What is an Evergreen Tree?
Evergreens are trees that have foliage year round. The term “evergreen” means that trees will keep growing leaves as other leaves fall off. Most people think of Pine and Christmas Trees when they think of the word Evergreen. These trees are best known for being able to endure cold weather, and dry seasons.
Evergreens are perfect for planting as privacy screens and wind breaks. There are many different types of evergreens from tiny dwarf shrubs to massive trees. Evergreens can add character to your yard, offer year round foliage, and will enhance your landscape for years to come.
This guide explains how to choose the right evergreens for your yard.
In This Article:
- Getting Started
- Types of Evergreens
- Size, Zones, and Diseases
- Selecting the right location for your evergreen
There are a few questions you may have before purchasing your trees:
What type of evergreens will work best for my yard, and my area?
First we recommend that you determine the purpose of your evergreens for your landscape. Will your evergreens be used for windbreaks, screening and privacy, or will they be decorative trees? Evergreens come in many different shapes, sizes, colors and leaf types. Knowing the purpose of these trees will help you determine which evergreens will work best for your yard.
Prior to buying evergreens it’s important to understand their chances of survival in your area. Knowledge of your growing zone can help you decide on which evergreen will work for you. Some trees and shrubs are hardier than others, so it is important to check the zone rating on trees you are interested in. Also, it’s best to know what type of soil type the evergreen prefers.
Some plants can tolerate drier soil types; while others need moist soil. Knowing the pH balance of your soil prior to purchasing a tree can be helpful. Certain trees prefer acidic soil, while others need more alkaline soil.
Alkaline Soils are drier soil types so it’s best to buy drought tolerant trees
Acidic soils hold moisture better, most evergreens like acidic soil.
View Expert Advice on video here for additional information.
What type of care do evergreens need?
Most evergreens thrive in full to partial sunlight. Some trees have a higher tolerance than others for factors like poor soil drainage, salt spray from snow plows, extreme weather conditions, and pest or insects. Most evergreens don’t require a lot of maintenance as far as upkeep. Some trees require minor pruning and annual fertilization. There are a few varieties that will drop needles and seeds at certain times of the year. Cypress and Spruce trees are examples of evergreens that shed their foliage yearly. If a messy yard is a concern, you may want to avoid those varieties.
How big will this tree get?
Consider how tall you want the trees to be in your yard. Make sure to anticipate the size of the trees once they mature. A tree’s growth rate will also have a bearing on your choices. Are you okay with a slow growing tree, or do you need something that will establish height quickly? If shade or privacy screening is important you may want to choose a fast growing tree. Many evergreen trees can reach mature heights of 20-60 ft.; whereas some dwarf varieties of evergreens only reach heights of 4-6 ft.
In order to choose your evergreen tree wisely, keep in mind the actual size of your yard and the allotted space these trees will be planted in. It is important to fit trees to their surroundings. Some evergreens will not look as attractive if they outgrow the area you’ve chosen for them. When a tree grows too large for its space it may require regular pruning, or one day have to be removed.
We recommend using small to medium size varieties for smaller homes and yards. You can place smaller trees near your home and taller trees farther out in your yard.
Types of Evergreens
We want you to locate the best trees for your landscape, so we have compiled a list of evergreen trees. This guide includes the most popular varieties of evergreen trees, size, growing zones, and planting tips.
Cypress trees will make excellent additions to your landscape. They can be recognized by their pyramidal shaped small, rounded, woody cones, shoots and scale like leaves. Their foliage can range from yellowish green to green or a grayish color. They can reach mature heights of up to 60 ft. Cypress trees can be grown in zones 4-11. In order to grow they require full to partial sunlight.
Planting: We recommend planting your cypress trees 10-12 ft. apart from each other, unless you are planting a hedge. When you are planting a hedge they only need to be 5-6 ft apart. Water your trees regularly and keep the soil moist at all times but not soggy. You can fertilize your trees if you choose, but they do not require fertilization. If you choose to fertilize use a balanced tree and shrub fertilizer.
Cercospora Needle Blight – Is a fungus caused by cercospora sequoia, and is most common on Leyland Cypresses. However, it can affect other species of cypresses like thujas, and junipers. This causes browning of the needles on the lower part of the tree next to the stem. The infection eventually spreads upward and outward until only the needles on the tips of the branches are green.You can recognize this disease by the green pustules on the surface of the needles. This will spread mostly during the spring and summer by the wind. You can treat these trees by spraying them with a copper based fungicide. Continue spraying the tree until new growth pushes out.
Seiridium Canker – This canker is one of the most damaging diseases to cypress trees. The canker can form on the stem or the branches, causing them to die back. They appear as brown or purple patches on the bark with resin coming out of them. Eventually the twigs and branches will turn bright red and then brown before dying. There are no chemicals that can be used to treat this at the time. You can avoid spreading the disease by keeping the tree from getting wounded and pruning off any infected branches or twigs. Also sterilize your pruning tools in bleach prior to prevent rusting.
Botryosphaeria Canker – Similar to the Seiridium Canker this fungus can cause reddish brown twigs and branches. The cankers that develop on the tree from this disease don’t have resin coming out of them. These cankers will not harm the trunk but will kill off the branches. The Botryosphaeria will attack trees that are under a lot of stress. In order to prevent this disease from attacking your trees, it is best to maintain good health for your tree. Mulching, and providing a good amount of water to your trees during extreme heat and drought will help. Do not over fertilize or severely prune your trees. However, make sure to prune off any dead branches.
Spruces are pyramidal trees than can be known for their stylish cone-like form and whorled branches. The needles on these trees are attached to the branches in a spiral like formation. Spruce trees can range from 5 ft. tall for dwarf trees, and to heights of 60 plus feet for larger trees. These trees are usually grown as ‘Christmas Trees,’ especially the Blue and Norway varieties. They require full to partial sun in order to thrive.
Popular Spruce Trees: Growing Zones Mature Heights Widths
• Alberta Spruce (Canadian Spruce) Zones 2-6. 10-12 ft. 4-5 ft.
• Norway Spruce Zones 3-7. 40-60 ft. 20-25 ft.
Planting: Plant spruce trees 20-25 ft apart. Make sure that you water your trees regularly in order to maintain moist soil. These evergreens do not need much fertilizer just plenty of sunshine and water. However, if you choose to fertilize these trees you can use a tablespoon of balanced tree fertilizer and sprinkle it on top of the ground around each tree.
Spruce Tree Diseases
Spruce Needle Rust – This infection can cause your needles to become discolored, while the bugs remain green and alive. You will notice the needles will drop of the next year. This can eventually cause the whole tree to turn a tan-pinkish color. This infection is not treatable. Depending on how serious the infection the tree may not survive.
Spruce Spider Mite – These insects can cause the needles and branches to look like they’re dried up. If you use a magnifying glass you will notice mites, and eggs on the twigs. There will also be webs on the twigs. You can use a miticide to treat your tree. You can also treat your tree in June and July to prevent mites from getting on your trees in general.
Common Needle Cast – Older infected needles turn a tan color as a result of this fungus. Normally the tree naturally sheds most of its needles. However, the infection causes them to fall off prematurely. When you take closer look at the needles you will notice black fruiting bodies on the bottom of the needles. To prevent this you can apply a single application of fungicide at the beginning of summer.
Cryptomeria Trees are known for their handsome cone like shape and rich reddish brown bark which often peels off in strips. These large trees can reach heights of 35-45 ft.They also have needle-like leaves that form spirally scales on their branches. These trees grow best in zones 5-9, and require full to partial sunlight.
Popular Cryptomeria Trees: Growing Zones Mature Height Width
• Radican Cryptomeria Zones 5-9. 30-40 ft. 15-20 ft.
Planting: The best way to plant Cryptomeria trees is to space them about 15 to 20 ft apart from each other for the larger varieties. For the dwarf varieties we recommend spacing them 2-6 ft. apart from each other.
It is uncommon for these trees to have issues with disease or pest. However, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your trees, and look for any signs of health issues.
Bamboo is a beautiful tropical evergreen that’s part of the perennial grass family. They’re one of the fastest growing evergreens worldwide. They can be recognized by their hollow stems that grow in bundles. They can grow 10-12 ft per year. These evergreens can be grown in zones 5-11, and require full to partial sunlight.
Planting: We recommend spacing bamboo every 3 to 4 feet, for a quick privacy screen. Make sure they are kept in soil with good drainage and watered daily. Fertilize them occasionally with a well-balanced lawn or palm fertilizer.
Fungal spots – Under humid conditions bamboo can sometimes develop fungal spots. These spots are purely cosmetic and can be treated topically with a copper based product that’s specifically for fungus issues.
Black Sooty Mold – This fungus is caused by aphids and is mostly in the branch bases. The mold grows on the secretion that the aphids secrete. You can treat this with products labeled for aphids or ants. This issue can also be resolved by pressure washing your bamboo to remove the mold.
Scales – These tiny insects have wax like coverings on their backs. They don’t cause any harm to the bamboo’s overall health. However, they cannot be removed with a chemical insecticide. They have to be physically removed. You can do this by picking, wiping, or pressure washing the bamboo to get these insects off.
Palm trees are gorgeous un-branched evergreens with green exploding fan-like feathery leaves. These trees are best known for the flowers, and prevalence in tropical areas, like the beach. The flowers are small and star shaped. Palm Trees thrive best in warm tropical climates. However, many varieties like the Windmill Palm can be grown in zones 4-11. Palm trees are relatively slow growing trees, but can grow up to 20-35 ft.
Planting: We recommend spacing palm trees far enough that their leaves have room to spread out. It is recommended to plant them a minimum of 20 ft away from each other. Water your trees once a week with salt free water. Fertilize your palms with a balance palm tree fertilizer containing 8-8-8 or 12-6-12.
Pink Rot – A fungus that can cause leaf spots, deformed growth on the tree, and rot. It can also cause the tree to ooze sap, a brown syrup like substance. If this occurs on your tree you must prune the sick parts. You can then treat your palm with a fungicide.
Sudden Crown Drop – This disease can cause the whole crown on your tree to fall off. Depending on how large your tree is this can be dangerous if someone is near the tree when this happens. The trunk rots from the inside out with no signs of this until it’s too late.
You can check for this by knocking on the trunk to listen for hollowness. To prevent this from happening try not to prune your tree a lot and keep it healthy. The more you prune your tree the easier it becomes for a disease to enter your tree.
Diamond Scale – A fungus that produces diamond shaped bodies on the trees leaves and trunk. They look like darks spots at first and then grow into the diamond shaped bodies. The leaves start to turn yellow then eventually they turn brown. Good drainage and fertilization helps prevent this from happening. Power washing your tree can help remove this fungus. You can also treat with a fungicide.
Thujas are commonly known as arborvitaes, and make wonderful landscape trees. The textured reddish brown wood on these evergreens is soft and aromatic. The shoots on these trees come out on a single plane and are flat. The leaves on this evergreen are long and scale and needle like. The leaves are arranged in crisscrossed pairs in four rows along the branches. Certain species of the Thuja have thicker foliage and larger cones. Thujas are very hardy and adapt to a variety of soil types and weather conditions. These arborvitaes can range from heights of 10 ft. for dwarf tree to 40 ft. for the giants.
Thuja trees are extensively used for hedges and landscape. Their slender shape makes them a popular evergreen for landscaping. They also make excellent privacy screens, and wind breaks.
Planting: We recommend planting your Thuja trees 15-20ft apart. If you have a small yard the trees can be planted 8-10ft apart to form a hedge. Even though these trees are drought tolerant it’s best to try and keep the soil moist around your trees. Keep in mind the tree’s growth is slowed during periods of drought. Thujas do not generally need fertilizer. You can fertilize in the early spring and early fall Espoma Holly Tone or Rose Tone.
Tip Blight – A fungus that attacks weak or damaged areas on the Thuja. The infected needles on the tree begin to die and then eventually spread to the branches. The color of the leaves also turns from green to yellow, and before dying they turn brown. You can prevent this disease from spreading by pruning off infected parts and using a fungicide.
Leaf Blight– This fungus attacks the leaves on arborvitaes and can be recognized by the dark brown to black circles on new leaves during the spring. Eventually the leaves turn brown and by fall all the leaves on the tree will drop off. You can prevent leaf blight with a copper spray application in the summer and early fall.
Juniper Blight – Commonly affects red cedar and juniper trees. However, this disease can also attack Thuja Trees. The disease causes the branches to die back. Dieback will start at the tips of the shoots on young trees. If this is not treated the tree will eventually die. You can use fungicides containing copper and propiconzole.
Hollies are evergreens that are best distinguished by their glossy foliage. The leaves are typically saw-toothed, or indented on the ends. Depending on the species some hollies are deciduous, and some push out flowers and or berries. The berries ripen in winter and provide a nice red color contrast to your landscape. However, the fruit is not edible and should not be ingested. Hollies are proven to be a good food sources for wildlife.
Similar to Spruce Trees, Hollies overtime have become associated with the Christmas season. Varieties like the Nellie Stevens and American Holly are used as ornamental parts of the landscape during the holidays. Hollies are relatively slow growing evergreens. Though, they can reach heights of 15-25 ft. depending on the variety.
Planting: Space your Holly Trees 5 to 25 feet apart, depending on the variety and the mature size of the plant. They like full to partial sun and moist well-drained acidic soil. You can use compost as fertilizer for these trees in the spring. It is recommended to spread it around the outer most branches, and then add 2 inches of mulch to help the tree retain moisture.
Canker – This disease causes sunken areas on the stems called cankers. These cause the trees to eventually die. In order to save the trees it is recommended that you prune off any infected branches.
Tar Spot – Infection can occur during the spring when temperatures are moist and cool. It starts off as yellow spots on the leaves, and they eventually turn brown to black in color. As a result the leaves either get holes or fall off. It is best to remove any infected leaves before the infection spreads throughout the tree.
Chlorosis – Another infection that can affect Hollies is Chlorosis; which is an iron deficiency and can lead to the disease. It causes light green to yellow leaves with dark green veins. It is best to reduce the pH levels in your soil or treat it with supplemental iron-fortified fertilizer.
Juniper trees are lush evergreens with scale or needle like leaves. These drought tolerant evergreens are also called cedars, though they are not actually cedar trees. These trees are species of the Juniperus in the Cupressacea family. Depending on the variety Juniper trees can average heights of 15-20 ft.
Juniper trees can be planted in almost anywhere, with one exception. We do not recommend planting Junipers in your yard if there are apple trees in your yard or nearby. Apple trees sometimes become infected with cedar-apple rust. This fungus easily can transfer onto juniper trees and cause severe damaged to the tree.
Planting: We recommend planting Junipers 3-6 ft apart depending on whether you’re planting a tree versus a shrub. Shrubs are okay to be planted 2-3 ft apart if you’re using them as a hedge. Water your Junipers deeply after planting, and then water them 2 times a week for a month following planting. After that only water once a week except during extreme heat temperatures or drought. You can fertilize your Junipers once a year in the spring with a slow release fertilizer. Spread fertilizer around your tree before watering the tree or before it rains.
Juniper Blight – Can cause the twigs and branches on the Juniper Tree to die back. This can happen during spring when moisture is in the air with warm temperatures. The dieback starts at the tips of the shoots on young trees. If this is not treated the tree will eventually die. You can use fungicides containing copper and propiconzole. It also can affect arborvitaes, white and red cedar, and cypress trees.
Cercospora Twig Blight – Infects the oldest needles on the tree, which are typically located on the lower branches. Eventually the needles brown all over the tree and the tree will die in late summer. Avoid crowding your plants together to help prevent this disease. Applying fungicide to your trees before infection occurs is a good idea.
Cedar Apple Rust– Commonly affects Crabapple and Red cedar trees. However, it can cause harm to Juniper trees. The disease will spread from Junipers to Apple, and back to Junipers. The issue only happens when junipers are grown near Apple Trees. In order to prevent this from happening choose disease resistant varieties of junipers. There are several varieties that are disease resistant that will work for your zone.
Hemlock trees are evergreens that can easily distinguished by their furrowed, cinnamon colored scaly bark. The foliage on these evergreens is flattened and angular in shape. The branches shoot out horizontally from the trunk and bend downward. These trees push out pollen filled seed cones that grow from the lateral buds these trees produce. The cones are narrow, leathery and vary in shape. The seeds that the Hemlock trees produce are small and have a winged look.
Popular Hemlock Trees: Growing Zones Mature Height Width
• Canadian Hemlock Zones 3-8. 40-60 ft. 15-25 ft.
Planting: We recommend planting Hemlock trees 20-30ft apart, depending on the size of your yard. These trees can spread out 25 ft once mature. When you first plant water your trees deeply weekly with your garden hose. The soil should remain moist at least 1-2 inches down. After your trees have been planted a while and become established you will only have to water them during extreme hot temperatures or drought. You may also want to keep an eye on your soils pH, if it’s lower than 5.0 add lime to the soil. If it reads above 6.0 then you can add peat moss to your soil to balance it out.
Cones and Twig Rust – This fungus appears as a dusty yellowish spore. Eventually the twigs twist, die and fall off. No treatment is recommended for this fungus, the hemlock needs only to complete its life cycle.
Cytospora Canker – Can be identified by a slightly sunken spot on the tree. The canker will eventually kill off the branches on the tree. In order to prevent this from spreading you must prune off all infected branches.
Fabrella Needle Blight – Blight can cause the needles on the lower part of the tree to turn brown and fall off during late summer. As a result the tree will have bare twigs. The fungus appears as small white dots at first on the bottom of the needles. Eventually the spots darken before the needles fall off the tree. Generally this will not need treatment because the fungus does not cause a lot of damage to the tree unless; it’s under stress from drought or insects.
Eucalyptus trees are best known for their attractive peeling bark, and strong fragrant scent. The scent is famous for attracting small animals, insects, and birds. The extract from this tree can also have medicinal uses. These evergreens are extremely drought tolerant and can endure extreme heat and sun. They adapt to most soil types. Eucalyptus trees have greenish gray leaves that stem out in rows along the branches of the tree. These trees can grow from 40 -100 ft. They normally grow 5-6 ft per year, and grow best in zones 7 through 11.
Planting: Space your Eucalyptus Trees 6-8 ft apart, especially if you are planting them as a screen. Once Eucalyptus trees establish they do not require much watering, unless they’re being grown in a container. You should allow these trees to dry out in between waterings. Eucalyptus trees don’t need fertilizer unless potted.
Phytophthora – This fungus is known as a form of root rot. The leaves on the Eucalyptus will turn discolored and the wood will turn reddish brown, and then eventually dark brown. The fungus will eventually destroy the tree from the inside out. Unfortunately, once the tree becomes infected you cannot stop the infection. You can prevent the infection from occurring by treating the Eucalyptus with a fungicide in the spring.
Canker– These can be caused by fungus that infects the bark and goes into the interior parts of the tree. As a result the leaves turn yellow and drop off. You can often recognize this when you see dropping branches, and the trunk splitting. The canker basically ends up strangling the tree until it dies. Cankers can best be prevented by providing the trees with the proper care to keep them healthy. Prune off any dead leaves and branches.
Armillaria Root Rot – Also known as oak root fungus; which affects the Silver Dollar Eucalyptus Trees. This fungus kills the trees tissue structure. As a result the root system and base of the trunk are affected. This can cause the leaves not to grow or leaves that are discolored; which would eventually fall off the tree prematurely. The branches can also die off if left untreated. You can treat this fungus by pruning off infected areas of the tree. Make sure your tree is in a well-draining spot so that water does not collect around the trees roots. You can also treat it with a fungicide containing Fosetyl-al, which is used to treat the Silver Dollar Eucalyptus specifically.
Selecting the right location for your evergreen
Once you decide on a tree it is also recommended that you plant at least 10 to 15 ft. from your home’s foundation and at least 5 ft. from fencing, sidewalks, and patios. Keep in mind only short trees can be planted underneath utility lines. So where should you plant your trees?
Evergreens are often used for screening near property lines. It is best not to put too many trees along your property line. This will help prevent overcrowding as the trees grow. A grouping of 2 evergreens is usually ideal in 1 or 2 key areas of your property line. This will still help you gain the privacy you seek.
Patios or Decks:
Adding an evergreen tree to this area can provide you with shade from the sun and privacy from your neighbors. We recommend placing the trees 5-7 ft. from the deck or patio. Place the tree on the side of your patio or deck where you could use the most privacy.
Open Backyard Space:
An open space in your backyard will give you the most opportunity when it comes to planting evergreens. The amount of trees you plant here depends on the size of your yard. It is best to plant evergreens where you need privacy or shade. You may not want to plant an evergreen directly over a garden or area that needs direct sunlight.
It is not recommended to plant evergreens near a parkway. These trees make it difficult for cars to see while backing out of the driveway. It also makes it difficult to see the front of homes.
Open Front Yard Space:
Your front yard is a good place to plant evergreens. Most front yards have room for at least 2-3 trees. It is suggested to place the trees randomly in the open space. Make sure to keep in mind the view of the areas around the home where flowers and bushes are growing. Your trees should be positioned a good 10-15 ft. from the home.
Depending on the size of your lot, side yard spacing can also be an ideal spot for evergreens. Windbreaks and privacy screens can help frame your property. This can also help provide shade for your home and keep it cool during the summer months.
Wherever you decide to plant your trees keep in mind most evergreen trees get large at maturity, so make sure the location you choose can handle the size of the tree.
Prior to purchasing your trees make sure there are no state or Home Owners Association restrictions. Some states have restrictions on certain trees being shipped from out of state. Additionally some Home Owners Associations prohibit specific trees from being planted in their communities.
When is the ideal time to plant these trees?
Depending on your local climate both spring and fall can be ideal for planting evergreens. Planting evergreens during the spring gives their root systems time to develop during the growing season. However, if you reside in an area that experiences severe heat and dry weather it may be best to wait until fall to plant. Young evergreens are susceptible to heat and drought damage.
The benefit to planting in the fall is the roots of evergreens grow more aggressively than when planted during the spring. The soil conditions are more ideal due to the amount of moisture in the air. However, if you decide to plant during the fall it is best to do so prior to November. If your evergreen is planted too late it could possibly suffer winter damage.
You can use the USDA’s Hardiness Zone Map to find the best time to plant any evergreens you are interested in planting.