Leyland Cypress – Too Big

Q: I heard you say on your radio show that Leyland cypress can be pruned way back. Mine were planted in 1991 when they were two feet tall. Now they have kind of got away from me. Is there anything that can be done with Leylands this huge or do I need to cut them down and start all over? It will pain me greatly to cut them down as numerous birds live in them.

A: It is true that a Leyland cypress can be topped to keep it at a certain height…but you can’t reduce it in size width-wise. This is because Leyland cypress does not sprout new growth from mature brown branches, like a holly or other broad-leafed evergreen would.

It MIGHT be possible to do some corrective pruning on your two huge trees but it all depends on how many short green branches are growing from the main trunk. If you have green needles only at the ends of the branches, cutting them off will leave only a trunk covered in lifeless limbs. This is likely to be your situation.

My advice? Put up several bird houses and cut down the cypresses. You can choose among several other needled evergreens to plant in their place. But DO read the labels of the new plants to learn how big they eventually will grow!

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