Evergreens and Conifers for Shade
Make the best of sheltered spots in your garden with our list of shade-loving conifers.
Conifers made for full, deep, dark shade: 3 hours or less of sun
• Taxus baccata
- ‘Dwarf Bright Gold’: irregular upright yew with golden color
• Taxus cuspidata
- ‘Nana Aurescens’: low flat yew with golden edges
- ‘Amersfoort’: vase-shaped habit with rounded leaves
• Taxus x media
- ‘Viridis’: narrow dwarf form
- ‘Stovepipe’: seedling of Hick’s yew
• Tsuga canadensis
- ‘Albo-spica’: intermediate spreader with pure white tips
- ‘Bennett’: low spreading, graceful dwarf hemlock
- ‘Cole’s Prostrate': prostrate, dark green needles, exposed branches
- ‘Everitt Golden’: dwarf upright with bright golden foliage
- ‘Gentsch White’: slow-growing, globose with white tips
- ‘Horsford Contorted’: dwarf hemlock with twisted branches
- ‘Jeddeloh’: bright green spreading mound
- ‘Jervis’: extremely slow-growing upright, congested growth
- ‘Kelsey Weeping’: strongly asymmetrical form
- ‘Pendula’: graceful dark green cascade; stake to desired height
- ‘Stewart’s Gem’: bun-shaped dwarf with cinnamon tips
- ‘Stockman’s Dwarf’: dwarf horizontal grower
- ‘Mountain Mist Sister’: superb weeping hemlock, longer needles
- Dark green foliage, known as the rice hemlock from Northern Japan. Grows wide as tall and does not burn in sun
• Evergreen broadleafs
- Buxus ‘Green Mound’
- Rhododendrons and Azaleas
Conifers made for partial shade: 4–6 hours of sun
• Picea abies
- ‘Acrocona’: irregular weeping form with purple pink cones on branch tips in spring
- ‘Pusch’: witch’s broom of Acrocona, tiny pink cones in spring
- ‘Clanbrassiliana Stricta’: superior pyramid for the landscape
- ‘Cobra’: bizarre tree with rat-tail branches; forms a skirt
- ‘Elegans’: low flat, nesting spruce with early bud break
- ‘Hillside Upright’: irregular form, dark green congested needles
- ‘Weeping Blue’: upright grower with pendulous branches
• Pinus strobus
- ‘Blue Shag’: soft, blue-green needles, with slow mounding habit
- ‘Fastigiata’: narrow upright form that becomes large
- ‘Hershey’: dwarf form from witch’s broom at the Hershey Estate, PA
- ‘Horsford’: slow-growing globe, mounding habit on standard
- ‘Niagara Falls’: dense habit with pendulous cascading branches
• Pseudotsuga menziesii
- ‘Emerald Twister’: upright form with twisted branches
- ‘Fletcheri’: blue-green, irregular upright dwarf
- ‘Fastigiata’: narrow upright form
- ‘Graceful Grace’: blue-green, upright dramatic weeping form
• Thuja occidentalis
- ‘Degroot’s Spire’: tight, dark green upright, narrow dwarf
- ‘Yellow Ribbon’: narrow upright, tight with bright yellow color
- ‘Hetz Midget’: dwarf dense green globe
- ‘Linesville’: aka ‘Mr. Bowling Ball’: globe with juvenile
Conifers made for morning sun (area that gets cool morning sun and is shaded in afternoon from hottest sun)
• Abies koreana
- ‘Aurea’: spectacular golden pyramid
- ‘Green Carpet’: prostrate form with purple cones in spring
• Picea glauca
- ‘Conica’: dense conical, dwarf Alberta spruce
- ‘Jeans Dilly’: superior dwarf form of Alberta spruce
• Picea orientalis
- ‘Connecticut Turnpike’: irregular windswept habit
- ‘Fat Boy’: dwarf pyramidal form, dark green foliage
• Pinus cembra
- ‘Glauca Nana’: great blue-green with a slower growth rate
- ‘Pygmaea’: dwarf compact form with great blue color
- ‘Stricta’: columnar form with fastigiated branches
• Pinus parviflora
- ‘Bergman’: unique Japanese white pine with twisted needles
- ‘Fukuzumi’: compact, wide spreader
Japanese Maples & deciduous trees and shrubs
• Acer griseum
- Paperbark maple, cinnamon exfoliating bark, red fall color
• Acer palmatum
- ‘Red Emperor’: dark red foliage all summer
- ‘Twombley’s Red Sentinel’: narrow form, great color, bright
red in fall
• Acer palmatum var. dissectum
- ‘Seiryu’: green leaves, reddish tips in spring, crimson in fall
• Acer japonicum
- ‘Aconitifolium’: green in summer, yellow-orange-red in fall
• Acer shirsawanum
- ‘Aureum’: full moon maple, yellow palm-shaped leaves, orange-red in fall
• Aesculus parviflora
- Bottlebrush buckeye with white flowers in mid-summer
• Cercidiphylum japonicum
- ‘Pendula’: Graceful pendulous branches, dramatic
• Fagus sylvatica
- ‘Purpurea Tricolor’: fabulous European beech, a must-have in your garden
• Ginkgo biloba
- ‘Mariken’: slow-growing compact round form of Ginkgo
• Hamamelis x intermedia
- ‘Firecracker’: a witchhazel which blooms reddish-orange in early spring
Perennials for shade
Hosta, Astilbe, bleeding heart, perennial geranium, fern, Pulmonaria, Hakonechloa grass, Heuchera.
Planting in the understory of existing trees: Roots of existing trees will compete for water, so you must remember to water frequently for more than the first year. Trying to get established in existing root masses can take longer.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of Conifer Quarterly. Join the American Conifer Society to access our extensive library of conifer-related articles and connect to a nationwide group of plant lovers! Become a member for only $40 a year and get discounts with our growing list of participating nurseries in our Nursery Discount Program.
I'm looking for a pine, fir or yew to add to my hedgerow for birds and pollinators. I need something 6 to 12' tall that can handle part sun. Will be planted with Eastern Wahoo, Viburnum Trilobum, and a row of dogwoods. Can you help me? Nothing too large!
all of the plants in the list above will work for you. You should try going to a good garden center and see what's available locally.
Hi there. Loving this page with great information! Can you help clarify some things that I'm looking for. I live in MD, zone 6 or 7 I believe. Do any of these at 3ft or higher do well in a container? I just don't have much yard. It's a small space with almost all patio. Looking for a cool conifer to offer a little privacy. Thank you!
yes ... any conifer will work in a container for a few years and indefinitely if you apply Bonsai techniques such as root pruning and judiciously shifting pot size as they grow.
Need conifer or some type that can do shade and a black walnut tree
Conifers with Juglens tolerance is hemlock, arborvitae, yew
Hello I have a Pinus parviflora 'Bergman' that I bought it is 6 feet tall, and 4 feet wide from Iseli.
On their website it says full sun. Here it says morning sun (area that gets cool morning sun and is shaded in afternoon from hottest sun).
I am a bit confused. I thought that full sun is sun from morning sun to sunset?
I would like it to keep a good balance of deep green and blue needles.
Thank You for the help!
Morning light is the quintessential site for most gardeners. Full sun is a plants ability to withstand full sun. Superior color is soil nutrient driven.
Hello! Hope you can advise me please. We have a small garden with a large building on the east which causes partial shade for several hours a day. Can you please recommend a single evergreen conifer with dense green foliage. Ideally we would like a "Christmas tree" shape of about 3 feet to plant now but one which would grow reasonably slowly, thus providing a feature among other shrubs. I would be grateful for your help. Many thanks.
you should try one of the dwarf Sciadopitys ... they're naturally an understory plant.
Thank you for your advice David - much appreciated
I am looking for one or two varieties of evergreen trees to plant on the edge of a narrow wood that borders our yard. I am hoping for specimens that would be beautiful/interesting among tall deciduous trees (30+ feet). They would get very limited afternoon sun (less than 3 hours). I live in zone 7, in Bethesda Maryland. I am happy talk more about the sites, if you like.
Thanks so much for your help!
Do any of the above get cones or berries? Do any of them require both male and female tree for cones or berries?
yes; most of them will develop seed cones at some point. Cross pollination is only really necessary if your goal is fertile seed in the cones.