Tsuga canadensis

Canadian Hemlock, Eastern Hemlock




  • native to eastern North America
  • typically found on northern and eastern slopes with cooler, moister environmental conditions
  • zone 3

Habit and Form

  • a needle evergreen
  • medium to large tree
  • 40' to 70' tall, but can grow larger
  • conical or pyramidal shape with a 25' to 30' spread
  • soft, graceful, horizontal to pendulous branches
  • fine texture

Summer Foliage

  • leaves are spirally arranged, but are held in a 2-ranked fashion
  • needles are flattened
  • needles are 0.25" to 0.75" long and about 0.10" wide
  • new foliage is dark green above with 2 whitish bands on the underside
  • leaf margins minutely serrulate
  • shoots pubescent

Autumn Foliage

  • evergreen, no fall color


  • monoecious, with male and female flowers
  • small and not ornamentally important


  • small cones, about 0.5" to 1.0" long
  • turning light brown in the fall
  • can be borne in large numbers


  • overall brown color
  • bark changes from smooth, to flaky and scaly, and finally to wide flat ridges with age


  • best growth on cool, moist, well-drained soils
  • transplant from containers or B&B
  • avoid dry soils and hot locations
  • dislikes very windy sites
  • full sun or partial shade is best
  • tolerant of relatively heavy shade
  • can be pruned heavily in the spring for hedging

Landscape Use

  • lawn tree
  • specimen
  • can be sheared to form an effective screen or hedge
  • excellent evergreen for screening use in shaded locations where most needle evergreens fail
  • in groves or small groupings
  • dwarf forms as rock garden plants, accent plants or foundation plants


  • not tolerant of pollution
  • not tolerant of salt spray
  • spider mites
  • deer like to browse the foliage or rub off the bark with their antlers
  • not tolerant of heat or drought
  • hemlock wooly adelgid is a new and devastating insect pest that can be easily controlled, but left unchecked can kill large plants in 3 years

ID Features

  • pyramidal, medium-sized, needle evergreen tree with horizontal to pendulous, graceful branches
  • short flattened needles
  • needles held in 2-ranked fashion
  • T. caroliniana, with which T. canadensis is often confused, has more of its needles spirally distributed around its shoots
  • shoots pubescent
  • has minutely serrulate leaf margins, while T. caroliniana has smooth margins
  • twigs roughened by persistent leaf bases remaining after needles fall
  • numerous, small cones


  • by seed
  • cultivars are grafted


Dozens of hemlock cultivars are known in collection, but those presented below are commonly offered and offer a glimpse at the diversity available.

'Albospica' - This compact plant has bright white new growth and benefits from light shade. 'Gentsch White' is similar, forming a rounded compact plant to 4' tall and wide. The tips of the branches are silvery on this plant.

'Aurea Compacta' (also known as 'Everitt's Golden') - This smaller form grows stiffly upright, but it is chiefly notable for its bright gold foliage. 'Golden Splendor' is an upright-growing form with golden foliage that grows quickly in the landscape.

'Cole's Prostrate' - Originally found in New Hampshire, this is a true prostrate form that creeps along the ground and spreads widely. It appreciates light shade.

'Curly' - A very unusual form, this plant features congested branches bearing needles which curl around the stems.

'Horsford Contorted' (also known as 'Pig Tails') - Another addition to the limited list of small trees with contorted growth, this selection offers branches that are coiled and twisted. It forms a small tree at maturity and is a good conversation piece when well placed in the garden.

'Jeddeloh' - One of the more popular cultivars, this plant forms a small mound of layered branches. The plant tends to have a depression in its center, thus many observers refer to this selection as the "Bird's Nest Hemlock".

'Minuta' and 'Pygmaea' - These are micro-miniature rock garden curiosities discovered in Vermont. They form dwarf buns of dark green needles that only increase at the rate of .25"-.5" per year.

'Sargentii' (also known as f. pendula and 'Pendula') - The most common cultivar available and one of the most handsome, this selection is a large weeping tree that may reach 15' tall and twice as wide. The weeping branchlets are held aloft by thick stems, giving this sturdy weeper a graceful appearance. The needles are dark green and the plant usually forms cones.

'Watnong Star' - Discovered in New Hampshire, this rounded compact plant features foliage that is frosted with white, especially on new growth.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database, http://hort.uconn.edu/plants, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.