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Leyland Cypress: X Cupressocyparis leylandii

The leyland Cypress is a cross between Alaskan Cedar and Monterey Cypress. The tree was first produced by C.J. Leyland at the Leighton Hall Estate around 1888. The tree is a sterile hybrid and must be propagated by taking cuttings from a donor tree.

care info For information on planting and care in your local area, please click here.

What is Leyland cypress, and where did it come from?

In the 1800's numerous tree species from all over the world were planted in an arboretums on the Leighton Hall estate in England. In 1888 several unusual seedlings were noticed at Leighton Hall, apparently from a rare intergeneric cross between an Alaska-Cedar mother tree and a nearby Monterey Cypress. Both parent trees are native to the North-American Pacific coast. The new hybrid was called a cypress since the Alaska-Cedar is a "false cypress" and the Monterey Cypress is a "true cypress". Neither are related to our southern cypress (baldcypress).

There are at least seven, and probably more, clones or "cultivars" (cultivated varieties) of Leyland cypress in existence, each from a different cross between the parent species. The cultivar planted almost exclusively for Christmas Trees in the southern United States to date is `Leighton Green'; however, other cultivars such as `Castlewellan' and `Silver Dust' show promise for those customers preferring something different.

Leyland cypress has been planted in South since about 1965, but it was only considered for use as a Christmas Tree after Clemson University began studying it about 15 years ago. The production of Leylands for Christmas Trees has since spread from South Carolina to other parts of the South.

Leyland cypress Compared to Virginia pine

Why all the fuss about Leyland cypress, and how does it compare to Virginia pine as a Christmas Tree? The short answer is that Leyland grows faster, requires less maintenance and produces a far greater proportion of quality, salable trees than does Virginia pine. More detailed answers will be discussed below.


Leyland cypress survival varies widely depending on field conditions and the quality and handling of planting stock. However, if healthy plants are properly planted in a well-prepared field, it's not uncommon to obtain survival rates in excess of 95%.

Insect and Disease Control

One of the most significant advantages offered by Leyland cypress is its resistance to almost all insects and diseases (a likely result of the phenomenon of "hybrid vigor"). The only significant insect problem seems to be rare infestations of bagworm, and the only major disease is cypress canker.

In seven years of growing Leylands we have had no insect damage of any kind with virtually no insect or disease control. We have had three or four smaller trees die from what may have been cypress canker, but this has not become a significant problem. Cypress canker is caused by a fungus which infects the tree through wounds in the bark. It produces bleeding of sap and may kill limbs and even the entire tree.

Chemical Requirements

Of lessor note it has been observed that under older Leylands (two years plus) there is slower regrowth of weeds. The reason for this is not known, but it appears to be the result of some type of natural pre-emergent herbicide produced by the Leyland cypress itself.


Interplanting Virginia pine in skips from previous years' planting has not been effective. Younger pines just never seem to do well when surrounded by older, larger ones. But Leyland cypress does well when interplanted, especially when interplanted in last year's Virginia pine. The Leylands grow fast enough that, by the time the field goes to market, they are as large or larger than the pines. With proper interplanting it's possible to keep practically 100% of a field producing either pine or Leyland cypress through an entire rotation.

Wet Site Tolerance

Leyland Cypress dislikes "wet feet". It prefers well drained sites.

Stem Straightness

Leyland cypress keeps a good central leader and naturally grows quite straight. This doesn't mean you won't have to stake some in their first or second growing seasons; high winds and wet soil conditions cause leaning problems with young Leylands which often have too much top for their immature root systems to support.

Qualities for a Living Tree

Unfortunately many people are getting the idea that cutting a tree harms the environment. While many have mistakenly turned to artificial trees, others like to buy a living tree either B & B or in a large pot so they can enjoy it as a Christmas Tree and plant it in their yard afterwards.

Leyland cypress excels in this regard and naturally keeps its "Christmas Tree shape" with little or no care. Demand for Leylands in 5 and 10 gallon pots (and larger) is increasing every year and such sales can become a profitable addition to the Christmas season. But, be advised, you'll probably need a nursery certificate to sell trees with their roots still attached.

Allergy Problems

An unexpected side benefit to the Leyland's lack of strong odor is that it doesn't seem to bother most people with allergies.

One of the secretaries in our office had a young daughter with serious allergy problems. About three years ago they put a Leyland in their house and found it was the first time they had been able to use a real tree since their daughter was born. Needless to say both parents and child were pleased.

credits: Full article available at http://www.bugwood.org/christmas/97012.html


The Entomology and Forest Resources Digital Information Work Group
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences/Warnell School of Forest Resources
The University of Georgia  -  Tifton, GA USA

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