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One of the more shade-tolerant evergreens, the Eastern hemlock has many uses as a specimen, sheared as a hedge, or planted for screening. Native to the eastern United States, the hemlock resembles a large Christmas tree with its broadly pyramidal, pendulous branches and fine, dark-green needles on widely spaced branches that give it a delicate, lacy feel. The tree even has abundant brown cones that hang from branches like small ornaments. 

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Pine
  • Family (botanic) Pinaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Foliage Evergreen (foliage year-round)
  • Native locale Chicago area, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 40-70 feet
  • Mature width 25-35 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, early spring, mid spring, late spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Pyramidal
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Intolerant of pollution
  • Wildlife Birds, Browsers, Mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat: 

This plant is native to eastern North America.

Bark color and texture:

Its bark is red-brown. It appears scaly when young and eventually develops ridges and furrows.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color:

Leaves are evergreen needles, arranged in two rows, with an extra row of flattened needles on the top of stems. Medium green needles are ½ inch long and flattened.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Male and female flowers are on the same tree, but in different structures (monoecious). Flowers are not ornamentally important. 

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Fruit are about 1 inch long ovoid cones that hang from branches like small ornaments.


Plant care:  

This tree does not tolerate heat, drought, or urban conditions. Shelter from strong winter winds to avoid winter burn.

Pests, diseases and tolerances: 

There are several possible diseases and insect pests including hemlock scale, bagworm, needle rust mite, woolly adelgid and needle blight. It is susceptible to winter burn if not sheltered from strong winds.

Gentsch white eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis ‘Gentsch white’):  

This is a dwarf variety growing 3 to 4 tall and wide. The needles at the tips of the branches are white.

Jeddeloh eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis ‘Jeddeloh’):

This variety is a low-growing mounded shrub, reaching only 2 to 3 feet at maturity. The center of the shrub is shorter than the outer edges, forming a funnel-shaped depression.


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