Imagine: “We need some screening plants, so we’re buying Leyland cypress,” she said.
“Why Leyland cypress?” I asked.
“Because they grow quickly,” she answered.
“Don’t do it,” I said.
Name: Leyland Cypress aka Cupressus x leylandii
Type of Plant: A fast growing evergreen conifer that can quickly grow to 40 to 60 feet tall and over 15 feet wide.
Why I dislike this plant: How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.
- Unless this plant is sheared regularly from early in it’s life it grows thin, with long scraggly limbs that don’t screen anything, let alone look good in the landscape.
- Because they grow quickly people raise them and sell them cheaply. If you buy these inexpensive plants know that they are low-cost because no one has sheared them early on. They will continue to look cheap unless you start to prune them regularly…do you really want such a high-maintenance plant?
- They are very prone to winter damage. Take a look at all the Leylands with browned branches as you drive around at this time of year.
- They are also prone to becoming top heavy from that fast growth (especially if they aren’t sheared annually) and so they come over in storms.
- They are completely inappropriate as screening on smaller properties. They grow into roads, driveways, and dominate back yards.
- Since they get so large, and need annual shearing to keep them attractive, you’ll have to have them professionally sheared. Do you really want plants you have to pay to have pruned every year?
- Once they get long limbs (because people don’t have them sheared) those limbs break off in heavy snow.
- Because they grow so high they are likely to shade gardens – yours or your neighbors. Suddenly, the yard that had good sun for roses, vegetables and perennials is in deep shade.
- Unless sheared professionally into a flat hedge, Leylands get bare on the bottom, so they offer little to no screening six feet up from the ground. If they are pruned back into bare wood, or have dieback into bare branches, they do not green up again from these areas.
- They are prone to diseases – blight, canker and root rot.
A Word to the Wise: If you already have them, shear about 6” of the tips off of the side branches annually. Once they reach the height you want, start shearing the leader too. Once they are too tall for you to reach, hire a professional to do this. If they are already too ugly, too big or too damaged, take them out and put something else in their place.
You’ve been warned!
Green Giant Arborvitaes grow just as quickly without the same issues. But even better, consider planting a range of evergreens as a hedge.