Leyland cypress is a common evergreen used for hedgerows and windbreaks. These trees are well-liked because of their fast growth and adaptability to various soil conditions. Leyland cypress trees can be shaped and formed as they reach maturity. Careful planning is needed for location, planting and pruning to ensure healthy growth and development.
Look for areas with full sun to use Leyland cypress as hedges. Shaded locations can reduce fullness of the lower branches because the tree uses energy for upward growth into a full sun environment. Areas with high winds may topple trees because of their shallow root development.
Plant Leyland cypress hedges in early spring. Initial spacing of 6 to 10 feet is common between trees because of the rapid growth, although it can take up to seven years for Leyland cypress trees to fill gaps into a solid hedgerow. Leyland cypress can reach a growth point where crowding occurs from improper spacing within five years. These trees grow an average of 3 to 4 feet per year until reaching maturity. Dig holes three times the size of the root ball. Pack soil around the root ball after placement and saturate the soil with water. Place a layer of mulch 1 1/2 times the distance between the trunk and the drip line of limbs to ensure moisture retention during initial growth stages.
Pruning Leyland cypress hedges becomes necessary as the tree reaches 20 feet in height. At this height trees become crowded and begin sending moisture and energy to the top of the tree to reach adequate sunlight, thus depriving lower limbs of needed nutrients. Watch for lower limbs to become brittle and die when this occurs. Topping off Leyland cypress at 20 feet reduces tree stress.
Leyland cypress grows mainly in coastal and southern climates of the United States, but can be grown in northern areas. These trees can tolerate temperatures to 8 degrees Fahrenheit when young, and 0 degrees F in maturity. Use moist, well-drained soil for optimum growing conditions, although Leyland cypress can grow in a variety of soils.
Watch for canker in the upper branches during long dry periods. Keep trees spaced well to avoid this problem. Air circulation must be maintained to avoid potential disease problems.