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

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Zones A2, A3, 2-7, 14-17
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Tsuga heterophylla

Western Hemlock
Evergreen, Ground covers, 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 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.

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