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Publication #ENH384

Cupressus sempervirens: Italian Cypress1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

With its narrow columnar habit of growth, this evergreen forms tall, dark green columns 40 to 60 feet in height in the western United States but are often much shorter. Trees are normally no more than three feet wide. The scale-like leaves lend a very fine texture to any setting. Planted 3 feet apart, they make a dense screen. Italian cypress is often used for framing, as a strong accent around large buildings, or in the formal landscape but does not lend itself well to many home landscapes. It quickly grows much too tall for most residential landscapes, looking much like a green telephone pole.

Figure 1. 

Middle-aged Cupressus sempervirens: Italian cypress


Credit:

Ed Gilman, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Cupressus sempervirens
Pronunciation: koo-PRESS-us sem-per-VYE-renz
Common name(s): Italian cypress
Family: Cupressaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 7B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: screen
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. 

Range


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Description

Height: 40 to 60 feet
Spread: 3 to 6 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: columnar
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: fine

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: whorled
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: scale-like
Leaf venation: none, or difficult to see
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Flower

Flower color: unknown
Flower characteristics: not showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: oval
Fruit length: .5 to 1 inch
Fruit covering: dry or hard
Fruit color: brown
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don't droop; not showy; typically one trunk; thorns
Pruning requirement: little required
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: brown, gray
Current year twig thickness: thin
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

Light requirement: full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate

Other

Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: resistant
Pest resistance: sensitive to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Growing in full sun on various well-drained soils, Italian cypress should be planted in a well-prepared site and watered periodically until well-established. Italian cypress should not be pruned. It is very susceptible to mites and trees are often infested.

Many cultivars are available; 'Glauca'—blue-green foliage and tight columnar form; 'Stricta'—very popular; `'Horizontalis'—horizontally-spreading branches.

Propagation is by cuttings or layering.

Pests

Bagworms are occasionally a problem for Italian cypress. Mites are often a problem.

Diseases

Root rot can be a problem for Italian cypress in poorly-drained soil. Canker is a devastating disease that has killed many trees in California.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH384, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Reviewed May 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.