How Long Does It Take to Grow a 12-Foot Leyland Cypress?
You need a privacy screen, fast. You have a few options, but many gardeners turn to the Leyland cypress, a fast-growing, columnar-shaped evergreen.
Some experts, however, recommend against planting this tree in a home landscape because of disease and maintenance considerations. So if you haven't yet selected your privacy hedge tree variety, consider some alternatives.
The Leyland cypress (x Hesperotropsis leylandii; USDA hardiness zones 6 to 10) will, however, quickly provide a tall hedge—and maybe taller than you really want.
Leyland Cypress Growth Rate
First, let's understand how a tree's "growth rate" is usually measured, which is always its height unless a source specifies differently—so it does not refer to its girth.
Tree Growth Rates
|Growth in Inches per Year
12 Inches or Under
13 to 24 Inches
25 or More Inches
How fast do Leyland cypress trees grow?
Leyland cypress falls into the "fast" category, and experts peg its growth rate at anywhere from 36 inches to an amazing 127 inches per year. Of course, this depends on multiple factors, such as the soil type, the soil's draining ability, its fertility, the location's sun exposure and other environmental conditions, all of which are tough to quantify for any location.
If your goal is to achieve a 12-foot privacy screen, first consider the size seedling you are planting. For example, if you have a standard 1-gallon nursery pot, you're probably starting with a 2-foot-high tree. If you plant it in fall, which is recommended, it will be ready to start off with a bang in spring. If it adds 4 feet each year, you'll have a 12-foot cypress in about three years from planting.
Leyland Cypress Considerations
You know that stand of Leyland cypress you've driven by? Right—the one with a few dried, brown specimens between a line of healthy trees? Well, that is the problem with this tree variety: It's highly susceptible to disease.
This susceptibility is due to a variety of factors, one of which is the tendency for gardeners who want a fast privacy screen to plant each tree too close together. Here are some of the common problems:
- Short lived: Leyland cypress lives only about 10 to 25 years. While that may seem like a long time, it's not ideal for a privacy screen, which you don't want to have to pull out and replace the way you would some other landscape feature.
- Very large: The Leyland cypress typically reaches 60 feet high and can hit 100 feet in height. It also gains a width of about 15 to 25 feet. Most home landscapes can't handle a tree that gets this large, so it may quickly outgrow its planting location.
- Disease prone: These cypress trees are drought-intolerant and can also be damaged by freezing temps, both of which make them susceptible to fungal infections, canker diseases in particular. They need regular watering during dry spells.
- Being planted as hedges: These trees can easily have a 20-foot spread. The typical gardener plants them as a hedge on centers less than 10 feet. This negatively impacts the air circulation, nutrients and sun that each plant has access to.
Though they grow fast and tall, Leyland cypress have a number of downsides, including susceptibility to disease and short life spans.
Alternatives to Leyland Cypress
If you haven't yet planted your Leyland cypress, experts recommend these alternatives:
- Arborvitaes (Thuja occidentalis), especially the 'Green Giant' cultivar
- Wax myrtles (Myrica cerifera), also a good choice for full-sun locations
Hollies (Ilex spp.), especially 'Nellie R. Stevens' and 'Emily Bruner'
Tea olives (Osmanthus fragrantissima) or lusterleaf holly (Ilex latifolia), for shadier locations
- Arbor Day Foundation: Leyland Cypress
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Leyland Cypress
- California Polytechnic State University: Leyland Cypress
- Treehugger: Reconsider Planting Leyland Cypress in Your Yard
- Arbor Day: About Growth Rate
- University of Georgia: Leyland Cypress Trees Often Planted Incorrectly
- This Old House: Everything You Need to Know About Leyland Cypress Trees
I garden in the Pacific North west, previously Hawaii where I had an avocado orchard. I have a Master Gardeners certificate here in Eugene, Oregon.