How to Grow and Care for Arizona Cypress

Arizona cypress tree with a cone shape in front of other trees

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

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 tree grows at a moderate pace, adding 1 to 2 feet per year and topping out at between 40 and 50 feet.

The tiny leaves of an Arizona cypress tree look like scales and come in different shades of green in 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
Common Name Arizona Cypress
Botanical Name Cupressus arizonica 
Family Cupressaceae
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 7-9 (USDA)
Native Area Southwest United States, Mexico

Arizona Cypress Care

Consider the environment of Arizona, where Arizona cypress trees grow naturally, and you'll be able to picture the best environment in which to grow these trees. They do well in full sun and well-draining soil and are tolerant of hot, dry conditions.

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.

Arizona cypress tree branches with scale-like leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Arizona cypress tree branch with scale-like leaves and small circular cones closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Arizona cypress tree branches with scale-like leaves on vertical branches closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


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


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-drained.


Cupressus arizonica can 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.

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.


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

Types of Arizona Cypress

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

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


The Arizona cypress can be pruned to form 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.

Propagating Arizona Cypress

Arizona cypress can be propagated from cuttings. Here's how:

What You’ll Need: Healthy plant, scissors, plastic bag, soilless potting mix, containers, rooting hormone (optional)

Where to Cut: Cut with scissors just below a node on a soft, green stem (cutting should be about 4 to 6 inches long).

Maintaining the Cutting: Remove the bottom few leaves (needles), dip the stem in water then in rooting hormone (if desired), and slide the stem about 2 inches into a container of potting mix. Keep warm and moist but not soggy.

When to Plant the Cutting: In 3 weeks, transplant the cutting into another pot or the ground.

How to Grow Arizona Cypress From Seed

This tree will grow from seed, but the process does require a bit of effort and patience. Here's how:

  1. Cut this year's brown cones from the tree and place them in a warm, dry, shaded area. Be sure they are protected from squirrels and other seed eaters. 
  2. Allow the cones to dry out until they "open" and their seeds begin to drop out.
  3. Sprinkle seeds in a single layer in the bottom of a container, cover with water, and soak for 24 hours.
  4. Wrap the soaked seeds in moist paper towels and seal them in a plastic bag. Refrigerate the seeds for 30 days.
  5. After a month of refrigeration, plant the seeds in small nursery pots with a soilless potting mix. Press one seed about 1/4 inch deep in each pot and cover with a thin layer of packed potting mix.
  6. Water pots thoroughly, keeping them moist but not soggy, in a location that receives indirect light and a temperature around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  7. Germination should occur one to two months after planting. Keep the seedlings in a greenhouse for the first winter, then transfer them into the ground the following spring.


Arizona cypress is cold tolerant and does not require special winter care. Seedlings, however, should be kept indoors as mentioned in the steps above.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Cupressus arizonica is susceptible to several 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.

Common Problems With Arizona Cypress

Problems with Arizona cypress are generally easy to recognize and occur as a result of improper care or environmental conditions. A few of the common issues owners might encounter include the following:


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.

Yellow or Brown Needles

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.

Stem Cankers

Finally, stem cankers should be pruned out as soon as you notice them help maintain the overall health of the tree.

  • How long can an Arizona cypress live?

    A healthy Arizona cypress will live for about 30 to 50 years, which is a relatively short lifespan for a tree.

  • What is an alternative to Arizona cypress?

    Similar trees that are also drought tolerant and well-suited to desert climates are the Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) and its attractive blue-green variation Cupressus sempervirens ‘Glauca’—both of which can be planted in tight rows to form privacy and wind barriers.

  • How fast do Arizona cypress trees grow?

    These trees grow approximately 13 to 24 inches per year.