When it comes to garden features and living privacy borders, the Leyland cypress (Cupressus x leylandii) or ‘Leylandii’ has become a popular choice for landscape designers and homeowners.
Elegant, wide-spreading branches, in a soft, conical shape, laced with sprays of blue-green foliage are hard to resist. Especially considering how large these get and how quickly.
These fast-growing conifers are most commonly used to add beauty to a space while also blocking out noise pollution, shielding against the elements, and creating a sense of privacy. All can be attained in very short order, due to this popular evergreens’ growth rate.
- Leylandii Size
- Growth Rate
- Leylandii Spacing For Planting
- How To Plant Leyland Cypress
- When To Plant
- Where to Buy
- Leyland Cypress Care
- FAQ’s Leyland Cypress
The undeniable attraction to using these as privacy barriers comes from their ability to grow three feet or more per year, starting the second year after planting.
Once they get going, they’ll grow to 60’ tall relatively quickly. And that’s with apparent indifference to soil fertility! Even in poor soil, these evergreens will still reach these heights within 15 years.
The impressive size of these conifers, in maturity, provides a number of benefits in the natural world. Not only can they form protective barriers for people and pets, when planted large scale, but they provide the same for wildlife. This is especially so in regions where these evergreens are native to the land.
While supporting and contributing to the delicate balance of local ecosystems, bird populations, squirrels and other mammals use these evergreens as places of refuge against predators and harsh weather. Even fallen boughs can provide cover for smaller creatures.
These evergreens are capable of spreading and merging at a rate of 2-3 feet per growing season. With a reach potential, once mature of 20-25 feet wide.
Once mature, their effectiveness as a privacy barrier cannot be denied or beaten. Their growth is such that the branches (and roots) of each tree gradually coalesce into one, singular organism.
Of course, in the wild, their capacity for growth is unbridled. But, in domestic environments, these have proven to be a low-maintenance option and very good value for money.
While sizable above ground, Leyland cypress trees have a shallow root system. They lack a large tap root, which other varieties use to anchor themselves in the ground.
Instead, the Leyland generates a far-reaching web of roots, within the top two feet of soil, as it searches for moisture and nutrients.
A mature specimen may have roots that spread out 30’ from the trunk. Making them perfect for preventing soil erosion in sloped areas.
This root formation is also fundamental to their success as privacy barrier plantings. The larger the root web, the stronger they are against the elements.
Given the right environmental factors, the average annual growth rate of Leyland cypress is 3-4’ in height and 2-3’ in width.
The primary factors that dictate how fast they grow are: where they are planted, the soil in which they are planted, and the stages of their maturity. However, they also require adequate watering and access to vital macro and micronutrients when lacking.
Over time, it is quite common for their growth rate to slow down since fast-growing trees can deplete the soil of inherent nutrients quickly. When this occurs, expect your evergreens’ growth to slow up to 2-3’ in height and 1-2’ in width per year.
If you do notice your cypress trees easing up on their measured growth, that’s just their way of letting you know they may need a nutrient boost. For tips on the best fertilizer evergreens, be sure to read all the way to the bottom.
How To Make Leylandii Grow Faster
To really max out on the growth potential of Leylandii, you need to take action even before you begin planting. First of all, make sure they’re right for your hardiness zone (6-10). Next, choose a location that gets full sun as a lack of light is the most common cause of stunted growth. Then, make sure the soil in which you are planting is well-draining.
Once planted and established, be sure to perform a regular soil test to help reveal any nutrient deficiencies, then adjust accordingly.
If you notice that your lovely conifers haven’t really grown much recently, make sure they are receiving adequate water, especially during periods of drought. You can help to alleviate water-retention issues by mulching around the base of your trees. This will also help to facilitate nutrient circulation.
Leylandii Spacing For Planting
Leyland cypress trees can be planted as lone garden features or grouped together to form a privacy barrier. When marking out for a single sapling, make sure there’s a 10-foot gap between the planting hole and surrounding plants.
This will accommodate rapid growth and prevent your new trees from affecting the growth and health of other plants in your garden.
When marking out for a privacy wall, you have two equally effective options.
- Plant them in a straight line, with the same 10’ gap in between. This ensures adequate room to grow and prevents roots from becoming so dense they’re no longer able to absorb water and nutrients.
- Stagger your trees, planting two offset rows, and spacing them 6 – 8 feet apart on the diagonal. This method provides you with a lush and sturdy privacy border twice as fast as with a single line.
Spacing For Hedges
Planting young conifers 10 feet apart is sufficient spacing for a newly formed hedge and will allow for healthy growth and air circulation. For a more organic look, you can stagger these as well. For double rows, space 6-8’ apart.
If you want your Leyland Cypress privacy border to look more like a hedge, I recommend top-pruning them to the desired height. They’re tough, they can take it. Once pruned and maintained at your desired hedge height, they’ll still grow between 3-4′ in height and 2-3′ in width per year.
Planting Distance From Buildings
Given their growing habits, I don’t recommend planting Leyland cypress trees right up against your home or other structures.
Whilst their shallow roots are unlikely to cause structural damage to walls and footings, it’s the tree itself that is likely to suffer the most damage.
Growing them too close to your house or outbuildings can prevent their growth as well as obstruct air circulation as branches and foliage are prevented from drying out after rainfall or snow. This can lead to rust and fungal diseases.
Plantings of this size should be considered investments that add to the value of your property, so plant them in the right location to ensure they can be enjoyed and utilized for years to come.
How To Plant Leyland Cypress
Pick a spot that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day. I recommend six because these conifers can tolerate partial shade quite easily.
The soil must be well-draining (Leylands don’t like soggy roots) and it’s a good idea to invest in some nutrient-rich soil for backfilling to get them off to the best start. Other than that, they’re pretty tolerant of most soil types and pH levels.
When you’re ready to plant:
- Dig each hole twice the diameter of the root ball, but of equal height. You want the top of the root ball to be at ground level.
- Gently break up the roots on the bottom of the ball to stimulate new growth.
- If needed, add some fertilizer granules to the planting hole.
- Place the root ball of the tree in the hole.
- Backfill with nutrient-rich soil, keeping it away from the trunk to prevent mold build-up and rot.
When To Plant
The best time to plant Leyland Cypress is in late winter or early spring. Just before they come out of dormancy. The natural surge of energy they experience in spring will encourage healthy root establishment and minimize shock.
Like most varieties of Evergreen, Leyland cypress trees will come either as bare-root saplings, with a burlap-wrapped root ball, or in a container. Which it’s probably been growing in for a while.
The first two options are typically more mature and were most likely growing in the ground somewhere else. Then, removed while dormant and transported to you. These will be a little more sensitive to being transplanted because they’ve been moved around so much.
Container-grown trees are usually 1-year-old saplings or younger. These are going to be more robust and less sensitive to being transplanted. So, they can be planted at any time during the growing season. Making buying these in bulk, for a privacy border, a great idea.
Where to Buy
Let’s face it, evergreen trees are an investment with a sound return both ecologically and economically.
Of course, the first practical option is to buy them in bulk. It’s common for the price per unit to go down, the more you purchase. When I buy my trees I usually buy them in bulk and save around 25%. The second, when the budget is a concern, is to buy them young, you can save a small fortune this way. However, I suggest going for trees around 1-2ft maybe slightly larger so they can shoot up and offer you the coverage you’re looking for.
The third practical choice you’ll make in this process is where you buy your Leyland cypress trees. Buy them from a supplier with a good reputation and excellent reviews to ensure you’re buying a quality product.
I’ve been buying all of my trees from fastgrowingtrees.com for a while now. I can definitely recommend them with confidence. They can deliver top-quality, healthy at short notice. If you’re in need of an extra bit of expert advice, they will offer planting support so that all you need to do is get them in the ground and start enjoying them.
Leyland Cypress Care
Leyland evergreens are popular choices not only for their beauty and growth rate but for their reputation of being easy to care for. Pruning isn’t even necessary unless you’re going for a lower hedge.
If you are, this cypress variety can tolerate the harshest top-pruning. The best part about doing this is that Leyland cypress trees don’t sprout new growth from old wood. If you reduce the height, they’ll remain that way, while continuing to grow in width to form a thick hedge.
Single trees in borders may need the occasional side trim, so as not to encroach on surrounding plants and because Leylandii trees grow better and faster with a single trunk.
This means that if you see any extra stems that may possibly grow into second trunks, you can simply just trim them away.
Whether you’ve chosen saplings or mature specimens, regular watering is critical in the early stages of establishment. Deep watering (about an inch each time), once per week will keep your new trees hydrated enough to keep nutrients circulating and vital growth processes working.
As your trees mature, they’ll need less supplemental water. Adapting to natural rainfall as they age. Because overwatering and root rot are common with these trees, I recommend against the use of irrigation systems.
Tolerance for different soil types means Leylands aren’t necessarily reliant on fertilizer. For new plantings, a handful of granules with a balanced evergreen fertilizer can be added to the hole.
Adequate watering, will encourage root establishment and reduce transplant shock. In maturity, they’ll need less fertilizing, if at all.
If they do, one spring dose, in warm climates, will be sufficient. In colder climates, a second dose in fall will increase resistance to lower temperatures.
Common Leylandii Problems
While generally pest-free, Leyland cypress trees can develop a condition known as canker disease. Coryneum canker is a slow-spreading fungus that can damage and disfigure conifers.
This condition is caused by trees being planted too close together (allowing for faster spread) and in poorly draining soil (fungi grow faster in wet environments).
Carefully choosing your planting location and marking out sufficient spacing can help deter the growth of cancer. As well as always sanitizing your pruning tools, before and after use. Once a canker appears, it is difficult to eradicate.
With proper planning and placement, your Leylandii will provide you with privacy and protection for decades to come.