Leyland Cypress Spacing for a Privacy Screen

by Jenny Green

Fast-growing, dense, evergreen Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis × leylandii) provides an effective privacy screen, shielding your yard from prying eyes while you enjoy precious family time. Thriving in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 10, Leyland cypress carries gray-green, flattened foliage on narrow, upright branches. Space trees 5 to 7 feet apart to provide a close-knit hedge.

1. Elbow Room

Allow room for growth and easy access around mature trees when spacing Leyland cypress. Planting trees closer than 5 to 7 feet provides a screen quickly, but eventually major branches on adjacent trees rub against each other, causing wounds and making trees vulnerable to disease. Leyland cypress grows 10 to 15 feet wide. Grow trees 12 feet away from doors, paths or other access routes, and at least 6 feet from any utility service. After five years, trees transplanted from 3-gallon containers will provide a screen 10 to 15 feet high.

2. Planting Policy

Leyland cypress grows best in moist conditions, with its top root above the soil surface. Dig a hole 1 or 2 inches shallower than the distance between the top root and the bottom of the root ball and 1 1/2 times as wide, so that the root at the top of the root ball is visible after planting, and side roots have room to spread. Pruning roots that circle the base before planting helps the tree establish a strong root system. Remove synthetic wrapping materials and place the tree in the hole. A friend can help you check that it's standing vertically before backfilling with dug soil. Firm the soil around the roots and apply 10 to 20 gallons of water. Cover the base with a 3-inch layer of organic mulch, avoiding the trunk, to help conserve moisture.

3. Cuts Both Ways

Regular pruning restricts Leyland cypress size and promotes dense growth. Growing 60 to 70 feet tall when unrestricted, Leyland cypress tolerates heavy pruning to the desired height and shape. Prune at planting, removing dead or damaged branches and lightly shaping the tree, and then prune yearly in June or July during dry weather. Leyland cypress doesn't produce new shoots from brown wood, so take care to only cut green growth. Avoid pruning later in the year, especially in cold areas, so that the tree isn't bearing new growth when frosty weather arrives.

4. Moisture Matters

Leyland cypress tolerates a range of growing conditions, but provides the best privacy screen when well cared for. Grow Leyland cypress in full sun in well-drained, moist fertile soils. Water two or three times a week, applying 2 gallons of water for every inch of the trunk's diameter, or enough to keep the soil constantly moist but not sodden. Reduce or withhold watering in winter and rainy weather. Remove weeds within the drip line of the tree, and increase the width of the mulch as the tree grows.