Leyland cypress trees have become popular as Christmas trees, windbreaks and ornamental landscaping. Because of this popularity, these trees are now grown commercially on tree farms throughout the southern portions of the United States. The popularity and usefulness stems from the steady rapid growth along with a strong stability during bad weather and high wind. The scientific name is x Cupressocyparis leylandii, states the University of Florida. These trees come from the Cupressaceae family.
Identify the tree by the constant evergreen color throughout the year. Look for these trees to rival tall pines, such as Norway Spruce, in both height and width.
The Leyland cypress is a pyramidal tree, with its widest dimensions being at the base. When fully mature, these trees grow to 50 feet high and have a girth of 30 feet at the widest portion. Leyland cypress trees are symmetrical and will grow evenly when given enough room. Young trees can grow at a rate of 3 to 4 feet per year.
Look for the height and spread of the branches to be the main feature of this tree. The canopy has a smooth, symmetrical outline due to the fine leaves resembling scales. The leaves grow under 2 inches long. Look for colors ranging from shades of blue or green and a mixture of these colors. The fruit of this tree is hard, small and brown. Examine the tips of branches carefully for fruits, as they are under 1/2-inch round.
The Leyland cypress is not a true cypress because it cannot thrive in standing water, as regular cypress trees do. According to Aucker Nurseries, the Leyland cypress can grow in a range from purely sand to red Georgia clay, although the best pH level for these trees is between 5.5 and 6.5. Leyland cypress can grow in soils with a pH level as high as 8.0. Deep cold is not a factor for these trees, because young trees can withstand temperatures reaching 8 degrees Fahrenheit, while adult trees can tolerate 0 degrees.
Leyland cypress is not a native tree to North America but has been successfully grown in zones 6 through 10A within the United States. Originally from England, this tree was brought to the southern portion of the United States in 1965. The first Leyland cypress trees were discovered on the grounds of Leighton Hall in 1888; it has since been determined that this species is a hybrid of two North American native trees: the Alaska cedar and the Monterey cypress.
Consideration should be given to the various problems Leyland cypress has as it grows. Watch for the roots to develop slower than the branch system, which can result in top-heavy trees that are easily uprooted. Look for the lower branches to die off, as the tree sends most energy to the top unless trimmed back. Keep Leyland cypress farther than other ornamental trees from structures because of the wide girth of the branches when fully grown.