In 1888, a Monterey cypress was crossed with an Alaskan cedar. The resulting offspring was the Leyland cypress. The tree quickly became a favorite within landscape settings and continues to be a useful and popular plant to this day. The tree is extremely tough and salt tolerant, making it a popular planting in coastal areas and will often grow where other trees will not.
Leyland cypress, grows in a wide range of habitats, from hardiness zone 6 through 10. The tree grows quickly and can add three to four feet of new growth per year when young. It is popular as a landscape plant, in part, because it is extremely resistant to pests. Though the tree can be severely pruned and still thrive, it's is at its best when allowed to grow naturally in large landscape settings.
The branches have many stems that hold flattened, sprays of finely-branched leaves. Each leaf blade is less than two inches long, blue-green in appearance, and is made up of tiny overlapping, waxy-looking scales. Some cultivars have varigated leaves with yellow or white leaf tips and spots. The flowers are white, tiny and insignificant, and the fruit is a small, round, hard, pine cone made of overlapping scales with small spines holding tiny seeds.
Leyland cypress kings can grow between 70-100 feet and as wide as 20 feet at the base. It is a symmetrical pyramid with a central leader trunk.
The Leyland cypress grow best in full sun. It adapts to a variety of soil conditions including clay, loamy and sandy soils, although it prefers fertile and relatively moist soil.
Leyland cypress is grown primarily as an ornamental and landscape plant. It can be planted closely and trimmed to form hedges and screens, or even used for Christmas trees.