, windbreaks, and Christmas tree production. Its overall vigor makes this tree very easy to grow. This being said each year I receive many questions regarding the Leyland. This article hopefully will answer most of these questions.

Soil Types – Leyland Cypress; Leyland Cypress grows well in a wide range of soils, ranging from all sand to pure Georgia red clay. In soils with a PH of 5.0 to 8.0, however best growth falls between 5.5 and 6.5. When PH falls below 5.0 food intake is greatly reduced, lime or wood ashes should be applied. PH above 7.0 and minor elements or trace minerals are not as available to the tree. Sulfur or acid fertilizers should be used. Iron sulfate or magnesium sulfate (Epson Salts) will also help to lower Ph. Both are excellent for deep green color. When planting in very sandy soils adding organic matter is recommended to improve the soils ability to hold water and nutrients. When planting in hard clay soils, its best to dig the hole several feet deep and fill with soft loam soil to give the young tree a faster, more aggressive root system. Also the deeper hole helps with drainage. Leylands prefer well drained soils but will tolerate the opposite. Number one problem in clay soils is a young tree is planted in a shallow hole, rains fill the hole, where water stands for long periods of time. Causing the roots to rot and the tree dies. Many people are confused with the name cypress. Leylands are in the family of false cypresses, with no relationship to the Bold Cypress that grows in the southern swamps. Leylands should never be planted in soils that are excessively wet for long periods of time. Since the leylands have a shallow root system, weeds and grass growing around the tree will bring the tree growth to a standstill. Using plastic ground cover, sold in most landscape stores, and mulching, will improve your growth three fold. Not only stopping weeds and grass, it will hold soil moisture and maintain a lower more even soil temperature, stimulating more aggressive root growth.

Planting – Never plant trees deeper than originally planted. Doing so can cause rotting of the stem and death to the tree. In areas of dry weather drip irrigation is recommended. Leyland are very drought tolerant, however they grow very slow without adequate water. Staking young trees is recommended, heavy rain, wind can cause trees to fall on to the ground, allowing bacteria and fungus to attack the young tree, causing injury or death. When tying trees to stakes remember the tree will continue to grow. Loosely tie the tree with several twist ties to allow for growth. Check trees every three months and loosen as needed. If this is not done, the twist tie will grow into the tree causing injury. After strong storms or hurricanes large leylands may be bent over. If the tree can be stood back up you will need to stake the tree. You can use four 61/2 ft to 8 ft metal fence posts. Run wire around the upper part of the tree, best to run the wire thru a piece of hose to prevent rubbing the bark off the trunk, and loop the wire back to the post. Now you have two wires running alongside each other. Use a long screw driver to twist the two wires together, pulling the lines tight. Start first with the side you need to pull the tree towards the most. Then follow with each of the other stakes. A large tree will need anywhere from six months to one year to reestablish itself. The one question that comes up often, “when is the best time to plant.” For the most part, container trees can be planted year around, provided the ground isn’t frozen. The exception is planting liners, (nursery term for a tree that is reproduced by propagation) Young Leyland Cypress liners cannot withstand as much cold as older more mature trees. As a rule 8 to 10 degrees is their limit. Older trees can withstand temperatures of 0 degrees, maybe as low as – 10 degrees. From lower Virginia and north to New York, plant liners in early spring, starting in mid March to early April to as late as early November. Older trees can be planted until the ground freezes. I personality prefer planting early enough for the tree to become established before going into winter. This takes four to eight weeks. All growth and root development stop when soil temperatures drops below 50 degrees. Below Virginia many nurseries and Christmas tree growers field plant year around, weather permitting, with container planting waiting till warmer weather approaches. When planting a potted tree, remember the only water source the tree has, is its small root ball, and all the water the tree uses must come from there until new roots can grow into the surrounding soil. New trees should be watered twice weekly, under hot conditions possibly more. Care should be taken not to over water. More trees die from over watering than under.

Fertilizing Leyland Cypress – Anyone who has been to a garden center or looked through a nursery catalog has come to realize the enormous amount of different fertilizers there are for sale. This confuses many of the most experienced growers. I can only imagine how the average homeowner feels. To simplify this I’ll break down fertilizer into four categories, Garden, Time Release, Water Soluble, and Organic. Garden fertilizer is the cheap fertilizer you find being sold everywhere from your local garden center to your local grocery store. The 50lb bags have the numbers 6-6-6, 8-8-8, or 10-10-10 in large print and lawn fertilizer 16-4-8. I personally have nothing good to say about this type of fertilizer. The nitrogen source is very caustic and can severely injure or kill your trees. After applying this type of fertilizer you will see any damage occurring in less than 7 days, and there is very little you can do. The overall best fertilizer you can use is Time Release. This means just what it says, the nutrients are released over a long period of time. For short term crops, bedding plants or garden plants, a 3 month release is good, but for trees and especially Leyland Cypress look for 8 to 9 month release or even a 12 to 14 month. Apply in early spring and your trees will have the proper nutrients all year. Water soluble fertilizers are powders that dissolve in water. This type of fertilizer are very mild and non-burning. They are marketed under many names, the most common are Peters, and Miracle Grow. The nutrients are readily available to plants, also its very hard to over fertilize and injure your trees, however it must be applied once or twice per month during the growing season. Organic fertilizers are derived from organic sources. Manure, sludge, fish emulsion, kelp or seaweed, dried blood, the list is almost endless. This group of fertilizers are for the most part very safe and beneficial to use. I recommend using this type of fertilizer with both Time Release and Water Soluble. The main reason for this, organic fertilizers will increase microbial activity in the soil. These microbes convert different types of nitrogen into a usable form for plants. I myself like Fish Emulsion, it contains all the nutrients, trace minerals, amino acids, and enzymes. Its one of the most complete fertilizers on the planet. When first planting a young tree, your first concern is to establish a well developed root system. Root stimulators are fertilizers that contain lower amounts of nitrogen, higher amounts of phosphorous, and lower amount of potassium, plus a rooting hormone. Using a root stimulator can easily save weeks in establishing a new tree and will greatly improve the trees vigor and overall health. After your tree is established choose a fertilizer for growth. This fertilizer will contain higher amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and always buy fertilizers with trace minerals, also called minors. (example: 18-8-8 plus minors).

Shearing Leyland Cypress is easy and an excellent way to control the trees size. For a formal hedge start shearing when the tree reaches 3 or 4 feet in height, cutting only the sides, remove no more than 3 or 4 inches of growth. This will cause the tree to grow thicker. If you want the tree to grow tall don’t cut the top leader, just shape the sides. The best time to shear is after a new growth spurt finishes and the new growth begins to mature. Growth will go from a smooth, greasy texture, to a more rough snake skin look. Shearing twice a year is sufficient. To keep your trees at a particular height requires cutting the central leader and then shearing all outside branches. this will control the tree for many years, but in time the tree will become to large to maintain. After shearing its wise to spray your trees with a fungicide every 7 to 10 days for at least 6 weeks. The reason for this is conifers produce much of there food in strong, active growing tips. Shearing temporarily reduces the amount of food being produced, weakening the tree, this could result in a fungal infection. The old adage is an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Use Kocide 2000. (active ingredient, copper hydroxide )

Insect problems with Leyland Cypress – Leyland Cypress only have a few insects that cause any real problems. Bagworms are probably the worst, on small trees Bagworms can be picked by hand but larger trees need to be sprayed. Dimethoate which sells under the trade name Cygon, works well when applied in the first 3 months of spring, when the larvae are small and before they produce bags. After they produce bags they are very difficult to control with chemicals. Scale is another insect that attacks Leylands, they look like little crusty flakes covering the needles and branches. Scale feed on sap causing a chlorosis (yellow) look to the needles. Cygon is a systemic insecticide that is very effective aganist scale. Systemic means it enters into the tree, the scale feed on the sap and dies. As with Bagworms, spring is a good time to spray for prevention. The most difficult insect to control on Leylands is Spider Mites. These are very small insects that can be seen with a magnifying glass. Feeding on the sap needles turn yellow and later brown. Spidermites have become resistant to most of the old chemicals. Recommend using only true miticides for control.

Diseases Of Leyland Cypress There are only four main diseases of Leyland Cypress, Seiridium canker or stem canker, causes branches and entire trees to die. No effective chemical control available. A mixture of Zertol and Daconil may help. Botryosphaeria canker is similar to Seiridium canker causes entire branches to die. No effective chemical control available, a mixture of Zerotol and Daconil may help. Cercosporidium Blight is a very aggressive fungi. Spores are airborn and travel very fast. Needles turn yellow and drop, usually starting on lower branches, starting from the inside and progressing outward and upward. Kocide 2000 works well at controling this fungi. Using Zertol in a rotation with Kocide 2000 can be curative. Cercosporidium usually attacks trees that have been stressed from shearing, drought, lack of fertilizer, and hot sun. It almost always starts on the sunny side of the tree. The last disease is Phytophthora root rot. This disease occurs with trees having poor drainage, or that have been over watered, and is not generally a large problem. Zertol is very effective. Zerotol is available online or can be ordered thru your local nursery. However the smallest size available is in 21/2 gallon containers of concentrate making between 400 to 1280 gallons of finished solution. Zertol in concentrated form is a very corrosive oxidizer, carrying haz-mat warnings. As with all chemicals read and follow all instructions.

For large, bushy evergreens which make excellent screen plantings, not many trees make better choices than Leyland cypress (X Cupressocyparis leylandii). The most popular Christmas tree in the South East, the Leyland Cypress tree is dark green-gray in color and produces very little aroma. This sterile hybrid is classified as an evergreen tree and as conifers and results from a cross between the Alaskan cedar and Monterey cypress. Noted for their rapid growth and slender form, the Leyland cypress tree has found wide popularity over a wide range of the United States and is produced in large numbers for various uses. Flat stems of feathery, blue green foliage as well as the ornamental bark combine to make this hybrid an alluring choice for medium to large landscapes. Many homeowners use this emerald evergreen in Christmas tree plantations, for privacy hedges along boundary lines and in wind breaks. It also beautifies the landscape in parks, around homes and across campuses. Because it’s not in the Fir or Pine family, it doesn’t produce sap, so that people with an allergy to sap get to still enjoy a Leyland cypress as their Christmas Tree. Information about the Leyland cypress will help with raising healthy trees.


Leyland cypress trees grow well in a wide variety of climate conditions and soils and are usually available at choose-and-cut tree farms only. This tree enjoys both part sun/part shade and full sun and has very forgiving light requirements. A fast growing evergreen tree when young that is able to attain a height of 50-feet at maturity, it can grow 3 feet or more per year, even on poor soils. The tree will quickly outgrow its space in small landscapes and can be too large for most residential landscapes unless trimmed on a regular basis. Unusually, shallow roots of this tree species can give in wet soil and topple large trees. Caring for Leyland cypress correctly will eventually pays off, especially since these trees can live 150 years.


When planting Leyland cypress, bear in mind the tree’s fast growth rate and mature size as you determine spacing. Roots should be spread out evenly in all directions, which will mean that the planting rate is less than with some other tree species. The spacing will depend on the age to which the tree is to be grown and usually ranges from 4-feet to 8-feet between trees. Weed control is also important in Christmas tree plantings, though care must be exercised because Leyland cypress is especially sensitive to glyphosate (such as Round Up-reg.) as well as other herbicides designed to control broadleaf plants. Leyland cypress needs fertile soil in order to perform well. Regular fertilization, watering and pruning will help keep trees healthier and better able to tolerate stress as well as insect and disease conditions. Newly planted trees benefit from ArborKelp®, an exclusive seaweed biostimulant which helps in tree establishment, heightens stress tolerance and promotes root growth. Mature and established Leyland Cypress benefits from fertilizer feedings of organic-based micro and macronutrients for the nutrition essential to sustain their health.

Although Leyland cypress can be grown free-form, it does well trimmed and pruned into a more formal shape. Being a fast-grower it could get out of hand as a hedge that can outgrow a small surrounding and form if not pruned early on. Pruning is recommended so as to preserve or improve tree structure, lifespan and vigor. Prune your Leyland Cypress when young in order to encourage stronger growth and also to minimize snow and ice damage. If left unpruned, Leyland cypress takes on a tall, broad based, pyramidal shape. Topping and regular trimming of the tree sides should prevent it from becoming increasingly large. Pruning can also reduce certain defects or structural issues in a tree and greatly lessen the risk of failure.

More Care

Broken, diseased, or dead branches are usually removed so as to prevent decay-producing fungi from contaminating the wood in other parts of the tree. Removal of live branches is sometimes necessary to allow increased sunlight exposure and circulation of air within the canopy thereby helping in reduction of certain diseases. It is advisable to remove branch stubs so as to promote proper and successful healing over of wounds.There are several damaging pests and diseases that affect these Leyland Cypress. Some of the most common include Seiridium Canker, Cercospora Needle Blight and Botryosphaeria Canker. Also watch for bagworms and, if possible, take away the bags before the larvae contained in them have a chance to emerge. Infestations of cypress aphid can be rather damaging, leading to widespread areas of brown. Don’t allow these pests or diseases destroy your precious Leyland trees. Sanitize pruning tools between every cut by dipping in a solution of chlorine bleach or in rubbing alcohol and water. Chemical control proves to be difficult. To avoid brown patches, hedge trimming needs to be done during the growing season and hedges shouldn’t be cut into older, leafless growth.

Leyland Cypress

Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

How to Identify Leyland Cypress Leaf

A fast-growing evergreen tree, the Leyland cypress (X Cupressocyparis leylandii) is an attractive landscape tree that grows 60 to 70 feet tall and 15 to 25 feet wide in a pyramidal shape. The Leyland cypress grows best in full sunlight exposure and in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through 10, enjoying hotter summers and milder winters that don’t experience temperatures colder than -5 degrees Fahrenheit. Leyland cypress trees can look very similar to other coniferous trees, but studying its leaves helps to make a positive identification of the correct tree species.

Notice the leaf type to identify the Leyland cypress. This tree has scale-like foliage that’s evergreen and has needles in flattened sprays of “branchlets” along the stems.

Identify Leyland cypress leaves by how they’re arranged on the stems. Leyland cypress trees have needle-like leaves that are arranged opposite each other in pairs along the stems.

Look at the color to spot Leyland cypress leaves. Leyland cypress trees have soft-green needle leaves that turn bluish-green to dark blue-green as the tree matures.

Study the length of the scale-like leaves. Leyland cypress trees have leaves that are less than 2 inches long, fine and feathery with pointed needles.

How to Prune Overgrown Leyland Cypress

Cut overgrowth using pruning shears. Reduce the plant by up to one-third of its height to encourage dense, healthy growth.

Discard the pruned material, and pull out any vines that may have entangled the shrub.

Trim smaller stems using hedge trimmers, fine-tuning the shape as you work. Keep the base of the plant wide so light reaches all parts of it. The plant should narrow as it goes up into a flat-topped A-shape.

How to Care for a Leyland Cypress

Choose a spot in your yard for a Leyland cypress. They prefer full sun. Soil type does not matter, as the Leyland cypress can tolerate most soil varieties.

Plant your Leyland cypress in the fall. Dig a hole about three feet deep and two to three feet wide. Place the root ball in the hole and firmly fill with soil.

While the tree is young, water your Leyland cypress two times a week for ten minutes each watering. Once it is established, water it once every two to three weeks for ten minutes each watering.

Fertilize your Leyland cypress in the spring and fall with one cup of water soluble 10-10-10.

Prune your Leyland cypress in the spring and fall. Remove any over reaching or dead branches and trim to your desired shape. Most Leyland cypresses are trimmed in a columnar shape.

Soil Conditions for a Leyland Cypress

Proper soil conditions ensure that Leyland cypress will achieve maximum growth, full branching and structural strength. Good soil preparation ensures a deep, strong root structure, maximizing the chances that this often shallow-rooted tree stays firmly in place.

Soil Structure

Leyland cypress is well-suited to many soil conditions, tolerating clay, sand and either alkaline or acidic soils. In loose soils, the tree will benefit from the addition of a clay-based topsoil. Leylands planted in heavier soils are more likely to stay in place during high winds than those planted in loose, sandy soils.

Moisture Retention

Leyland cypress’ capacity to survive drought is good, but consistent moisture will produce a faster-growing plant. Sandy soils amended with compost will improve water retention. During dry spells, water deeply and less often, rather than shallowly and often, to promote deep root growth. Mulching retains moisture and shades roots.


Leyland cypress’ need for nutrition is not great, but it still benefits from a light application of evergreen tree fertilizer in late fall to promote fast growth, good branching and strong root growth.

Soil Maintenace

Mulch should be replenished each spring so soils do not dry out. Leaf mold or compost can be used as mulch to retain moisture and nourish trees as it breaks down.

How to Control the Height of a Leyland Cypress

Find the central leader at the top of the Leyland cypress tree. This is the main vertically growing branch, usually in the center of the tree.

Cut off the central leader with the lopper pruner, removing approximately 4 inches of height from the branch.

Shear the outside edges of the Leyland cypress after trimming the central leader. Remove up to 4 inches from the outside edges of the tree with the hedge shears. This shearing will keep the tree growing in uniform balance between height and width.

Spray the entire tree generously with the fungicide spray immediately after pruning to prevent fungal infection while the tree recovers from the pruning. Repeat the spraying every week for six weeks.

Repeat the entire pruning process twice per year in the spring and in the late summer.

How to Feed a Leyland Cypress

Apply a granular slow release fertilizer in either a 9-month or 14-month release period formula. Sprinkle the fertilizer around the roots area and out at least a foot past the drip line of the cypress. Lay down the fertilizer in the early spring to provide year-round feeding and repeat when the release period has concluded. Use the amount recommended on the package label for the acreage to be covered.

Feed leyland cypress with an organic fertilizer, such as fish emulsion, to supplement the work of chemical slow release fertilizers by adding micro-nutrients and stoking microbial action in the soil. Apply according to the package directions at least twice, and up to six times, a year.

Water in each fertilizer application deeply to mix with the top soil and begin the percolation process of nutrients down into the soil. Keep the soil around your leyland cypress lightly moist to moist at all times and do not allow the soil to become parched.

Leyland Cypress Tree Information

According to the United States Forest Service, Leyland cypress trees reach a height of 50 feet in the western United States, and grow somewhat shorter in the eastern United States. These trees grow 3 to 4 feet per year and have a spread of 15 to 25 feet.


While Leyland cypress trees aren’t native to the United States, they can be found throughout the western and eastern coasts and in the southern central states. Leyland cypress trees are hardy in USDA zones 6 to 10A.


Leyland cypress trees can grow in either full sun or part sun. They tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, including either acidic or alkaline soil, and can withstand salty soils. Leyland cypress trees are drought-resistant.


Leyland cypress trees display soft green needles with a feathery texture. They do not flower, but they bear tiny brown fruit less than 1/2 inch in size.


Bagworm can strip a Leyland cypress of its foliage within a couple of weeks. Trees that have suffered drought may develop a canker; this occurs primarily in California, according to the United States Forest Service. Leyland cypress trees can experience foliage fungus.

How to Fertilize a Leyland Cypress

Measure the diameter of the Leyland cypress tree. Note the measurement in inches. This will guide you as to how much fertilizer your tree needs.

Sprinkle a time-release granular fertilizer with an NPK of 10-8-6 around the Leyland cypress tree. You will need 1 lb. of fertilizer for every inch of tree diameter. For example, a Leyland cypress tree with a diameter of 8 inches requires 8 lbs. of fertilizer.

Rake the granular fertilizer to mix it 1/4 inch deep into the soil.

Water the fertilized area of around the Leyland cypress tree. Watering the fertilizer helps it seep deeper into the soil so that it can be utilized by the tree’s roots sooner.

How Big Does a Leyland Cypress Get?

A Leyland Cypress can get as big as 60 to 70 feet when fully mature. The spread of the tree ranges from 15 to 25 feet.

How to Germinate Cypress Trees

Place moist peat moss in the plastic bag. Make sure that the peat moss is moist and not soaking. Place the seeds on top of the peat moss and cover with another layer of moist peat moss.

Seal the bag and place it in the refrigerator for at least 10 weeks. Check the moisture level of the peat moss periodically and add drops of water if it is too dry.

Pour the seedling mix into the planting tray and water it well, allowing the excess water to drain from the bottom of the tray.

Plant the seeds 1/2 inch into the soil and cover lightly with soil.

Place the tray in an area that receives bright light, but not direct sunlight. The amount of water the seedlings receive is very important. Too much and too will kill the seed. Maintain a moist, not soggy soil.

How Big Is a Leyland Cypress Root System?

The Leyland cypress tree has a shallow dual root system. The main roots spread out approximately 40 feet, with the minor roots extending 67 feet or more on a fully grown Lyland cypress tree.

When planting leyland cypress trees, it is important to space them correctly. If you space your leylands too close, it may stunt the growth or starve the roots of nutrients. This could leave the trees more susceptible to diseases. If you plant them too far, you may not get the privacy results you want, or it may take longer to achieve the privacy.

To determine the appropriate spacing for your leylandii trees, you must first decide on your ultimate goal. Are you growing them for privacy? Do you want to grow a hedge? Or do you want them to reach a tall height and tower into the sky? Decide on your goals, and you can plant them appropriately.

In addition to spacing, regular pruning is important to maintain the hedge appearance. Leylands require 1-3 prunings a year when shaped as a hedge.

Leyland Cypress Spacing for Hedges: How to Space Leyland Cypress Trees for Hedging

To grow leyland cypress trees as a landscaping hedge, you should space them 3-6 feet apart (on center). The hedge spacing should depend on 1 main factor: How quickly you want it to form into a hedge.

For a quick hedge, plant them 3 feet apart. However, you can easily obtain a hedge at longer spacing distances (up to 6 feet), but it will take longer to acheive the hedge shape. Leylands bush out and have a very dense foliage.

At a space of about 3 feet, the leyland will grow into a nice hedge in approximately 2-3 years. The hedge will improve in thickness and height over time. At spaces greater than 3 feet, it could take 3-4 years to achieve a hedge.

Leyland Cypress Spacing for Privacy Screens and Windbreaks

When planting leyland cypress trees for a privacy screen or windbreak, space them 4-15 feet apart. Your spacing should depend on a couple of factors: How quickly you want privacy, and how tall you want the leylands to grow.

If you want privacy within 2-4 years, then plant the leylands at a spacing of 4-6 feet. At this spacing, it is best to keep the leylands at a height of 15 feet or less.

In contrast, longer spacings will require up to 3-10 years for them to grow together with a dense screen. At the longer spacing, you can easily allow the leyland to achieve a height of 15-40 feet.

Leyland Cypress Spacing for Ultimate Growth and Maturity

Leyland Cypress trees can grow up to 50-75 feet tall and approximately 25 feet wide. In order to achieve its full potential, the leyland should be spaced as far as possible from surrounding trees. Ideally, space the leylands at least 25 feet away from all other trees. However, the leyland may still reach a towering height even if they are spaced closer than 25 feet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *