University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

All Evergreens Not the Same

December 20, 2001

Evergreens seem to get more attention this time of year, with landscapes looking barren and decorating for the holidays. When considering an evergreen for future landscape use, it's important to know the differences between pines, spruces, firs, yews, and other species. Today I'll review popular evergreen trees, and next week I'll discuss some popular evergreen shrubs.

Pines, which have long needles, are popular evergreen trees. Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) is a graceful, natural-looking pine. In the landscape, avoid placing in sites prone to salt or air pollution, such as along a high-speed roadway. Austrian pine (Pinus nigra) features long stiff needles and is adaptable to a variety of growing conditions. Red pine (Pinus resinosa) is another long-needled pine with reddish bark and a yellow-green winter color. Scots or Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris), a popular Christmas tree, tends to be short-lived in the landscape.

Spruces are another popular group of evergreen trees. Probably the most widely used is Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens glauca), a large formal tree popular for the blue color. When planting, avoid areas subject to stress, such as near pavement or poorly drained soils. Also, as with most trees, give it plenty of room to grow.

Norway spruce (Picea abies) is another large spruce, noted for dark green foliage, large cones, and drooping branches. White spruce (Picea glauca) has a light green color and prefers moist soil. Picea glauca var. densata, known as the Black Hills spruce, will tolerate dry soils and features a narrow, dense growth habit.

Similar to spruces in the fact they have short needles, firs can also be useful in the landscape. Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) has flat, dark green needles and is an attractive evergreen for the landscape. Avoid poorly drained or compacted soils, as is suggested for the other evergreen trees. White fir (Abies concolor) has gray-green needles and tolerates dry sites.

Winter is a good time to make observations and do some research to determine which evergreen species would fit best in your landscape.


Click here for the full article index