Arizona Cypress Tree Profile

Arizona Cypress leaves and berry (Cupressus arizonica), Cupressaceae.

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The Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica) is an evergreen conifer that is native to the southwestern region of North America. This tree is an excellent choice for inclusion in a xeriscape and other desert landscaping because 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.

The tiny leaves of an Arizona cypress tree 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.

Arizona Cypress
Botanical Name Cupressus arizonica 
Common Name Arizona Cypress
Plant Type Coniferous evergreen
Mature Size 40 to 50 feet tall, 15 to 30 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Acidic, alkaline, loamy, sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, alkaline, neutral
Bloom Time Non-flowering
Flower Color Non-flowering
Hardiness Zones 7 to 9
Native Area Southwest United States, Mexico

How to Grow Arizona Cypress Trees

Consider the environment of Arizona, and you've got the best environment in which to grow Arizona cypress trees. The trees do well in full sun and well-draining soil and are tolerant of hot, dry conditions. The tree grows at a moderate pace, adding 1 to 2 feet a year and topping out at between 40 and 50 feet. The tree is usually delivered as a young specimen that's between 6 inches and 1 foot tall, which can then be transplanted to an outdoor site. It serves well as a windbreak and for erosion control.

Light

Cupressus arizonica needs a site that provides full sun for plenty of direct light.

Soil

Arizona cypress trees are not particular about soil pH and can grow in acidic, neutral or alkaline dirt. It can also tolerate clay, loamy or sandy soils. However, the soil should be well-draining.

Water

Cupressus arizonica is able to tolerate dry soils, but it does need at least 10 to 12 inches of water annually. Any location chosen should offer proper drainage for optimal growth. It will grow better if it is watered regularly, particularly when irrigated.

Temperature and Humidity

As its name suggests, the Arizona cypress is tolerant of hot and dry conditions like you would find in the American Southwest or Mexico. In areas of high humidity, the Arizona cypress might be more prone to diseases. In the United States, the Arizona cypress tree does best in USDA zones 7 to 9.

Fertilizer

Unless there are specific and known nutritional deficiencies, it's not necessary to water an Arizona cypress tree. Fertilizer applications could result in an increase in growth rate, which would require addition irrigation. If you have a need to increase how quickly the cypress tree grows, use a quality granular fertilizer.

Varieties of Arizona Cypress

There are five varieties of Arizona cypresses; however, some botanists identify them as unique species.

  • Cupressus arizonica var. arizonica
  • Cupressus arizonica var. glabra
  • Cupressus arizonica var. montana
  • Cupressus arizonica var. nevadensis
  • Cupressus arizonica var. stephensonii

Pruning

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

Be careful if you choose to prune the tree. 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 right before new growth in the spring. If you need to control growth or prune for shape, you can also do it in the late spring or early summer.

Common Pests and Diseases

Cupressus arizonica is susceptible to a number of pests and diseases. Pests include bagworms, which will cause defoliation as these larvae chew their way through the leaves, as well as cypress bark beetles (Phloeosinus spp.), which will bore holes into the trunk and can kill the tree if you are not able to get rid of the beetles soon enough.

Additionally, 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 and then brown as it dies. Make sure your soil offers good drainage as too much moistness can make the problem worse. Finally, stem cankers should be pruned out as soon as you notice them help maintain the overall health of the tree.