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Evergreen, Trees

These are mostly big, shallow-rooted trees with an unusually graceful appearance. Horizontal to drooping branches bear needlelike leaves that are banded with white beneath, flattened and narrowed at the base to form distinct, short stalks. Small, oval brown cones hang down from branches. Deeply furrowed bark. Need some winter chill.

Do best with acid soil, summer humidity, and protection from hot sun and wind. Take well to heavy pruning; make excellent clipped hedges and screens. Easily damaged by salt and drought. In the Northwest, the hemlock woolly aphid can weaken these plants, especially those grown as hedges; it affects mainly T. heterophylla.

Tsuga canadensis
Tsuga canadensis

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Tsuga canadensis

Dense, pyramidal tree to 40–70 ft. or taller and half as wide. Tends to produce two or more trunks. Outer branchlets droop gracefully. Dark green needles are mostly arranged in opposite rows. Fine lawn tree, good background plant, and outstanding clipped hedge. Many dwarf selections are available.

Tsuga heterophylla (photo courtesy of Joshua McCullough/PhytoPhoto)
Tsuga heterophylla (photo courtesy of Joshua McCullough/PhytoPhoto)

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Tsuga heterophylla

Native along the coast from Alaska to Northern California, inland to northern Idaho and Montana. A handsome tree with a narrow, pyramidal crown. Grows fairly fast to 70–130 ft. tall and 20–30 ft. wide. Somewhat drooping branchlets; fine-textured, dark green to yellowish green foliage with a fernlike quality. Needles are 1/4–3/4 in. long and grow in two rows. Picturesque large conifer for background, screens, or hedges. ‘Thorsen’s Weeping’ is a prostrate form that can be grown as a groundcover or staked in youth as a weeping specimen; best growth in part shade.

Tsuga mertensiana

Native to high mountains, from Alaska south through higher Sierra Nevada in California and to northern Idaho and Montana. Grows to 50–90 ft. tall in the wild but is slow growing, smaller (20–30 ft. tall, half as wide) in gardens. Needles are 1/2–1 in. long, blue green with a silvery cast; they grow all around the stems to give branchlets a plump, tufty appearance. Trees at timberline frequently grow in a horizontal or twisted fashion. Thrives on cool slopes with highly organic soil. Least adapted to lowland, hot-summer areas. Needs partial shade in Zone 14. Somewhat resistant to hemlock woolly aphid. Good for large rock gardens, containers, and bonsai.

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