Selecting an evergreen to fill an area of your yard that is in need of year-round color is not a simple decision. There are important characteristics to consider. Top on the list is the growth rate of the tree or shrub. How fast will it grow? What will be its mature height and width?
If you are looking for a privacy screen, some types of conifers grow much faster than others, provided that the climate and soil conditions are appropriate. Others grow at a very slow rate. These make great potted specimens on your patio. Be sure to check with the experts at your local nursery or your county extension office if you're unsure about the growth rate of the evergreen you are considering.
Having the deepest green color of the evergreen shrubs, yew varieties are all slow-growing. The types are classified as upright, globe-shaped and spreading. They are often used in foundation plantings.
Both the dwarf Alberta spruce and the popular Colorado blue spruce are slow-growing. The conical dwarf Alberta spruce, with a maximum height of 10 feet, is effective in alpine plantings or as a patio plant. Since the Colorado blue spruce is a slow grower, it is the most expensive of the spruce trees.
Mugo is the only slow grower in the pine family. This shrub, also called Swiss mountain pine, has a dense, mounded habit with a maximum height of 6 feet.
Arborvitaes or cedar are often classified as shrubs, but some species grow as tall as trees. They grow at a medium rate in swamps or uplands and are often used as privacy screens in the landscape.
Canadian hemlocks are known for their graceful pyramidal appearance, which remains a beloved characteristic to maturity. Growing at a medium rate to 50 feet in 30 years, this is the best evergreen tree for shady locations. Partial or light shade is preferred, but hemlocks will survive even in full shade.
White spruce is another good selection for a mid-range grower. It endures extreme heat, cold, drought and dry winds better than other spruce, growing to a height of 60 feet.
Some pine tree species, such as eastern white pine, are commonly grown as Christmas trees because of their fast rate of growth. Eastern white pine grows to 50 feet in 25 years. According to specialists at the Virginia Cooperative Extension, one can easily recognize eastern white pine because it is the only commercially grown pine with five needles extending together in a bunch off the branch.
Dawn Redwood grows quickly to become a large shade tree -- 50 feet in 20 years. It is an excellent selection for wherever you need a large pyramidal specimen tree in an open area with well-drained soil.