Remarkably fast-growing, reaching 15 feet tall in five years and up to 60 feet in 25 years, the Leyland cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii) provides New Jersey property owners with an easy way to create a screen, windbreak or hedge. Numerous cultivars of this hybrid evergreen tree exist and all grow in most of New Jersey. While the Leyland cypress will survive winters and grow in the Garden State, numerous environmental factors affect how well or long the plant grows.
Leyland cypresses are best suited to areas where it never gets colder than 10 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, correlating to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 and warmer. Plant Leyland cypresses in all counties of New Jersey except those in the extreme northwest where the elevation is high, such as around Milford and Crandon Lakes. Some needle and branch dieback can occur in northern New Jersey as winter temperatures approach 10 degrees below zero. The best locales for Leyland cypress are anywhere east of Interstate 287 and south of Interstate 78. The milder the winter, the better.
Plant Leyland cypress trees in any fertile, moist but well-drained soil. The tree tolerates both wind and salt spray near the ocean. Deep topsoils, those at least 3 feet deep, allow the roots to anchor and support the fast growth of above-ground foliage. The densest foliage develops in a full sun exposure, although plants do well even in partial shade with only four to six hours of direct sun rays daily. To maintain a hedgerow, prune Leyland cypresses once in late winter and again in late spring and midsummer. Never cut branches back into old wood where no green needles grow.
Even though a Leyland cypress will grow in New Jersey if all cultural conditions are met, numerous maladies can undermine plant health. These issues weigh heavily when considering if the tree is worth growing in New Jersey. Tip and branch dieback readily results from cold winters or overly dry soil. Root rot happens in soggy soil. Needle blight, Coryneum fungal canker, bark beetle, scale, webworm caterpillars and sawfly can all negatively affect Leyland cypress -- enough to make plants look ugly, irregular or stunted. Deer may severely damage the evergreens from browsing if no other food sources exist in the neighborhood.
If your property's soil is moist and fertile, and fences deter deer, Leyland cypresses may prove excellent tall screening plants in your area of New Jersey. Be vigilant and monitor foliage for the first signs of any insect pest or disease to prevent major harm to plants. If short on space, select and plant shorter-maturing cultivars of Leyland cypress. Various cultivars mature anywhere from 10 to 30 feet, reducing need for as much pruning. Cultivars also display varying foliage colors, ranging from bluish gray-green to golden green.
- Rutgers Garden; Shade Trees Ornamental Trees and Conifers; 2011
- Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension; Rutgers Plant and Pest Advisory: Plant Diagnostics Laboratory Highlights; Richard J. Buckley; May 4, 2006
- Learn2Grow: X Cupressocyparis Leylandii
- Rutgers: New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station: Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance
- "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants"; Christopher Brickell and H. Marc Cathey, eds.; 2004
- Photo Credit Nick Daly/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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