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Propagation and Care of Leyland Cypress as Christmas Trees


Leyland cypress do not produce viable seed, thus the rooting of vegetative cuttings is currently the best method for propagation. Selection of appropriate specimen trees from which to take cuttings is a key first step. Select trees with an acceptable natural Christmas tree form. Cultivars with lateral branches arising at the base of the tree and growing up vertically as tall as the terminal shoot are likely to develop double stems and should be avoided. Foliage color will also vary by cultivar. Most growers prefer the cultivar `Leighton Green' which has rich green foliage.

Selection of cutting material is critical. The age of the tree, location within the tree crown, and time of year are all factors to be considered. Generally, the most successful and consistent rooting is achieved with cuttings taken from trees less than 10 years old, or from new shoot growth on older trees. Cuttings should be 6 to 8 inches long and show some brown coloration in the lower part of the stem. January, February or March are the best months to take cuttings. Rooting may be successful at other times of the year, but rooting percentage will be low. After cuttings are taken, keep them cool and moist and process as soon as possible. Do not let cuttings heat up by leaving them in the sun or bunched together.

Have the containers prepared so cuttings can be rapidly processed. Initial rooting can be done in small volume containers like 2ΒΌ in. square rose pots, or containers of comparable size provided they have sufficient drainage. Fill the containers with a porus rooting media such as a 1:1 peat-perlite mixture. Make a two inch deep hole in the media to accept the cutting.

Prepare the cuttings by pruning them to approximately six inches long, and strip the leaves off the bottom two inches of the stem. Dip the base of each cutting, or groups of cuttings, into water and then into a rooting hormone powder containing 0.8% Indole 3-butyric acid (IBA). This is a formulation commercially available for hard-to-root woody plants. Tap off excess powder, place the cuttings into containers and firm in place. Quick dips for two to three seconds in an alcohol solution containing 0.3 to 0.8% IBA have also been successfully used.





Maintain the cuttings in a warm, humid environment. A good target temperature to maintain the cuttings is 68°F. A mist system on a timer, set to deliver 5 to 10 seconds of mist at 4 to 5 minute intervals, will maintain high humidity surrounding the cuttings. A greenhouse is ideal for propagation, but containers can be draped with plastic to maintain temperature and humidity. An alternative method is to fill a one or five gallon plastic bucket with rooting, media, and stick the cuttings into the media. Be sure to put drain holes in the bottom of the bucket. Then, put several boards vertically on the inside edges of the bucket and lay plastic over them, creating a miniature greenhouse.

Root development can be monitored by carefully slipping the cutting and media from the container. As soon as roots are visible, begin weekly applications of a dilute liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer solution. It will take about three months to sufficiently root cuttings.

Once cuttings have been rooted, they need to be transplanted into larger containers such as six-inch or one-gallon pots. Cuttings transplanted to one-gallon pots generally show better growth.

Ground pine bark with coarse sand or a commercial


greenhouse soil mix can be used as a soil mix. Two teaspoons of a slow release 18-6-12 fertilizer should be added to the containers after repotting. Maintain the repotted cuttings in a greenhouse or shadehouse until they are ready for out planting into the field, in approximately 6 to 9 months.

Time of year of out planting to the field can be critical. Generally outplanting is done in the spring after the danger of frost. Some growers have successfully outplanted in the fall, winter, and early spring, while other have lost transplants due to killing frost. Plants are most susceptible to freeze damage when taken directly from the greenhouse or shadehouse without allowing them to harden off. Before outplanting, cut back on both water and fertilizer and set plants outdoors for lengthening periods of time each day for a total of one to two months. If danger of frost exists during this hardening off period, cover or return plants to greenhouse or shadehouse to protect them from freezing. Roots are especially susceptible to freeze damage while in containers since they freeze more quickly than when they are in the field. Avoid pruning plants during this period.

Once Leyland cypress transplants become established in the field, they exhibit a good degree of cold hardiness. An outplanting at the Georgia Experiment Station in Griffin survived, without injury, when a low temperature of - 8 degrees F was recorded on January 21, 1985.

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Last updated on Monday, December 09, 2002 at 03:11 PM
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