Carolina Sapphire is one of the most popular varieties of
Arizona cypress in the South.
cypress is one of those plants that horticulturists and season
gardeners alike look upon with amazement at its beauty and performance
in the hot and humid Southeast. Right now we are planting small ones
as living Christmas trees in containers as part of our December Nights
and Holiday Lights festivities at the Coastal Georgia Botanical
Gardens in Savannah.
We have already
incorporated leading varieties like Carolina Sapphire, Blue Ice and
Chaparral in various locations, such as the White Garden, Xeriscape
Garden and, as odd as it might sound, in the Palm Collection. None is
more photogenic, however, than the Chaparral in the White Garden.
cypress is known botanically as Cupressus arizonica and is indeed
native to Arizona. While that climate is decidedly different from
ours, it has thrilled with its performance in the South. This year we
have had enough rain to challenge many a plant species, and though the
cypress is native to an arid climate, it has performed beyond
In addition to
becoming a choice landscape tree it has become a staple in many local
pick-your-own Christmas tree farms. This has no doubt led to the
public starting to realize how they stand out in the landscape. Known
for its classic Christmas tree shape, the Arizona cypress offers
compact, beautiful, blue-green foliage.
Look closely and
you will see that the small scale-like leaves are dotted with tiny
white flecks that are actually resin glands. These glands yield an
enticing evergreen fragrance when you grab or brush up against a
branch. Another thing that really stands out is the dark
cherry-colored stems. These stems make for a very unusual yet
beautiful look in contrast with the blue-green foliage.
cypress is cold hardy from zones 6-9. To grow your own, select a site
with as much sun as possible. This really allows the color to pop. It
performs well in almost any soil, acidic or alkaline, as long as it is
well drained. This would be one place where conditions might differ
from Arizona. It can grow one to two feet per year and can reach 30 to
40 feet in height.
If your soil is
tight, heavy clay and not well drained, then plan on amending it with
3 to 4 inches of organic matter, and work the bed to a depth of 8 to
10 inches. The best idea might be to copy today’s commercial
landscapers and plant on raised beds. The Arizona cypress is very
drought tolerant once established, but pay attention to watering the
If you have ever
thought about having a living Christmas tree, this would be an ideal
choice. Use it indoors for about a week to 10 days and then take it
outside to be planted as a memory of Christmas 2015. The Arizona
cypress is an extremely ornamental tree, so a single specimen or small
group makes a dramatic statement in the landscape. They also can be
used for windbreaks or privacy screens. Here at our garden we have
those that stand alone as specimen while others look picturesque with
a backdrop of palm leaves or burgundy loropetalum foliage.
In addition to
the varieties mentioned above, look also for Blue Pyramid, and Silver
Smoke. The winter landscape needs evergreens to provide the bones and
structure. When you can choose a blue-foliaged form like the Arizona
cypress, the landscape is even prettier. Look for these and other
choice conifers at your local garden center.