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Canadian Hemlocks

hemlockI couldn’t resist this stately conifer of the East, and have five in my garden. One of a very small group of conifers that tolerate shade, it’s also threatened by a virulent Asian insect that I’m happy to report can be dealt with successfully by the watchful gardener.

Here’s an article I wrote about the destruction of hemlocks in the wild caused by the woolly adelgid insect (lower photo). It includes two remedies for protecting hemlocks, both do-able by the home gardener.

The Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is native from Georgia to New Brunswick and west to Wisconsin.


  • In the wild they grow to 40-70 feet tall. In urban situations they often stop growing at 25 feet tall by 10 feet wide.
  • Abundant dwarf forms are available, the most popular of which is the weeping variety ‘Pendula’ (bottom photo).
  • Tolerates full sun to full shade, though it does best in partial sun/shade.
  • Hardy to Zone 3.
  • Sources say that deer eat hemlocks, but mine haven’t suffered even a nibble in my deer-infested backyard.

hemlock woolly adelgidCare

  • Average drought tolerance after first year or so on site.
  • Avoid roadsides (salt spray) and exposed sites (unbroken wind).
  • Stake new hemlocks for 2-3 years.
  • Can be sheared to form a hedge, according to all the sources, but that would sure spoil its gorgeous shape and form.
  • Sources warn to be careful if transplanting in the fall and recommend watering well and mulching, but you’d do that anyway, right?

by Susan Harris

Photo credits: Top, University of Vermont. Bottom, by Brooklyn Botanic Garden.


Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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