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Eastern hemlock

Branches of Eastern hemlock.

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.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name:

Tsuga canadensis

All common names:

eastern hemlock, Canada hemlock, Canadian hemlock

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub,
  • Tree


  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Hedge,
  • Screen,
  • Specimen

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 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Alkaline soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Intolerant of pollution

Ornamental Interest:

  • Showy fruit

Seasons 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 & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Pyramidal

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • Birds,
  • Browsers,
  • Mammals

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

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

Disease, pests, and problems

Several possible disease and insect pests including hemlock scale, bagworm, needle rust mite, woolly adelgid and needle blight.
Susceptible to winter burn if not sheltered from strong winds. 

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to eastern North America.

Bark color and texture

Bark is red-brown; scaly when young, eventually developing 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.
Needles are ½” long and flattened, medium green color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

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

Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
photo: John Hagstrom

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

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

Cultivars and their differences

Gentsch white Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis 'Gentsch white'):  A dwarf growing 3 to 4 tall and wide.  The needles at the tips of the branches are white.

Jeddeloh Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis ‘Jeddeloh’)  is a low growing (under 3 feet at maturity), mounded shrub.  The center of the shrub is shorter than the outer edges, forming a funnel-shaped depression.

Location of Tsuga canadensis (Eastern hemlock) at the Arboretum