by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
A valid Arizona native growing naturally at the 3500 to 6000-foot elevation, the Arizona Cypress is collected by conifer lovers around the globe. It is an exceptional choice for xeriscape and desert landscaping for its toughness in dry, windy climates. Often used as a living Christmas tree through the holiday season. The tree grows at a moderate 2′ foot pace every season, growing 25′ H x 12′ W in most yards. Groves of Arizona Cypress can be found on Prescott’s backside, standing 40′ tall with age.
There is an easy way to distinguish between an Arizona Cypress and native juniper. Female junipers form berries, while male junipers offer nothing by pollen. Arizona Cypress starts cute pinecones the size of golf balls. The tiny leaves of this tree look like needles in different shades of blue, green, and gold.
Common Name Arizona Cypress
Botanical Name Cupressus arizonica
Plant Type Coniferous evergreen
Mature Size 25′ H x 12′ W
Sun Exposure 6+ hours Full sun
Soil Type alkaline, loamy, sandy, well-drained
Hardiness Zones 7 to 9
Native Area Arizona, New Mexico & Mexico
How to Plant and Grow Arizona Cypress
Arizona Cypress has the same cultural needs as most other cypress species. It will do well in a sunny location with rich, well-draining soil. Container-grown or ball-and-burlap trees should be planted in a large, carefully prepared hole and backfilled with soil amended with Watters Premium Mulch or another acidifying organic material.
Cupressus arizonica needs a site that provides 6+ hours of full sun for a superior thick tree that grows fast.
Arizona Cypress can grow in many different soil types, especially ones that can be considered problematic, such as clay or sand. The ideal soil for growing Cypress should be sandy loam with a high percentage of organic matter. The ground needs to have proper drainage. To ensure drainage, Watters Premium Mulch is recommended to blend into the planting hole of each Tree.
Dry soil is no problem for this evergreen tree, but it thrives with 10-12″ inches of rain annually. Faster growth is delivered when watered weekly by drip irrigation. Any location chosen should offer proper drainage for optimal growth.
Temperature and Humidity
Arizona cypress is tolerant of hot, dry conditions like those in the American Southwest or Mexico. Areas of high humidity are prone to more diseases. The tree grows best in USDA zones 7 to 9.
Feed with Watters 7-4-4 All Purpose Plant Food 3 times per year (March, July, and October) for best growth and dense foliage that screens and cuts the wind.
Arizona cypress can be pruned to form a hedge if desired. It requires little pruning unless you remove damaged, brittle or dead branches. Cypress trees do not develop new buds on older wood, so cutting back shoots could lead to bare spots on the tree. Additionally, you should only prune (in March) right before new growth in the spring. If you need to control growth or prune for shape, late spring or early summer are good times.
Common Pests and Diseases
Pests and insects are rare, but periodic outbreaks of bagworms can cause defoliation, spray with Watters Caterpillar Control at the first sign of these tiny caterpillars for easy control. Cypress Beetles can cause branches to die back and are easy to spot. Spray with Watters 38 Plus at the first sign of tip damage in spring.
Mistletoe is a parasitic shrubs that send roots into the tree branches and steal nutrients. You should prune out affected branches when the mistletoe first forms to keep it from growing and spreading.
When humidity is high Gymnosporangium rusts can form. It can lead to problems like galls and witches’ brooms. These rusts are usually not problematic except in rainy years. Phomopsis blight causes new growth to be yellow and brown. Planting trees in garden soil that drain well reduces this issue.
Companion Plants for a Stunning Backyard
Austrian Pine, Mint Julip Juniper, Red Clusterberry Cotoneaster, Boxwood and Yew
How to Plant an Arizona Cypress
Until next issue, I’ll be helping gardener plant the best native evergreens here at Watters Garden Center.