I’m planting a privacy hedge of Leyland Cypress – What do I need to know about it?

Cupressocyparis leylandii, or Leyland cypress, is a very popular and fast-growing plant. It gives instant privacy, but this point is both a positive and negative fact. They simply grow too big.

Pruning is essential in keeping the Leyland cypress in check, and this presents other problems. If not pruned correctly, you may end up with a thicket of dead branches, or the base of the plant will become bare. Unlike yew and laurel, Leyland cypress cannot be cut back into bare wood.

I don’t think anyone knows just how tall this cypress will grow (up to 120 feet probably), but if planted as a hedge, you will have to be very diligent with your pruning or they will get out of hand very quickly. From our experience, we would trim back stray branches at the start of the growing season in April. Then in mid-summer (around July), trim the sides again to encourage denser growth, leaving the leading shoot uncut until it’s reaches the desired height. After that, the top and sides will need to be trimmed up to three times a year and tapered from the top to the bottom. This program of diligent clipping is critical and unfortunately they cannot be kept to a particularly width and will get wider and wider over time.

Spacing recommendations vary from four to eight feet, depending on how much money you want to spend. Carrie suggests five-miles apart. It sounds like you’ve already planned on spacing them every five feet and this would be fine.

Some other points you may want to consider before planting Leyland cypress is it’s susceptibility to disease, and may not be long-lived because of this (maybe only 15-years). It’s also not very drought tolerant and wants good draining soil. Ask yourself if this hedge will block out your sun to areas of the yard that are used to having sun.

As you can tell from our comments, this plant would probably not be our choice as it requires long-term and regular maintenance. Carrie suggests using plants such yew, holly, or osmanthus as a mixed and informal hedge. Susan prefers a little more formality and would opt to prune these plants, although they wouldn’t require the same amount of effort as the Leyland cypress. Bob says he would use them as a short-term solution while more preferable plants are planted in front of the cypress and allowed to grow up at a slower rate, and then remove the cypress. It would worth the time and expense to invest in Irish yews.

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