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.
All Common Names:
- Residential and parks
Tree or Plant Type:
- Evergreen (foliage year-round)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
- Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
- Zone 3,
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Alkaline soil
- Moderately Tolerant
- Intolerant of pollution
- Showy fruit
Season of Interest:
- Early winter,
- Mid winter,
- Late winter,
- Early spring,
- Mid spring,
- Late spring,
- Early summer,
- Mid summer,
- Late summer,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall,
- Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
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.
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.