Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday Plant Profile: Italian Cypress (Cupressus Sempervirens) For Tall Screens In Dry California Gardens

Italian cypress is a familiar staple in the city, the deep, bluish green trees growing along border lines as tall screens.  They grow up to 60 feet high on single trunks with a thin, round shape.  Plants are generally 1-2 feet wide but mature plants can be much wider.  All cypresses prefer full sun, but will tolerate part shade and can survive on little water once they are established in a year or two.  Italian cypress will survive winters where it freezes, but does best in warmer climates.

Italian cypress are perfect screen plants or tall hedges for problem areas.  They grow tall but they're thin, so you can tuck them into narrow spaces along the side of the house or in parking strips.  Their trunks will eventually reach about 12 inches around, so your narrow plant bed should at least be that wide.  Their growth habit is sleek and cylindrical, with most of their leaves pointing up.  Their dark green color makes them recede into the back of the landscape, so try them in the very back of your borders.  

They lose a small amount of needles during they year, but litter is not a big problem with these trees.  Italian cypress does not grow very fast the first year, but plants will make up for their lack of growth in the second year after their roots are established.  Continually trimming the tops will result in a slightly fatter shrub, but they are fairly care free, needing no trimming.

When you are planning on having your cypress survive on rainfall, it is best to encourage deep root development early on by soaking your plants every few days instead of sprinkling the topsoil every night.  Even established plants appreciate a deep soak during a heat wave, when the weather has been over 100 degrees, or when it has been especially dry and windy. 

I am developing a page of good Screen Plants for Sunny Southern California on my gardening homepage, drop by and say hello.

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