By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Evergreen trees in the landscape provide effortless greenery, privacy, animal habitat, and shade. Choosing the right cold hardy evergreen trees for your garden space starts with determining the size of trees you want and evaluating your site.
Most evergreen trees for zone 6 are native to North America and uniquely adapted to thrive in its average annual temperatures and weather conditions, while others are from locations that have similar climates. This means there are many wonderful evergreen plant specimens from which to choose for zone 6.
One of the most important choices when developing a landscape is the selection of trees. This is because trees have permanency and anchor plants in the garden. Evergreen trees in zone 6 may be native to the region or simply hardy to temperatures that dip to -10 (-23 C.), but they should also reflect your individual needs and aesthetics. Many wonderful trees exist that are suitable for this zone.
When considering evergreens, we often think of towering redwoods or huge Douglas fir trees, but specimens don’t have to be that large or unmanageable. Some of the more petite forms of zone 6 evergreen trees will mature at under 30 feet (9 m.) in height, still enough to provide dimension in the landscape but not so tall you need to be a lumberjack to perform basic pruning.
One of the most unusual is the Umbrella pine. This Japanese native has radiant shiny green needles that spread out like the spokes in an umbrella. The dwarf blue spruce grows only 10 feet (3 m.) tall and is popular for its blue foliage. Silver Korean firs are perfect evergreen trees in zone 6. The undersides of the needles are silvery white and reflect beautifully in sunlight. Other lower profile trees to try in zone 6 include:
If you really want to have the look of a wild forest surrounding your home, a giant sequoia is one of the most impactful evergreen trees for zone 6. These massive trees can reach 200 feet (61 m.) in their native habitat but are more likely to grow 125 feet (38 m.) in cultivation. Canadian hemlock has feathery, graceful foliage and may achieve 80 feet (24.5 m.) in height. Hinoki cypress has an elegant form with layered branches and dense foliage. This evergreen will grow up to 80 feet (24.5 m.) but has a slow growth habit, allowing you to enjoy it up close for many years.
More zone 6 evergreen trees with a statuesque appeal to try are:
Installing evergreens that grow together and form privacy hedges or screens are easy to maintain and offer natural fencing options. Leyland cypress develops into an elegant barrier and achieves 60 feet (18.5 m.) with a 15- to 25-foot (4.5 to 7.5 m.) spread. Dwarf hollies will retain their foliage and have glossy, green leaves with intricate lobes. These can be sheared or left natural.
Many varieties of juniper develop into attractive screens and perform well in zone 6. Arborvitae are one of the most common hedges with rapid growth and a number of cultivar selections, including a golden hybrid. Another fast growing option is Japanese cryptomeria, a plant with soft, almost wispy, foliage and deeply emerald needles.
Many more excellent zone 6 evergreen plants are available with the introduction of hardier cultivars of less tolerant common species.
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With regular rainfall, your evergreen shouldn’t need supplemental watering, but if your region experiences drought conditions, give your tree about one inch of water per week, especially while it’s young. Before the first fall frost, give your tree a deep watering. Monitor your tree throughout the winter to ensure that it doesn’t dry out and start dropping needles. If your tree does start losing needles, water it well. Mulching also helps conserve water.
Regular fertilizing should not be needed. If your tree has brown needles or appears to be failing, dig a balanced tree fertilizer into the soil around the tree’s drip line in the spring. You won’t see immediate improvements, but if the tree doesn’t perk up within six months or so, consult an arborist.
Evergreen trees are pollinated by the wind. Pollen is produced in cones, which mature slowly and can be either male or female. Some evergreens are monoecious, meaning that one tree will have both male and female cones others are dioecious, with male and female cones appearing on different trees.
Evergreens don’t require regular pruning. In the spring, assess your tree’s shape. If there are crossed or diseased branches, prune them out. You may also prune for shape—for example, forming your trees into a neat hedge. Even without pruning, you should see robust growth throughout the spring and summer.
Diseases and pests of the evergreen may be specific to certain varieties. For example, cytospora canker is found mainly on spruce trees. Other common diseases include rhizosphaera needle cast and brown spot, which affects Scots and ponderosa pines.
Scale insects attack junipers and other pines, and cause yellowing of foliage and branch death. A dormant oil spray in spring will control them. Bagworms, gypsy moths, and leaf miners also prey on evergreens. Gypsy moths may create unsightly, wide-spread webbing on trees. You can control them by trapping, or by using Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki, which is a naturally occurring agent.
Voles and woodpeckers will also damage evergreens. Yellow belly sapsuckers may drill feeding holes in your trees, which are often mistaken for canker disease. Hardware cloth wrapped around the base of the tree should deter voles during the winter, when they feed on roots and bark.
Holly trees are a great option in tight quarters because they grow narrowly and can be easily pruned to maintain their shape. A bonus of planting holly is the red berries in winter, which contrast nicely with the snow.
Japanese holly-like Sky Pencil is a minimalist tree for zones 5-9, growing only 2-3 feet wide but 10 feet high. It's a moderate grower that doesn't require much pruning.
If you want to go big, American holly is the way to go. Also a moderate grower, this variety grows very large over time, reaching 30 feet wide and 50 feet high.
Juniper trees grow tall and require little maintenance.
The United States Department of Agriculture divided United States and Canada into 11 hardiness zones, or areas based on a 10-degree Fahrenheit difference in the average minimum temperature. The U.S. falls in zones 2-10.
These zones help gardeners and growers determine which plants are suitably hardy for the location’s environment. Local variations, such as moisture, soil, winds, and other conditions might also affect the viability of individual plants. Ask your local arborist about which trees to plant in your community.
Hardiness is the ability of the tree to survive the winter and still thrive and reproduce. A tree’s hardiness determines if it can be expected to grow in a certain zone’s temperature extremes as determined by the lowest average temperature in the zone.
If you are looking to redesign or update your landscape, finding the plants that stay vibrant and healthy in the climate you live can be difficult or overwhelming. Here’s a list of recommended trees:
Shrubs are an easily to maintain accessory that compliments any landscaping. They can act as borders to homes or pathways, build a foundation for larger landscape pieces, or just even stand on their own as ornamental plants. Here’s a list of recommended shrubs that will work in several different zones:
If you miss planting season for your zone, there’s no need to fret! There are a number of shrub and tree species that are fast growing. Here is a list of fast-growing trees and shrubs we recommend:
Alexa on July 25, 2017:
Bonnie, you're so right. I went to a nursery with my husband looking for sky pencils then my husband saw holly trees so healthy and shiny leaves that he together w/the salesman persuaded me to buy not one but 3 of them. So, we bought and planted them in front of the house. Days after, I was mulching around one of them suddenly, I got a deep pain in my left hand and a leaf was hanging on my left hand. Now, I am waiting the fall season to return all of 3. They are beautiful but " NASTY LEAVES."
Bonnie on February 13, 2017:
I HIGHLY recommend NOT planting holly trees in your yard or in any parks. The leaves of these trees are VERY NASTY. In fall when leaves are on the ground and need to be cleaned up if you grab a bunch of leaves that includes a holly leaf you will be very sorry. It's spines will get you! The leaves do not degrade easily and you can get stuck by leaves that have been around for over a year. I recently discussed this with our new neighbors who had a tall holly tree on the property line between our yards. He most happily cut it down as he has young children.
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