The Leyland cypress tree (x Cupressocyparis leylandii) is a sterile evergreen. All Leyland cypress trees grow by propagation through root cuttings only. A widely grown commercial Christmas tree, it is also used as a landscape specimen and a fast-growing hedge. The tree easily grows to a height of a 138 feet and can withstand temperatures that dip to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Leyland cypress became a hybrid from a cross between the Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) and Alaskan cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis). The tree was first discovered in the south of Wales in 1888 by C.J. Leyland. The parent trees grew on his estate and had cross-bred by accident.
United States Arrival
In 1941 the first root cuttings arrived from Wales into the United States. In 1965 the tree became a promising specimen for commercial Christmas tree production. The tree's ease of care and fast growth held great appeal. Soon the tree became a popular crop for Christmas tree farms because of its fast growth. It reaches saleable size in four years.
Numerous cultivars are available. The most commonly grown in the United States are the Haggerstown Grey, Leighton Green, Robinson's Gold, Gold Cup, Castlewellan, Green Spire, Naylor's Blue and Silverdust, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. The Leighton Green is the most common cultivar for commercial Christmas tree production.
Growth and Color
The Leyland cypress grows up to three feet per year. The needles of the tree appear a dark bluish green and retain their color year round. The cultivar Castlewellan turns a golden shade on the exterior needles in the winter but the interior remains a brilliant green. The needles contain no odor unless broken. The tree is hardy from zones 6 to 10.
The tree grows well in moist, fertile soil with a high organic content. The tree is easily sheared for maintenance as a hedge, privacy screen or windbreak. It grows best in full sunlight but will tolerate partial shade. The tree will withstand drought conditions once established, but growth will be significantly slowed.