How to Plant Canadian Hemlock


Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is a very hardy evergreen that prefers cooler climates and will thrive in harsh winter areas where the temperature averages -30 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. It is an evergreen that may be sheared to any height or shape. Compact varieties can be planted two feet apart to form privacy hedges.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Organic matter
  • Sand
  • Pruning saw
  • Pruning shears
  • Garden hose
  • Mulch
  • Planting stakes
  • Choose a location with moist, rich, slightly acidic soils. Canadian hemlocks do not like heavy soils and are intolerant of drought and prolonged periods of high temperatures. They need to be situated away from roadways since they are sensitive to winter salt sprays and also require protection from high winds because they are shallow-rooted. They will tolerate some shade. Without pruning, these trees will reach a height of 40 to 70 feet and will have a canopy spread of 25 to 35 feet.

  • Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and as deep as the container or B&B (balled and burlaped) tree. Mix some sand and organic material (peat moss, leaf mold, manure, or compost) into the soil that has been removed. The ratio should be 1/3 organic matter to 2/3 soil.

  • Remove the plant from its container. If the roots are a dense mass, score the root ball deeply in several places with a pruning saw. This will help prevent girdling. Prune any visibly damaged roots. If the plant is balled and burlaped, place the tree in the hole before removing the wrapping. Remove as much of the wrapping as you can and remove all the strings. What is left of the burlap will disintegrate over time. Canadian hemlocks should be planted slightly higher than the surrounding area to help maintain proper drainage.

  • Fill in around roots with the enriched soil mix. When you have filled the hole half way, water the tree to help settle the soil around the roots. Once it drains, continue filling in the hole and water again. Cover the soil with a light mulch to help maintain moisture and cool temperatures around the roots. Stake the tree for the first two to three years until it is firmly established.

  • Water every day for the first two weeks, then weekly if needed for the first year while the tree is actively growing. Hemlocks need moisture but should not be over-watered since that will lead to root rot. About one inch of water per week is adequate.

Tips & Warnings

  • Canadian hemlock is nonpoisonous.
  • Canadian hemlock is somewhat sensitive to transplanting in autumn. It is best to plant them in the spring after all danger of frost is past.

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