Cupressus sempervirens, commonly called Italian cypress, is an evergreen conifer that is native to southern Europe and western Asia. In its native habitat, it typically grows in a spreading, open-horizontal form (sometimes referred to as var. horizontalis) that is rarely if ever sold in commerce. Trees commonly sold in commerce as Italian cypress are of the familiar narrow-columnar or fastigiate form that typically grows 40-60’ (less frequently to 80’) tall. This columnar/fastigiate form (sometime referred to as C. s. var. sempervirens, C. s. ‘Stricta’ or Stricta Group), is unknown to the wild, but was the tree originally described by Linneaus as Cupressus sempervirens and is the cypress of classical literature that has been commonly planted in Italian classic gardens since Renaissance times. This columnar/fastigiate form features scale-like dark gray-green leaves on upright branches. Foliage is aromatic when crushed. Rounded fruiting cones (to 1.5” diameter).
Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-10. Best in well-drained sandy loams in full sun with medium to moderate moisture. Tolerates some drought once established. It does very well in dry Mediterranean-type climates such as exist in many parts of California.
Growing Instructions for the Italian Cypress
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year. The seeds are stored in a refrigerator so they have already been stratified. 1. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. 2. Put the mixture in a ziplock bag. 3. Put the bag in the refrigerator and leave it there for 4-6 weeks. 4. The seeds like rich, moist soil. Sow the seeds in containers with a good quality potting soil or compost. 5. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil about a couple of millimeters thick. 7. Water the soil so that it is moist but not wet. The seeds will begin to germinate in several weeks. 8. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.