The fabulous Italian cypress

When a person is asked to describe a typical Mediterranean scene, undoubtedly within the reply there will be a mention of tall, thin conifers...

Cupressus sempervirens at RHS Garden RosemoorThese trees are the epitome of the Mediterranean, whether lining a formal pool or peppering rolling hills, standing with their exclamation mark type habit. The trees in question are Cupressus sempervirens, common name Italian cypress (left, also known as the Mediterranean cypress).  

C. sempervirens are native to the eastern Mediterranean region, in northeast Libya, south Albania, southeast Greece (Crete, Rhodes), south Turkey, Cyprus, Northern Egypt, western Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Malta, Italy and western Jordan.  

Italian cypress are tolerant of poor soils but will grow happily in most soils, apart from waterlogged; newly planted trees will need extra watering for a few months until they are fully established. The trees can be pruned, especially if any of their appendages decide to branch out in a random direction! Un-pruned, they can reach a height of up to four metres.

C. sempervirens are used in garden designs as focal points, to highlight or detract from a feature and to give evoke a Mediterranean feel. An added bonus is that these trees have a small footprint and cast little shade, so can be used in a relatively small space.

Cupressus sempervirens Stricta GroupThere are a few cultivars of C. sempervirens that are known for their reliably fastigiate habit including:‘Bolgheri’; ‘Green Pencil’; 'Pyramidalis’; Stricta Group (right); ‘Swane’s  Gold’; and ‘Totem Pole’.

At RHS Garden Rosemoor we have recently purchased four ‘Totem Pole’ for the Mediterranean Garden, these have now been planted to give company to the one, very happy ‘Totem Pole’ that has been in the garden for a few years. As the weather has been so dry and hot we are watering them well every week and coated the foliage with an anti-transpirant to help with their establishment.

These trees are just one of the latest editions to this area of Rosemoor and will (hopefully!) be very happy, settling in with all of the new plantings and hard landscaping that has been going on to develop this area during the last couple of years.

Advertise here

Discuss this

for the site or to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.

Get involved

We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.