Conifers are a mainstay of northeastern landscapes and gardens, where the winters can be long and hard. There’s just something cheerful about seeing those forever green needles, no matter how much snow gets dumped on them. But which northeast conifers are right for you? Let’s cover some of the most common, as well as a few surprises.
Pine Trees in the Northeast
First, let’s clear something up. What’s the difference between a pine tree and a conifer? When we use the term “pine tree” or “evergreen,” we’re usually loosely talking about trees with needles that stay green all year -- the traditional Christmas tree-style tree. These species also tend to produce pine cones, hence the name: coniferous.
That being said, some of these trees actually are pine trees -- those belong to the genus Pinus. Many are native to the northeastern US, and are perfect for landscape design. Some popular choices include:
- Eastern White Pine - Can reach 80 feet (24 m.) tall with a 40 foot (12 m.) spread. It has long, blue-green needles and thrives in cold weather. Hardy in zones 3-7.
- Mugo Pine - Native to Europe, this pine is very fragrant. It is smaller in stature than its cousins -- topping out at 20 feet tall (6 m.), it is available in compact cultivars as small as 1.5 feet (46 cm.). Hardy in zones 2-7.
- Red Pine - Also called Japanese Red Pine, this native of Asia has long, dark green needles and bark that naturally peels to reveal a distinctive, stunning shade of red. Hardy in zones 3b-7a.
Other Northeast Evergreen Trees
Conifers in northeast landscapes don’t have to be restricted to pine trees. Here are some other great northeast conifers:
- Canadian Hemlock - A distant cousin of the pine, this tree is native to Eastern North America. It is capable of reaching a height of 70 feet (21 m.) with a spread of 25 feet (7.6 m.). Hardy in zones 3-8, though it may need some winter protection in very cold climates.
- Eastern Red Cedar - Native to eastern Canada and the US, this tree is also frequently called Eastern Juniper. It grows in a conical or even columnar habit. Hardy in zones 2-9.
- Larch - This is a strange one: a coniferous tree that loses its needles every fall. They always come back in the spring, however, along with tiny pink cones. Hardy in zones 2-6.
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The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.