Few popular hedge plants rise to the height of the Leyland cypress. At maturity, this fast-growing evergreen can exceed 100 feet. Its roots, however, are short and shallow.
The expression "moderation in all things" does not apply to Leyland cypress. This hybrid evergreen grows almost a yard a year until it reaches full height. Its shallow roots spread several feet on all sides of the tree, given room.
The Leyland cypress resulted from an accidental cross between an Alaskan cedar and a Pacific cypress; it inherits the surface root system from the latter. The tree gets its name from Christopher Leyland, a relative of the estate owner where the accidental crossings occurred.
Homeowners select Leyland cypress for privacy hedges because it grows fast and tolerates severe pruning. Few realize that careless failure to prune results in a tree of exceptional height. Failure to space the trees correctly also has serious consequences; it crowds the root spread and creates instability.