By: Liz Baessler
Evergreen trees are a staple of cold climates. Not only are they often very cold hardy, they stay green through even the deepest winters, bringing color and light to the darkest months. Zone 5 may not be the coldest region, but it’s cold enough to deserve some good evergreens. Keep reading to learn more about growing evergreens in zone 5, including some of the best zone 5 evergreen trees to choose.
While there are many evergreens that grow in zone 5, here are some of the most favored choices for growing evergreens in zone 5 gardens:
Arborvitae – Hardy down to zone 3, this is one of the more commonly planted evergreens in the landscape. Many sizes and varieties are available to suit any area or purpose. They are especially lovely as standalone specimens, but make great hedges too.
Silver Korean Fir – Hardy in zones 5 through 8, this tree grows to 30 feet (9 m.) in height and has striking, white bottomed needles that grow in an upward pattern and give the whole tree a beautiful silvery cast.
Colorado Blue Spruce – Hardy in zones 2 through 7, this tree reaches heights of 50 to 75 feet (15 to 23 m.). It has striking silver to blue needles and is adaptable to most soil types.
Douglas Fir – Hardy in zones 4 through 6, this tree grows to heights of 40 to 70 feet (12 to 21 m.). It has blue-green needles and a very orderly pyramidal shape around a straight trunk.
White Spruce – Hardy in zones 2 through 6, this tree tops out at 40 to 60 feet (12 to 18 m.) tall. Narrow for its height, it has a straight, regular shape and large cones than hang down in a distinctive pattern.
White Fir – Hardy in zones 4 through 7, this tree reaches 30 to 50 feet (9 to 15 m.) in height. It has silver blue needles and light bark.
Austrian Pine – Hardy in zones 4 through 7, this tree grows to 50 to 60 feet (15 to 18 m.) tall. It has a wide, branching shape and is very tolerant of alkaline and salty soils.
Canadian Hemlock – Hardy in zones 3 through 8, this tree reaches heights of 40 to 70 feet (12 to 21 m.) tall. Trees can be planted very close together and pruned to make an excellent hedge or natural border.
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By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Of late there have been some rumors, misconceptions, and downright lies presented to mountain gardeners, and you should be aware of them. The lowland deserts have a significant influence on mountain landscapes, and some of their desert evergreens will grow up here, but not many. Those that do often have glorious but very short lives because they can’t resist the rusts, scale, bark beetles, and other notorious mountain diseases.
Evergreens need to be very hardy to thrive in the mountains of Arizona. This list of hardy trees will survive with just one caveat: Each is prone to a slow death if overwatered. Drainage around the roots is vital and proper irrigation techniques are critical. There are links at the end of this article for mountain planting and for safe watering. This column is about the right plants in the right places.
Here is a list of the top 10 evergreen trees that stand up to mountain winds, winter cold, and resist the naturally occurring insects and diseases found at higher elevations.
Colorado Spruce – When customers don’t know the name of this tree they just refer to it as “The one that looks like a Christmas tree.” The very thick branches swoop horizontally forming a perfect broad pyramid. Considered drought hardy, this tree prefers dry, windy conditions.
Austrian Pine – This long-needled evergreen often is mistaken for a young ponderosa pine although it is far more graceful. Whereas the ponderosa loses all its lower branches as it matures, the Austrian’s rich green needles seem to flow right to the ground for a balanced appearance. The dense, stout, pyramidal growth is uniform right to the crown. It is the hardiest of the ornamental pines without the bug issues that plague many native pines. It makes a most effective windbreak or privacy screen.
Juniper – The mountains of Arizona are famous for their juniper forests. A large assortment of junipers here at Watters in colors ranging from bright greens, blues, and silver. Excellent when planted as windbreaks or to provide thick privacy, and hardy enough for harsh commercial settings and investment properties.
Piñon Pine – A local native that is exceptionally hardy and drought tolerant, it is slow growing with a broad, rounded crown. Perfect for all natural landscapes it makes an attractive grouping on hillsides or berms with low-growing perennials. It can take a starring role as a striking specimen in a rock garden. New growth is blue to green with clusters of pinecones as the tree matures. Edible seeds from the cones are considered a delicacy, commonly known as pine nuts.
Vanderwolf Pine – Take a close look and you will see that the top of each needle is blue with a green underside. This very stately pine is so soft that most homeowners literally hug these trees! It’s very unusual and distinctive shape is unique to mountain landscapes.
Fat Albert Blue Spruce – Sporting a shape similar to that of the Colorado Spruce, Fat Albert doesn’t grow as tall, so it won’t “take over” more than its allotted space. A broad pyramidal shape with exceptional blue needles that present a consistent blue color.
Dwarf Alberta Spruce – This slowest growing of the evergreens is the easiest to maintain. Its perfect cone shape displays dense green soft-to-the-touch needles. Although it often is used to make a formal statement in a garden, it
is excellent as a container plant or miniature Christmas tree.
Arizona Cypress – This tree is a real celebrity in the local garden world. Many mistake it for a juniper in appearance, but this blue evergreen forms a golfball sized cone instead of juniper berries, making it less allergy inducing than a native juniper. Very fast growing and readily tolerates mountain soil, valley winds, and bitter winter cold.
Deodar Cedar – This fast grower has a central leader with soft branches that sway gracefully in the wind. So large a tree that it fits only in the largest properties.
Black Hills Spruce – With the deepest green of any evergreen and a density that light dares not shine through, this spruce’s perfect cone-shaped symmetry stands out in any landscape. It’s so cold-hardy that it actually prefers being planting in mid-winter! Although the tree looks delicious, neither javelina nor deer like to nibble on this evergreen.
Norway Spruce – Spruces grow so well at local elevations that most will thrive in local landscapes. A dense tree that easily blocks out wind and neighbors, the Norway is ideal for use as a privacy barrier, windscreen, or even a traditional showpiece. Grows faster than other spruces, but with a bright Irish green needle.
BIG CAUTION – Evergreens are field grown until reaching mature size. This is why its good to know the origin of the trees you plan to buy. A field-grown evergreen must be root pruned as it grows or it will not transplant successfully in our dry mountain air. Not only do we here at Watters hand pick our trees from trusted sources, but we also walk the field looking for signs of a tree that had been root pruned through its maturity. We then field dig, wrap the roots in burlap, transplant it into a grower’s container, and continue to root it for another season.
It’s difficult to explain but this process makes a big difference. Do the hard work of shopping to learn what others are saying about evergreen trees bought from the company you are considering to supply your tree. When acquiring evergreen trees you should make the time to hand pick the specimens going into your yard. Once an evergreen tree stresses and becomes ugly, it rarely grows its way to beauty.
Here are the links on how to plant and appropriately irrigate evergreen trees.
Planting & Delivery Service – Evergreens are unusually heavy, bulky, and can inflict bodily damage while being installed in a landscape. After planting a mature evergreen tree it’s possible to look like you’ve been in a cat fight, and the cat won! So consider the cost of having your nursery plant it for you as money well spent.
Of course, the larger the tree, the more work it is to install so the more it costs to plant. The average size tree that stands head high costs about $100, and includes the warranty, labor, and all the material to plant it right.
Until next week, I’ll be helping local gardeners looking for evergreen trees here at Watters.
Good plantings to hide a chainlink fence in zone 5?
Tree question zone 8-9 plz help!?
Anytime, John. Personal experience is worth its weight in gold. You could always add these too that are for our climate:
Pinus resinosa (moderately fast)
Pinus banksiana (very slow)
Pinus koraiensis (9" per year - quite slow)
Pinus parviflora (slow to moderately slow)
Abies concolor (slow-moderate)
Abies balsamea (moderate growth rate)
Abies alba (doesn't do well in my zone 5b - in 5a and cooler summers should do fine)
Abies nordmanniana (slow and should be in 5b not 5a)
Abies borisii-regis (difficult to find - moderate growth rate)
Abies bornmuelleriana (same as nordmanniana *stats*)
Abies homolepis (moderate - great choice)
Abies recurvata (moderate - great choice)
Abies chensiensis (moderate - great choice)
Abies holophylla (moderate - great choice)
Abies veitchii (moderate - good choice - beautiful fir)
Abies fraseri (semi-quick but not fast)
Larix x marschlinsii (hybrid larch - fast)
All Larix are iffy to get established but once established will grow like wildfire and live a long time.
Taxodium distichum (very fast) deciduous conifer
Metasequoia glyptostroboides (extremely fast) deciduous conifer
Picea obovata (fast - very difficult to find)
Picea wilsonii (slow-moderate & very difficult to find)
Picea asperata (moderately quick - not much different from Picea abies/Norway sp.)
Picea glauca (moderately fast)
Picea jezoensis (moderate - difficult to acquire)
Pinus cembra (slow to moderate but is susceptible to wilt) worth trying
Pinus peuce (slow to moderate) beautiful pine
Pinus ayacahuite (fast) good pine with long needles
Pinus rigida (moderate but also is not a full-looking pine with age like P.resinosa)
Pinus contorta var. latifolia (same as rigida/resinosa)
Pinus virginiana (a scrubby pine like contorta var. lat./rigida/resinosa)
Pinus densiflora (moderate) does burn some winters
Not to add list because of disease propensity:
These are some of the common plants you'd stumble across/find.
along w/ others not listed as good choices.
Green giant arborvitae is tall and very fast. dawn redwood is tall and very fast but is also deciduous
It all depends on ultimate shape and size you want for your trees. Here in Eastern Iowa my recommendations would be:
Norway Spruce (fastest growing spruce)
Brabant Arborvitae or Hetz Wintergreen Arborvitae (Brabant is a large, fast growing form of native Thuja occidentalis- if there are a ton of deer in your area do not plant arborvitae) Green Giant Arborvitae should only be planted in the bottom half of the state.
Serbian Spruce, White Spruce, Blue Spruce (All intermediate growers- even though Blue Spruce has some downsides we still plant quite a bit of them and if you look around they remain one of the longest lived spruces in the state). The blue color is always nice for breaking things up. 'Bonnie Blue' is particularly attractive here in Iowa as it has very bright foliage and smaller needles.
White Pine or Korean Pine- Both grow fairly quickly but if you are in a wide open area with harsh winter wind or sun the white pine may have a difficult time with winter burn. In a more protected location both would do fine.
Would not recommend tulip poplar as it is more weak-wooded compared to other native oaks, maples, etc. If that is of no concern go ahead and you will have fast growth.
American sycamore is a good choice but will get anthracnose early in the season so if you are going for a great look all year this will not be the best option. On an open acreage that you aren't going to be looking at all of the time it won't matter and I would go ahead and plant it. Does best in areas with consistent moisture.
How fast any of the plants will grow depends a lot on aftercare. If you are willing to invest in good starter plants, mulch, and a decent watering regime the first couple of years you will have much faster growth than if these are neglected. Also will depend on your soil type- good black loam will be much better than sandy or extremely heavy clay.