Answer: Leyland cypresses are very fast growing and can get out of hand without annual pruning to keep them under control. The best approach is to prune them before they get too large. Since you want a privacy screen you'll want them to grow thick and dense. The best way to encourage this growth habit is to use hedge trimmers on them and cut them all back by at least 6" every spring - 12" will be better. This will force growth behind the pruning cut which will keep the center filled in. The key to keeping Leyland's trim and compact is regular pruning. If you allow them to grow too large and then have to cut them back to bare wood, they will not develop foliage on the bare wood and you'll have unattractive plants.
Tree suggestions include: Texas Olive ( Cordia boissieri) A trouble-free tree from the Rio Grande, Texas olive is so named for it's yellow-green fruit resembling olives. It's form is densely rounded, with large gray-green rather coarse-textured leaves. Flowers are white with yellow throats and are borne in showy clusters from spring into late autumn. This tree is quite drought tolerant but flowering benefits from more frequent irrigation. Expect Texas olive to reach a height of 10 to 15 feet with equal spread. This is a truly trouble-free tree.
Crape Myrtle (Lagerstromia indica) A tree with multi-faceted interest, crape myrtle has beautiful clusters of large crape-paper-like flowers in bright pinks, reds and white. Flowering is continuous from spring to fall. Leaves turn a bright red-orange fall color, and shed to reveal beautiful cream and beige pealing bark. Crape myrtle can be grown as a single or multi-trucked tree. Here in the desert it will obtain a height of 18 feet over time. It grows in an upright, spreading form to an eventual height of 18 feet.
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