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Italian Cypress Disease

By Charmayne Smith ; Updated September 21, 2017
The dark-green Italian cypress stands tall and slender against its evergreen counterparts.

The Italian cypress tree is a slender evergreen tree that is often used for natural privacy screens and landscaping borders. With a spread no more than 6 feet, this vigorously growing tree produces dark green foliage with a columnar habit that can reach heights up to 60 feet. The Italian cypress is a strong tree that adapts well to most soils. It has a high drought tolerance and prefers full sunlight. Although this cypress has hardy characteristics, it is susceptible to several diseases that can be detrimental, if not deadly, to the tree if left untreated.

Phytophthora Root Rot

Phytophthora root rot is a fungal disease that has fatal effects on the Italian cypress. This soil-borne disease enters the tree through its root system, infecting the tree from the roots up. The infection of the root system inhibits the system’s ability to pass nutrients and water throughout the tree. This restriction causes the foliage to become brittle and yellow. The infected cypress experiences loss of vigor, dieback and growth stunt. The roots of the tree will display a reddish discoloration that may run through the interior bark of the tree.

Cypress Canker

Cypress canker is a spore-born disease that infects the Italian cypress through natural and man-made wounds. This fungal disease travels by wind and rain, infecting the Italian cypress during the cool, rainy periods. The infection passes through the wounds of the tree and settles in the bark and cambium of the tree. The foliage of the infected Italian cypress will experience yellowing near the area of infection while the uninfected areas remain green. The infection continues to spread throughout the tree until the entire tree dies.


Phytophthora root rot and cypress canker are both fatal diseases that have no cure. Therefore, it is important to take preventative precautions to avoid infection. Providing your tree with the environment and care is the best protection. Always plant your Italian cypress tree in an area that receives a full, direct sunlight. The soil should be well-drained and porous to allow good air circulation throughout the soil. A medium to thick layer of mulch will keep the soil cool and moist, which also aides in maintaining proper circulation throughout the tree. Furthermore, it is important to avoid planting your Italian cypress tree in locations in which other trees have become infected. The fungal spores of phytophthora can thrive in the soil of the infected area for several years without a host.


The infected Italian cypress tree can thrive for several seasons after an infection, if the disease is controlled. Pruning infected branches from the tree will redirect the tree’s energy to more viable areas. The pruning should be completed with sterile pruning shears or saws that are sterilized between each cut. This will help to prevent the infection from spreading to other areas of the tree. In addition, fungicidal spray treatments can be helpful in controlling the infection, through it will not cure the infection.


Infected Italian cypress trees can infect healthy trees, even after being removed from the location. Therefore, it is important that you dispose of your infected tree in the appropriate manner. The infected tree should be discarded, burned or buried. This will prevent the infecting fungal spores from traveling onto healthy trees.


About the Author


Writing professionally since 2004, Charmayne Smith focuses on corporate materials such as training manuals, business plans, grant applications and technical manuals. Smith's articles have appeared in the "Houston Chronicle" and on various websites, drawing on her extensive experience in corporate management and property/casualty insurance.