Create a Safe Haven for Your Backyard Birds by Planting a Leyland Cypress Tree

Updated on July 9, 2019
Casey White profile image

Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.

Birds Out on Their "Patio," Enjoying the Day

Our Leyland cypress tree is home to many birds that often come out to enjoy the sunshine together.
Our Leyland cypress tree is home to many birds that often come out to enjoy the sunshine together. | Source

Reasons to Plant a Leyland Cypress Tree

There are many reasons you might want to consider planting a Leyland cypress tree in your yard. A Leyland cypress tree works very well as a hedge plant, but if you love birds, you will plant one with them in mind, as it provides them some protection from predators like hawks or roadrunners. Because the trees are very dense, the birds are also protected somewhat from the ravages of severe weather.

No tree will provide 100% safety for your backyard birds, as we have witnessed a hawk fly directly up into the Leyland cypress tree in an attempt to capture a bird. Luckily, the bird was able to fly out the back of the tree and escape while the hawk was fighting through the branches of the dense tree. But the birds keep coming back to the tree and seem to know that they are safer there than anyplace else.

Also, this type of tree can grow to become a living barrier that can grow up to 60 feet tall with a diameter of up to 15 feet, affording you and your family the privacy you deserve.

This fast-growing evergreen has fine, feathery, soft-green pointed needles on flattened branches. At maturity, the needles will turn a dark blue-green color. The tree matures to a dense, pyramidal outline. These trees are hardy in USDA growing zones 6-10.

Here are some more reasons you may want to consider this tree:

  • These trees grow an average of 3-5 feet a year so if you are an impatient gardener, as I am, you will see the fruits of your labor very quickly.
  • If you plant them in rows, you won't have to be concerned about breakage, as the row of dense trees will create a windbreak. They will create a solid, living wall that is almost impenetrable by severe winds.
  • If you live in a subdivision with close neighbors, these cypress trees are great for forming a barrier that will absorb noise. Your noisy neighbors will never suspect you planted these trees with them in mind.
  • The Leyland cypress tree is a sturdy tree that can stand up to flooding, drought, salt, and snow. They stand up very well against pests and plant diseases.
  • These trees will survive and thrive in almost any soil you have.
  • You may want to plant one of these low-maintenance trees in your front yard and decorate it as an outdoor Christmas tree. You can always trim it into the shape of a hedge but if you allow it to grow naturally, you will have your own Christmas tree year after year.

Many Birds Live in Our Backyard "Bird Motel"

This is a  mature Leyland cypress tree that grows in our backyard.  Many birds fly to the relative safety of this tree when threatened by predators.  The birds are never 100% safe but this tree offers them as much protection as possible.
This is a mature Leyland cypress tree that grows in our backyard. Many birds fly to the relative safety of this tree when threatened by predators. The birds are never 100% safe but this tree offers them as much protection as possible.

An Accident Gone Right

The Leyland cypress (Cupressus x leylandii) was named after C. J. Leyland, a man who planted seeds from the cones of an Alaska cedar tree that were fertilized by a Monterey cypress tree at England’s Leighton Hall in 1888, resulting in one of the most popular trees in the United States.

Instructions for Planting

You can plant a Leyland cypress tree just about any time the ground in your yard isn't frozen. You should select a sunny area (part shade is okay) that has well-draining soil with a pH of 5.0-8.0. You can buy a simple test kit from any garden center to check the pH of your soil. You should know the pH of every section of your yard, regardless of what you want to plant.

Your spacing of these trees will depend upon why you are planting them. If you desire a tall hedge, screen or a windbreak, you should space them about 10 feet apart. For a row of Christmas trees, rows should be about six feet apart.

  • Dig a hole that is three times wider than the root ball and the same depth as the root ball to the trunk flare, which is part of the tree but not a part of the root system.
  • Loosen the sides of the hole while keeping it firm. Remove all container materials from the tree and set the tree in the hole. Then spread the roots outward but try to avoid bending the roots sharply.
  • Fill the hole with soil and cover it until the root collar is just a few inches higher than the soil. Don't plant the main stem too far below the ground level, as this can lead to decay and rotting. Plant it so that the top of the root system is approximately 1/4 inch below the top of the soil. Water thoroughly and tamp the soil lightly.
  • Place about three inches of some type of organic mulch around the tree, but always keep mulch at least six inches away from the trunk.
  • Hammer a stake approximately 18 inches into the ground next to the tree.
  • Take a piece of three-inch-wide soft rubber strapping and tie it at the mid-point of the tree. Stretch it out and, using a staple gun, attach the strapping to the stake. Staking the new trees will help to avoid wind damage or crooked growth. Deeply irrigate the area around the tree each week and keep the area free of weeds. Leyland cypress trees have a shallow root system, and excess weeds can interfere with growth rates.

Note: If the pH of your soil is below 5.0, add lime or wood ashes, which will raise the level. If the pH needs to be lowered, add iron sulfate or magnesium sulfate to the soil.

Propagating From Cuttings

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Mike and Dorothy McKenney


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