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A Floridata Plant Profile #159 Cupressus glabra
Common Names: smooth cypress, smooth Arizona cypress
Family: Cupressaceae (cypress Family)
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tree  Drought Tolerant Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage

'Blue Ice' cypress
Cupressus glabra 'Blue Ice'
Smooth cypress is a handsome, steeple-shaped evergreen that can get 30-50 ft (9.1-15.2 m) tall and usually stays only 12-15 ft (3.7-4.6 m) wide. It has compact, beautiful blue-green foliage. The small scale-like leaves are dotted with tiny white flecks that actually are resin glands that produce a turpentine fragrance. The outer bark continually flakes away, revealing the very attractive smooth, cherry-red inner bark. The spherical cones are reddish brown, about an inch in diameter, have 6-8 shield-shaped scales, and remain on the tree for 2 or more years, even after the seeds are shed.

The popular cultivar 'Blue Ice' is even more compact and cone-shaped, and has unique steely-blue foliage. The growing tips of 'Arctic' are white. 'Blue Pyramid' has a slightly weeping shape.

Smooth cypress grows naturally in the mountains of central-western Arizona. It grows on rocky or gravelly soils in canyons from 3200 to 8700 ft (975-2652 m) above sea level.

Smooth cypress grows well in almost any soil, acidic to calcareous, so long as it is well drained. It should be staked for the first few years to keep it from falling over.
Light: Full sun.
Moisture: Smooth cypress is extremely drought tolerant. New transplants should, of course, be watered for the first year.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 10.
Propagation: Plants grown from seed can be variable. To maintain characteristics of the parent, propagate from cuttings. These should be taken in summer or fall from 1 or 2 year old growing tips, rooted in sand and given bottom heat. Cuttings should develop roots and be ready for transplanting within 4 to 8 months. (Not your typical begonia!)

smooth cypress branch tip

Smooth cypress is an extremely ornamental tree, and a single specimen or small group makes a dramatic statement in the landscape. Smooth cypress is very popular in Australia and New Zealand, where nearly a dozen different cultivars are offered. Planted in a row, smooth cypress trees make a good windbreak and an almost impenetrable screen. In the SW US, smooth cypress is cultivated for Christmas trees.

Some authorities consider smooth cypress to be a variety of the wider-ranging Arizona cypress, C. arizonica, rather than a species of its own. In fact, some of the cultivars of Arizona cypress are no doubt actually selections of smooth cypress.

Steve Christman 12/13/99; updated 4/6/04

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