How to Tell the Difference Between Leyland Cypress and Green Giant Arborvitae

How to Tell the Difference Between Leyland Cypress and Green Giant Arborvitae

When choosing plants for privacy screens or hedges, two popular options that often come up are Leyland Cypress and Green Giant Arborvitae. Though both are excellent for creating fast-growing and dense barriers, they have distinct differences that might influence your choice depending on your landscaping needs. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you distinguish between the two and decide which might be best for your garden.

1. Botanical Characteristics


Leyland Cypress (x Cuprocyparis leylandii) is a hybrid of the Monterey Cypress and the Alaska Cedar. It grows very quickly, often 3 to 4 feet per year, reaching heights of up to 60-70 feet and a width of 15-25 feet. The foliage is dark green to bluish-green in color and has a feathery, soft texture.

Green Giant Arborvitae (Thuja standishii x plicata 'Green Giant') is also a hybrid, derived from Japanese arborvitae and Western red cedar. It is similarly fast-growing, with rates of 3 feet per year, but generally tops out at a slightly shorter height of 50-60 feet and a narrower width of 12-20 feet. The foliage is a lush, rich green and the leaves are scale-like, giving it a slightly textured feel.

2. Growth Habits and Conditions

Leyland Cypress tends to have a broader base and narrows as it grows taller, which can be advantageous for privacy. It prefers full sun but can tolerate a variety of soil types, though it doesn't do well in very wet conditions.

Green Giant Arborvitae has a more uniform, columnar shape which makes it excellent for creating a solid, tall hedge. It is extremely adaptable, handling a range of soil conditions and partial shade better than the Leyland Cypress.

3. Maintenance and Care

Both trees are relatively low-maintenance once established. However, Leyland Cypress can be susceptible to a range of diseases and pests, particularly if not planted with adequate space for air circulation. It also might require more frequent trimming to maintain a tidy appearance and health.

Green Giant Arborvitae is known for its disease and pest resistance, making it a more durable choice in many regions. It also tends to hold its shape well, requiring less pruning than Leyland Cypress.

4. Aesthetic Considerations

Choosing between these two often comes down to aesthetic preference. Leyland Cypress's feathery texture can soften landscapes and blends well with a variety of garden styles. Its broader base can also provide a fuller screen at lower heights.

Green Giant Arborvitae offers a more formal appearance with its dense, rich green foliage and uniform shape. It's excellent for a tidy, manicured look and works well in both formal and informal settings.

5. Environmental Impact

Both types of trees can be excellent choices for environmental benefits such as windbreaks, noise barriers, and privacy. However, due to its susceptibility to disease, Leyland Cypress may have a shorter lifespan than the Green Giant Arborvitae, especially in humid or wet climates.


Both Leyland Cypress and Green Giant Arborvitae are excellent choices for fast-growing privacy screens. Your choice will depend on the specific needs of your site, your aesthetic preferences, and the level of maintenance you are willing to undertake. Consider all these factors to choose the right tree for your landscape to ensure it thrives and meets your needs for years to come.

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