Typically when considering evergreens, the gardener automatically pictures hedges, screening, or landscape border plants in sunny, open areas. As the workhorse of the landscape, evergreens are often functional members of a garden that are grown where they are needed rather than as a focal point. However, if you have a full-shade area of your garden or yard that seems to yearn for an evergreen tree or shrub, don't despair. There are yews, arborvitaes, and even a hemlock that will shine in that darkened, shady corner.
Only one of the hemlock evergreens can tolerate full shade sites. Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is a small needled, pyramid-shaped tree that typically grows up to 40 feet tall and is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 3 and above. There are cultivars that can reach heights of 60 feet, although it is more common to find shorter, shrub-like varieties. The planting location should provide good drainage and moist soil on the acidic side.
The Japanese spreading and Japanese dwarf species of yew are both hardy in Zone 4 and above, and both are suitable for full shade. The Japanese spreading yew will grow to 5 feet tall and spread out up to 6 feet. Japanese dwarf yew only reaches 3 feet tall, but will spread 5 feet wide. Growing to the same dimensions as the Japanese dwarf, the tauton spreading yew will also grow in full shade.
Three cultivars of arborvitae, used chiefly for hedges and screening, will suit full-shade locations and offer various mature shrub forms. Emerald and techny cultivars both reach heights of 15 feet and are hardy in Zone 3 and above. While emerald sports medium green needles and a conical shape at maturity, the techny is a dark green, pyramid-shaped evergreen. The globe cultivar is shorter at 5 feet of maximum height possible, with a rounded form.
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