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Leyland cypress, the king of hedges

Leyland cypress shaped into squares in a parc

The Leyland cypress is certainly one of the conifers most used to set up a hedge.

A List of Leyland Cypress facts

NameCuprocyparis leylandii
Family – Cupressaceae
Type – conifer, evergreen hedge

Height – up to 65 feet (20 meters)
Exposure – full sun to shade
Soil – ordinary, well drained

Foliage – evergreen

With its extremely rapid growth, it will quickly hide you from peeking neighbors, and from strong winds, too, if you need.

Planting Leyland cypress

Leyland cypress is usually planted as part of a hedge, and is usually set up from the beginning of fall, but it can also be planted until the month of March-April as long as it doesn’t freeze.

After planting, you can also mulch the foot of the tree in order to avoid having weeds crowd it out from below but also to protect the roots from the cold.

Pruning Leyland cypress, cypress hedges

If you cypress is never pruned, it can grow to reach nearly 65 feet (20 meters) and its bearing will be a distinctive cone.
For hedges, select the pruning height you are comfortable with as well as the thickness.

  • Prune your Leyland cypress preferably at the end of summer or at the beginning of spring.
  • Feel free to prune severely because cypress tends to grow very, very fast.

A heavy pruning end of August is enough to keep this growth under control.
That is also the season where sap descends and so it will slow the cypress’s growth a bit.

Spring pruning is usually with rising sap and tends to accelerate the tree’s growth, so this is ideal if you aim to hide yourself from prying neighbor’s view.

Fertilizer for Leyland cypress

Natural form of the Leyland cypressUsually, leyland cypress can make do with very poor soil. However, to make sure it grows very lush, or to rejuvenate an old hedge, it’s a good idea to apply fertilizer.

Ideally, apply the following three times within the year, at the beginning and end of Spring and then once more in Fall. Of course, when planting the hedge, feel free to add these fertilizers to the soil as you backfill.

  • Bone meal or ground horn powder
  • Fermented nettle tea is an excellent booster for this type of conifer
  • Used coffee grounds bring on nitrogen and even contribute making soil slightly more acidic. Leyland cypress appreciates that.
  • Other fertilizers prepared from seaweed are also well-suited to this shrub.

Sometimes, though, the issue isn’t a lack of nutrients: it’s a wrong pH level. If the soil is too acidic (very low pH, as in 5 or lower) or too basic (8 and higher), the cypress has trouble extracting the nutrients. For this cypress, the pH level should hover around 6.

Learn more about Leyland cypress

Cypress are excellent wind-breakers ready to resist gales of any power.

They are also very resilient in the face of disease and pollution.

From an aesthetic point of view, it doesn’t have any other advantage than the deep green that lasts all year round and a high opaqueness.

Also, know that if the climate is hot in summer, Leyland cypress might not be your best candidate because it requires water in summer.

Origin of Leyland cypress

Almost all the Leyland cypress varieties found today arose from cross-pollination of two different conifers. These are the Monterey cypress and the Nootka cypress. They were planted on the Leyland estates and, in 1888, a first hybrid appeared.

Leyland cypress lifespan

Although a few specimens are over 50 years old, in hedges the trees don’t grow as old. Where soil is loose and the hedge has proper spacing, you might expect a hedge to survive up to 20 or even 30 years. However, alongside construction or roads, it might be that the hedge needs replacing even after only 10 or 15 years have gone by.

  • With proper fertilizing and summer watering, you can extend the life of your hedge by several years.

Diseases and parasites of Leyland cypress

  • Diseases are rare, but the occasional cypress canker can be observed.
    Branches turn brown and die and this can lead to the death of the entire tree.
  • Be careful! This disease can lead to the entire hedge dying off.

Read also:

Smart tip about the Leyland cypress

In a hedge, think well about how high you want it to grow so that you can determine the planting distance of your Leyland cypresses accordingly! Keep a spacing of about 32 inches (80 cm) to 3 feet (1 meter) for the usual 6-foot (1.80 m) hedge.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
Bugwood.org: John Ruter
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  • Zivojin Rilakovic wrote on 28 September 2020 at 11 h 50 min

    What about fertilization of Cypress leylandii?

    • Gaspard wrote on 28 September 2020 at 17 h 17 min

      Hi! It’s best to fertilize at three periods of the year: beginning and end of Spring, and then Autumn. Bone meal is excellent, and nettle tea (the fermented type) is perfect.