Arizona Cypress Growing Tips

The Proper Latin Name Is Cupressus arizonica

Arizona Cypress leaves and berry (Cupressus arizonica), Cupressaceae.
Arizona Cypress leaves and berry (Cupressus arizonica), Cupressaceae. Getty Images/DEA/M. GIOVANOLI

The Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica) is an evergreen conifer that comes from the southwestern region of North America.

Latin Name

The botanical name for this tree is Cupressus arizonica and it is in the Cupressaceae family. Other relatives include juniper trees and shrubs (Juniperus spp.), arborvitae (Thuja spp.), bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides).

A Latin name synonym for this species is Hesperocyparis arizonica.

Common Names

This is called the Arizona cypress. You may see other names used for the varieties of this species, which are sometimes assigned their own species name. Arizona cypress is Cupressus arizonica var. arizonica. Smooth Arizona cypress or blue Arizona cypress is Cupressus arizonica var. glabra. The San Pedro cypress or San Pedro Martir cypress is Cupressus arizonica var. montana. The Piute cypress is Cupressus arizonica var. nevadensis. Finally, the Cuyamaca cypress is Cupressus arizonica var. stephensonii.

Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones

This evergreen tree may be planted in gardens located in Zones 7-9. It is native to the southwestern United States and Mexico.

Size & Shape

The size will depend on the variety present and the growing conditions. It can be anywhere from 20-90' tall and forms into a pyramidal shape.

Exposure

Cupressus arizonica needs a site that will provide full sun.

Foliage/Flowers/Fruit

The tiny leaves look like scales and come in different shades of green on the different varieties including gray-green and blue-green. The Arizona cypress is monoecious and both the male and female flowers are little, yellowish-green, and found at the tips of the branches.

Cupressus arizonica is an example of a species that has adapted to wildfires in its natural environment.

The egg-shaped cones will not open on their own until a fire passes through, allowing them to repopulate the area successfully.

Design Tips

This is an excellent choice for inclusion in a xeriscape since it can handle less water if the root system has had a chance to spread and entrench itself. The Arizona cypress can be grown for use as a cut or living Christmas tree.

Growing Tips

Cupressus arizonica is able to tolerate dry soils. Any location chosen should offer proper drainage for optimal growth. It will grow better if it is watered regularly.

You can use cuttings or a side-veneer graft to propagate this species. You can germinate the seeds, but the cones will need to be exposed to fire in order to make them open up.

Maintenance and Pruning

The Arizona cypress can be pruned to form it into a hedge. It will need little pruning otherwise unless you are removing branches that have become dead, damaged or diseased.

Pests & Diseases

  • Bagworms will cause defoliation as these larvae chew their way through the leaves.
  • Cypress bark beetles (Phloeosinus spp.) will bore holes into the trunk and can kill the tree if you are not able to get rid of the beetles soon enough.
  • Mistletoes are parasitic shrubs that send roots out into the branches of the tree and steal nutrients. You should prune out affected branches when the mistletoe first forms if possible to keep it from growing and spreading.
  • Gymnosporangium rusts occur when fungi invade. It can lead to problems like galls and witches' brooms. These rusts are usually not too problematic except in rainy years.
  • Phomopsis blight will cause new growth to turn yellow, then brown as it dies. Make sure your soil offers good drainage as too much moistness can make the problem worsen.
  • Stem cankers should be pruned out as soon as you notice them help maintain the overall health of the tree.