Evergreens add a tremendous amount of interest and stability to the landscape regardless of the climate you live in. Here in Minnesota, evergreens play an even more important role. We live in an environment where six months out of the year deciduous trees and shrubs are leafless and perennials are dormant. And most of that six months, we also have snow. Using evergreen trees and shrubs in the landscape adds a consistent source of color, form, texture and size. In addition to their visual interest year round, evergreens can be used to help frame a view, block a view, block noise and provide shelter from wind, sun and snow for people and wildlife. There are several factors to consider when selecting evergreens. In our climate, winter hardiness is crucial. All plants are given a USDA hardiness rating that indicates just how much cold the plant can tolerate. Minnesota falls in USDA Zones 2, 3 and 4. For information on the hardiness zone where you live, check out Bachman's Hardiness Zone Map for Minnesota or check with a local nursery or extension agent. The Twin Cities are almost all in Zone 4a (the colder half of Zone 4). But be careful: there are evergreens that would be winter hardy in Minneapolis that might be damaged just a few miles further north. Always check the tag or ask about the hardiness zone for a specific plant you are considering. In addition to selecting a hardy variety of evergreen, you will need to look at the size, shape, color and texture of the plant. To choose the right evergreen for the site, be sure to consider the soil type, pH, drainage, amount of sun the plant will receive, root competition and any nearby obstacles. In cold climates such as ours, we also must be sure we don't try to plant evergreens too late in the fall. Unlike deciduous plants, they continue to lose moisture through their needles during most of the winter. To be sure they have made sufficient new root growth to take up enough water, they need to be established earlier in the fall. Once the right plant for the right place is selected, be sure to follow the guidelines for proper installation and maintenance. The following is a list of many of the evergreen shrubs used successfully in our area. Bachman's classifies evergreen shrubs into three groups based on size and form: spreaders, globes and uprights. Some types, such as junipers, have varieties in more than one category. If you don't find the evergreen you are interested in on this list, or have more questions, stop by and ask one of our horticulturists.
Pine Pinus There are several very nice shrub-form pines. They all have long needles that are in bundles (either 2, 3 or 5 needles to each bundle). Colors and sizes vary greatly. Probably the most well-known shrub pine is the Mugho. There are several very nice dwarf forms of pine as well as some good intermediate shrub forms.
For a detailed listing of the varieties that Bachman's recommends, pick up a copy of our information sheet entitled Pines. Pines are fairly easy to grow. There are varieties hardy in Zones 2, 3 and 4. Some varieties tolerate sandy soils but they all resent wet soil. Pines need acid soil and none tolerates shade.
Spruce Picea There are several good shrub varieties of spruce available in dwarf, globe, low and intermediate spreading form. Spruce have individual needles 1-2 inches long. Twigs are covered densely with the needles. Color varies from medium green to strong blue. Most varieties are hardy in Zones 3 and 4. For a detailed list of the varieties that Bachman's recommends, pick up a copy of our information sheet entitled .
Spruce does not do well on sandy soils and likes a slightly acid soil. They are not shade tolerant.
Junipers Juniperus This is a large group of evergreen shrubs. Technically, junipers have needles, but they are scalelike or prickly needles, not the long, slender needles found on many other evergreens. Certain varieties are sometimes called red cedars. The actual texture of the needles varies greatly among junipers. Some are soft, but others are quite prickly and sharp. Junipers vary from those that crawl along the ground to those that are more than 6 feet tall. There are hundreds of varieties available. Bachman's has grown many of them and selected those found to be the best for our area. For a detailed listing of the varieties that Bachman's recommends, pick up a copy of our information sheet entitled Junipers. Junipers are easy to grow and adapt to a wide variety of soil types. There are varieties hardy in Zones 2, 3 and 4. Some will tolerate light shade. Junipers do not require an acid soil like some other evergreens.
Arborvitae Thuja One of the most popular evergreen shrubs in our climate, arborvitaes have flat fans of scalelike needles. Certain species are called white cedars. There are several good varieties for our area ranging from small, globe forms to tall, stately uprights. For a detailed listing of the varieties that Bachman's recommends, pick up a copy of our information sheet entitled . Arborvitaes are easy to grow and very adaptable. There are varieties hardy for Zones 3 and 4. Some are very shade tolerant. Arborvitaes do not require an acid soil like some other evergreens.
Yew Taxus Another popular evergreen shrub in our climate, yews have short, soft, dark green needles. Because of their rich, dark green color, they are often used in foundation plantings. Only a few yew varieties do well in our climate. Several more varieties are hardy, but they experience too much winter damage and discoloration to be useful in Minnesota. The best spreading variety is called Taunton yew (Taxus x media 'Taunton'). It forms a low, dense shrub that is resistant to winter burn. It averages 3-4 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. The best upright variety for our area is Japanese Upright Yew (Taxus cuspidata 'Capitata'). This variety will grow at lease 10-12 feet tall and can spread at least 5 feet wide. The new growth on yews each season is a bright green that darkens later in the season. Yews are very shade tolerant. They require well-drained soil, preferably with lots of organic matter. Yews require slightly acid soil. Both of these varieties of yew are only hardy to Zone 4.
Chamaecyparis Chamaecyparis A less common, but very nice variety of shrub evergreen for our area, Chamaecyparis are sometimes called Falsecypress. There are only a few varieties suitable to our climate. The variety 'Heather Bun' is a very nice small shrub with a loose, globe form. It grows about 3 feet x 3 feet and has a soft, plum colored foliage when it is very young and in winter. 'Kings Gold' grows about 12 inches wide and 3 feet tall. It has a fine, lacy foliage that is tipped with gold. Chamaecyparis foliage looks like a cross between a juniper and an arborvitae. 'Heather Bun' is hardy to Zone 3 and 'Kings Gold' is hardy in Zone 4. Chamaecyparis prefers full sun and well-drained soil.
Hemlock Tsuga An under-used evergreen for the landscape, there are some very nice shrub forms of hemlock. The foliage on hemlocks consists of very fine, soft needles with a medium green color on top and a much lighter green on the underside. Weeping hemlock (Tsuga canadensis 'Pendula') will grow 10-15 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide with arching, weeping branches. 'Cole's Prostrate' is another variety of T. canadensis. It grows just 24 inches tall and 4-5 feet wide. Its form is slightly weeping too. Both of these hemlock varieties are hardy to Zone 4. Another interesting hemlock is called Emerald Fountain. It has a dense, formal appearance and is very slow growing. Watch for other new varieties under development. Hemlocks prefer light shade and slightly acid, moist, well-drained soil.
Microbiota Microbiota Sometimes known as Russian arborvitae, there are only a few suitable microbiota for our area. The foliage is a finer textured version of arborvitae. Bachman's grows 'Northern Pride' (Microbiota decussata 'Northern Pride'). This plant grows about 12 inches high and up to 6 feet wide. Its foliage turns bronze in the winter and is a medium green during the summer. It prefers light shade and well-drained, moist soil. Microbiota prefers neutral to slightly acid soil. This variety is hardy to Zone 2.