With its relatively cold winters, Kentucky’s temperate climate is the perfect place to grow evergreen trees that will thrive with little to no maintenance after establishment.
There are many pines, cedars, hemlocks, and other evergreens already native to KY that will thrive without any maintenance. Many others will thrive in the temperate climate, including small trees for smaller yards or for filling in those spots between larger specimens.
No matter which Kentucky hardiness zone you live in, the options are nearly limitless!
Let’s look at some exceptional evergreen trees for Kentucky that you can grow today!
14 Evergreen Trees You Can Grow in Kentucky
Cedar and Cypress Trees to Grow in Kentucky
1. Eastern Red Cedar – Juniperus virginiana
Eastern Red Cedar is native to Kentucky and widespread throughout much of the state.
Despite its common name, it’s actually a juniper tree, but it often grows with a single trunk into a small or medium-sized tree that looks more like a false cedar than a juniper.
Eastern Red Cedar is often grown ornamentally for its extreme cold hardiness and tolerance of various soil types, including poor, acidic, wet, alkaline, and dry. It has low to moderate water usage and would be highly suitable as a xeriscape tree anywhere in KY. If you cease irrigation young, it will remain a small tree, or you can irrigate it longer, and it will get a little larger.
These trees can be used as hedges or borders, specimen trees, or to fill in gaps between larger trees in large yards.
For more information, check out how to identify Eastern Red Cedar.
Other Common Names: Aromatic Cedar, Red Cedar, Virginian Juniper, Eastern Juniper, Red Juniper, Pencil Cedar, Carolina Cedar, Red Savin, Baton Rouge
USDA Growing Zones: 2 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 40 ft (to 65 ft) tall, 10 – 20 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Pollen cones on male trees mature in spring; female trees produce berry-like seed cones in late summer of the same year.
2. Northern White Cedar – Thuja occidentalis
Northern White Cedar is an uncommon native tree in Kentucky, found in parts of the state’s southeastern corner, where they like to grow naturally in wet soils in swamps, wet forests, and riparian areas.
This is another cedar tree that is not actually a cedar but one of several false cedars that are native to North America.
Northern White Cedars are small to medium-sized trees with widespread branches. When growing in harsh environments, they are often stunted, prostrate, or divided into multiple tops.
These slow-growing conifers prefer moist, rich soil in full sun. They will tolerate both acidic and alkaline soil and will grow in wet or well-drained soils.
Northern White Cedar makes a lovely ornamental and is often used as a windbreak because of its ability to tolerate harsh conditions.
You can also learn how to identify Northern White Cedar in its native environment.
Other Common Names: Eastern White Cedar, Arborvitae, Swamp Cedar, American Arbor Vitae, Arbor Vitae, Eastern Arbor Vitae
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 25 – 40 ft (to 125 ft) tall, 10 – 15 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: pollen is released from male cones from December to March; seed cones mature in August and disperse seeds in September
3. Leyland Cypress – Cupressus x leylandii or Cuprocyparis leylandii
The Leyland Cypress is a popular ornamental cypress tree propagated by cuttings since it is a sterile hybrid of the Monterey Cypress and Nootka Cypress. This is good news because it means we can plant this anywhere without worrying about it becoming invasive.
These relatively tall, fast-growing trees (2 – 4 ft per year) have a somewhat narrow habit and are dense with rich, vibrant green or yellowish-green scale-like leaves. They make a perfect privacy screen, hedge, or border and are often planted along driveways or property boundaries. They take very well to being pruned when grown as a hedge.
Alternatively, you can plant the Leyland Cypress as a single specimen tree and let it grow to its natural height and form.
For more information, check out how to identify the Leyland Cypress.
Other Common Names: Leyland Hedge
USDA Growing Zones: 6 (5 with protection) – 10
Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 70 ft tall, 10 – 15 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Being a sterile hybrid, it rarely produces pollen or seed cones
Evergreen Fir Trees to Grow in Kentucky
4. Balsam Fir – Abies balsamea
The Balsam Fir is an eastern North American tree found just north and east of Kentucky, and it would grow well anywhere in the state.
This gorgeous small or medium-sized fir tree has fragrant leaves and resin blisters on its young bark that smells amazing. Every time I walk by a Balsam Fir, I can’t help but stop and smell the resin.
Balsam Fir’s dark green evergreen needle-like leaves make for a lovely accent tree in any landscape.
These trees grow best in full sun to partial shade in moist, wet, cool forest environments. They would grow well in any moist to wet soils anywhere in Kentucky. However, those in the southwestern corner, since you are at the limit of its USDA Planting Zone tolerance, may want to plant it in partial shade to protect it from the summer sun.
For more information, check out how to identify Balsam Fir.
Other Common Names: Balm of Gilead Tree, Canadian Balsam, Eastern Fir, Bracted Balsam Fir
USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 65 ft (to 90 ft) tall; 15 – 25 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Pollen is released from April to July; seed cones mature later that fall
Available at: Nature Hills
5. Fraser Fir – Abies fraseri
Fraser Fir is a beautiful smaller fir tree that is a narrow endemic from the cool, foggy mountainsides in the Appalachians just south and east of Kentucky. Sadly, this beautiful tree is Imperiled due to extensive historical habitat alteration.
However, it has been widely propagated commercially for landscaping and in the Christmas tree industry for its beautifully pyramidal crown and its lustrous dark green leaves. Since it’s a smaller tree, you actually get to see the pretty dark purple seed cones, unlike most firs, whose cones are too high up to enjoy.
Fraser Fir grows best in full sun to partial shade in moist, well-drained, acidic soils but will not tolerate heat. Those in the southwestern or lower elevation areas of KY should plant it in a location with afternoon shade to protect it from the hot summer sun.
You can also learn how to identify Fraser Fir.
Other Common Names: Southern Balsam Fir, She-Balsam, Fraser’s Balsam Fir, Mountain Balsam
USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 50 (to 80) ft tall, 10 – 25 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Pollen is released from April to July; seed cones mature three years later
Available at: Nature Hills
Evergreen Pine Trees to Grow in Kentucky
6. Eastern White Pine – Pinus strobus
Eastern White Pine is a gorgeous pine tree that is native mostly to the eastern half of Kentucky.
These trees are also widely grown as ornamental trees and in the Christmas tree industry because they tolerate pruning well. They can even be trained to grow as a hedge.
Eastern White Pines have long, soft, and pliable, rich green leaves with a broad white stomatal band on their lower surface, giving them a two-tone look and their common name.
While these trees grow best in full sun to partial shade in moist, acidic soils, they will also grow in poor, dry, rocky soils. They would grow well anywhere in KY, mostly in full sun. However, if your summers are especially hot and dry, they would benefit from a little afternoon shade.
For more information, check out how to identify Eastern White Pine in its natural habitat.
Other Common Names: White Pine, Northern White Pine, Soft Pine, Weymouth Pine
USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 100 ft (to 230 ft) tall, 20 – 40 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Pollen is released in May and June; seed cones mature on the same trees the following summer (two-year cycle)
7. Loblolly Pine – Pinus taeda
The Loblolly Pine is a southern Kentucky native pine that grows fast and tall with a very straight trunk that self-prunes as it grows, losing its lower branches so that the crown is far above, showing off more of its gorgeous reddish-brown rectangular scaly-plated bark.
This tree naturally grows in wet, swampy areas in waterlogged soils. If you have a low wet spot in your yard that you want to fill with a large tree, this might be for you.
Loblolly Pines prefer full sun in moist, acidic soils that are well-drained or poorly drained and will tolerate alkaline soils.
These trees are perfectly suited to growing in Kentucky, growing best in areas with hot and humid summers and relatively mild winters. Unlike fir trees, Loblolly Pines tolerate heat and should only be planted in full sun in KY.
You can also learn how to identify Loblolly Pine.
Other Common Names: Oldfield Pine, Rosemary Pine, Bull Pine, North Carolina Pine
USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 ft (to 150 ft) tall, 30 – 35 ft spread (note that lateral root spread often exceeds crown spread)
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Male cones release pollen from April to May; seed cones mature in mid-October and usually persist on the tree for one year
Available at: Nature Hills
Evergreen Spruce and Hemlock Trees to Grow in Kentucky
Blue Spruce is a gorgeous western and northeastern North American native spruce tree that would grow very well anywhere in Kentucky in any soil or location.
This tree is probably the most popular spruce worldwide, often planted as a specimen tree in parks and gardens for its symmetrical form and its gorgeous, unique glaucous blue-green to blue-gray needle-like leaves.
The glaucous coating on the leaves is a layer of secreted wax that helps them tolerate moderate drought and heat a bit more than other spruces, though they are not considered heat tolerant.
Blue Spruce is best grown in full sun and will grow in almost any soil type, including alkaline, acidic, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, well-drained, salty, and clay soils.
There are countless unique cultivars of Blue Spruce available to choose from.
For more information, you can also learn how to identify Blue Spruce.
Other Common Names: Colorado Spruce, Colorado Blue Spruce, Green Spruce, and White Spruce.
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 60 ft (to 164 ft) tall, 10 – 20 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Pollen cones release pollen in the spring; seed cones mature in August of the same year.
9. Eastern Hemlock – Tsuga canadensis
Eastern Hemlock is another Kentucky native found in the eastern ¾ of Kentucky, excluding much of the Bluegrass region.
This elegant tree has a lovely pyramidal habit with delicate, feathery, needle-like leaves that droop slightly from the branches, giving it a soft, slightly weeping look.
These long-lived trees grow naturally in cool, moist coniferous or mixed forests, often on north-facing slopes.
Eastern Hemlocks perform best in moist, acidic, well-drained soils. In more northern areas, they will grow well in full sun, but those further south, like KY, should only plant them in partial shade. They are also one of few trees that will tolerate full shade.
While they will certainly grow anywhere in KY, they are best planted in cool depressions, ravines, or other areas with good shade to protect them from the hot afternoon sun.
Other Common Names: Canadian Hemlock, Eastern Hemlock-Spruce, pruche du Canada (French)
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 70 ft tall, 20 – 40 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Pollen is released from April to June; seed cones mature in September and release seeds in fall
Small and Dwarf Evergreen Trees to Grow in Kentucky (Spruce, Juniper, Pine, Yew)
10. Papoose Sitka Spruce – Picea sitchensis ‘Papoose’
The Papoose Sitka Spruce is a unique and gorgeous blue dwarf cultivar of the gorgeous but very massive Sitka Spruce native to coastal western North America.
This one has lovely blue-green leaves and grows in a symmetrical globe-like form to only 6 ft tall and wide, perfect for those with small gardens.
Their small size and slow growth mean you can plant them right next to your home or use them to fill in empty spaces between larger specimens.
Papoose Sitka Spruce will grow best in full sun or partial shade in most soil types as long as they are moist, although acidic is preferred. Irrigation may be necessary during hot summer droughts to keep your tree healthy. Mulching with acidic mulch will keep them healthy and happy by keeping the soil moist and cool while also helping you reduce watering frequency.
Other Common Names: Dwarf Sitka Spruce, Dwarf Papoose Sitka Spruce
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 4 – 6 ft tall, 4 – 6 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Pollen is released from pollen cones in spring; seed cones mature from late August to September
Available at: Nature Hills
11. Common Juniper – Juniperus communis
Ironically, Common Juniper is an uncommon native tree in parts of central Kentucky. Elsewhere, it is a widespread circumboreal species with numerous botanical variants. Many remain as shrubs, while others grow into small trees.
These mostly decumbent shrubs have gorgeous awl-shaped leaves arranged in whorls and have a thick white stomatal band on their upper surface for a nice two-tone color. They also produce attractive glaucous bluish or black berry-like seed cones that birds will eat.
Common Junipers are extremely cold-tolerant shrubs that tolerate a wide range of soil types as long as they are well-drained and also tolerate urban pollution very well.
These trees can be grown anywhere in KY, but it may be best to avoid south-facing slopes in full sun in the southwestern corner. Otherwise, full sun is preferred because they can become quite lanky in partial shade.
You can also learn how to identify Common Juniper.
Other Common Names: Dwarf Juniper, Prostrate Juniper, Mountain Common Juniper, Old Field Common Juniper, Ground Juniper, Carpet Juniper
USDA Growing Zones: 2 – 7 (8 with afternoon sun protection)
Average Size at Maturity: 5 – 25 ft tall, 3 – 12 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Pollen is released from male trees anywhere from December to April; berry-like seed cones mature on female trees 1 – 2 years later
Available at: Nature Hills
12. Dwarf Mugo Pine – Pinus mugo var pumilio
Dwarf Mugo Pine is a popular dwarf ornamental variety of the Mugo Pine, with little invasive potential compared to the parent strain.
This small shrub usually grows much wider than it does tall and has gorgeous deep green needle-like leaves that grow upright on their branches.
Dwarf Mugo Pines should be grown in full sun and will tolerate most soil types, pH, moisture levels, etc., as long as it is well-drained since they do not like wet roots.
These dwarf shrubs are very popular in garden beds for structure and texture, and their small sizes make them perfect for those with small gardens. They can be left to grow naturally or are sometimes pruned in Japanese-style gardens. They are even sometimes used as bonsai trees.
Dwarf Mugo Pines should grow well anywhere in the state of Kentucky, in any site and soil type.
Other Common Names: Dwarf Mountain Pine, Creeping Pine, Dwarf Pine
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 3 – 5 ft (rarely to 20 ft) tall, 6 – 10 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Male cones release pollen in spring; seed cones mature in the fall of the second year
13. Dense Spreading Yew – Taxus x media ‘Densiformis’
Yews are beautiful trees with lush and delicate needle-like green leaves, and the female trees (being dioecious) produce lovely scarlet red berry-like seed cones that contrast beautifully with the leaves.
Dense Spreading Yew is a low-spreading form with dark green leaves that make an excellent low hedge or border shrub that takes well to shearing in early spring. Shearing is a type of pruning that encourages the growth of dense outer foliage; however, shearing is not required but will make it more dense.
This highly adaptable shrub grows easily in any average well-drained soil with average moisture and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Since it is only tolerant to USDA Zone 7, those in southwestern KY may want to grow it in partial shade.
Dense Spreading Yews are propagated by cuttings, so they are all female shrubs that will develop attractive red ‘berries’ in fall.
Other Common Names: Spreading Yew
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 3 – 4 ft tall, 4 – 6 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Female trees only; no pollen is released; red berry-like seed cones mature in the fall
Broadleaf Evergreen Trees to Grow in Kentucky
14. American Holly – Ilex opaca
The American Holly is a broadleaf evergreen tree native to eastern North America, including most of Kentucky. It grows naturally as an understorey tree in moist woods, forest bottomlands, and along swamp edges in fertile, moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soils.
This gorgeous shrub has leathery evergreen leaves with long or short sharp points along their margins (spinose). They look very similar to and make a fantastic native alternative to the often extremely invasive English Holly grown ornamentally or for making Christmas wreaths.
Female trees produce lots of bright red berries that contrast nicely with the spinose leaves and feed the local birds well into winter.
In Kentucky, this widespread native tree will grow with minimal effort anywhere in the state. While they are typically a forest understorey species, you can also grow American Holly in full sun, where you will get the highest berry production on female trees.
Other Common Names: Holly, Inkberry, Oregon Holly, Winterberry, White Holly, Prickly Holly, Evergreen Holly, Christmas Holly, Yule Holly
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 35 – 60 ft tall, 10 – 25 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Greenish to creamy white flowers bloom in May or June; red or orange berry-like drupes ripen on female trees in fall and persist through winter
The Southern Magnolia and the more cold-hardy Texas Live Oak are two other broadleaf evergreen trees you could also grow in Kentucky.
Table Comparing Evergreen Trees in Kentucky
Here is a detailed table comparing the above evergreen trees to grow in Kentucky including details on cedar, cypress, fir, pine, spruce, hemlock, yew, and other evergreen trees.
|Tree Variety||Key Features||USDA Growing Zones||Average Size at Maturity||Flowering / Fruiting Season|
|Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)||Native to KY, extreme cold hardy, tolerates various soils||2 – 9||30 – 40 ft (up to 65 ft) tall, 10 – 20 ft spread||Pollen cones in spring; seed cones in late summer|
|Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)||Rare in KY, slow-growing, prefers moist soil||3 – 7||25 – 40 ft (up to 125 ft) tall, 10 – 15 ft spread||Pollen Dec-Mar; seed cones mature in August|
|Leyland Cypress (Cupressus x leylandii)||Sterile hybrid, fast-growing, dense foliage||6 (5 with protection) – 10||60 – 70 ft tall, 10 – 15 ft spread||Rarely produces pollen or seed cones|
|Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)||Fragrant leaves and resin, prefers moist, cool forest environments||4 – 7||40 – 65 ft (up to 90 ft) tall, 15 – 25 ft spread||Pollen Apr-Jul; seed cones mature in fall|
|Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri)||Narrow endemic, popular for Christmas trees, pyramidal crown||4 – 7||30 – 50 ft (up to 80 ft) tall, 10 – 25 ft spread||Pollen Apr-Jul; seed cones mature in 3 years|
|Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)||Native to eastern KY, long soft leaves, tolerates poor soils||4 – 9||60 – 100 ft (up to 230 ft) tall, 20 – 40 ft spread||Pollen in May-Jun; seed cones in the following summer|
|Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)||Native to southern KY, fast and tall growth, prefers wet soils||6 – 9||50 – 80 ft (up to 150 ft) tall, 30 – 35 ft spread||Pollen in Apr-May; seed cones in mid-October|
|Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)||Popular spruce, glaucous blue-green leaves, tolerates moderate drought||3 – 8||30 – 60 ft (up to 164 ft) tall, 10 – 20 ft spread||Pollen in spring; seed cones mature in August|
|Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)||Native to eastern KY, elegant pyramidal habit, delicate leaves||3 – 8||60 – 70 ft tall, 20 – 40 ft spread||Pollen Apr-Jun; seed cones in September|
|Papoose Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis ‘Papoose’)||Dwarf cultivar, blue-green leaves, globe-like form||5 – 7||4 – 6 ft tall, 4 – 6 ft spread||Pollen in spring; seed cones late Aug-Sep|
|Common Juniper (Juniperus communis)||Uncommon in central KY, awl-shaped leaves, berry-like cones||2 – 7 (8 with protection)||5 – 25 ft tall, 3 – 12 ft spread||Pollen Dec-Apr; seed cones 1 – 2 years later|
|Dwarf Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo var pumilio)||Dwarf ornamental, deep green leaves, tolerates various conditions||3 – 7||3 – 5 ft (rarely 20 ft) tall, 6 – 10 ft spread||Male cones in spring; seed cones in the second fall|
|Dense Spreading Yew (Taxus x media ‘Densiformis’)||Low-spreading form, dark green leaves, red berries||3 – 7||3 – 4 ft tall, 4 – 6 ft spread||Female trees only; berries in fall|
|American Holly (Ilex opaca)||Native to KY, leathery evergreen leaves, red berries||5 – 9||35 – 60 ft tall, 10 – 25 ft spread||Flowers May-Jun; berries in fall|
Gorgeous Evergreens That Thrive in Kentucky
I hope you enjoyed learning about just some of the gorgeous evergreen trees that you can grow anywhere in Kentucky.
Many evergreens thrive in cold climates, so Kentucky is at the southern limit for some of them, so choosing cooler, shadier locations may be necessary. Other evergreens will thrive in full sun anywhere in KY.
Make sure you study your chosen tree carefully, and you can also check out How to Pick A Tree For Your Yard for more information on choosing the right tree for the right spot in your yard. With a small amount of time researching ahead of time, you will be rewarded with effortless beautiful trees for countless years, and even generations, to come.
Happy tree planting!
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Lyrae grew up in the forests of BC, Canada, where she got a BSc. in Environmental Sciences.
Her whole life, she has loved studying plants, from the tiniest flowers to the most massive trees.
She is currently researching native plants of North America and spends her time traveling, hiking, documenting, and writing.
When not researching, she is homeschooling her brilliant autistic son, who travels with her and benefits from a unique hands-on education about the environment around him.