6 Evergreen Trees for USDA Zone 5 Gardens & Landscapes

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Written By Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

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Home » USDA Zone 5 » 6 Evergreen Trees for USDA Zone 5 Gardens & Landscapes

Zone 5 winters can be long and bitterly cold at times. And if that isn’t enough, the weather sucks much of the color from your garden too!

Planting bright evergreens that add color all year round will do wonders in keeping your property looking fresh and vibrant even in the coldest parts of the year.

And you’re in luck – zone 5 gardeners have an array of beautiful evergreens to choose from.

Here are some of the best evergreen trees for zone 5 gardeners who want a lush, leafy property in every season.

6 Evergreen Trees That Offer Winter Color For Zone 5

1. Arborvitae (genus Thuja)

Zone 5 Evergreens - Arborvitae Genus
Image by Oregon State University via Flickr

One of the most common landscaping plants in the US is the arborvitae, with its typically bright, feathery evergreen foliage. These trees have a variety of uses in gardening but are most often planted as privacy screens, hedges, living fences, and also specimen trees.

The way you use arborvitae will depend on the variety you use – they can vary widely in height and shape, going from 5-foot spherical shrubs to tall, narrow columns.

Arborvitae is perfectly suited to zone 5, so much so that you’ll find the majority of popular arborvitae varieties and cultivars fit right into the zone 5 climate. They are delightfully easy to grow and maintain, with few pest and disease issues, which the University of Massachusetts Extension cites as the major reason it is so widespread in commercial horticulture.

They also have no need for pruning, as arborvitae have naturally neat and graceful growing habits. Arborvitae like moist, well-draining soil and tolerate both full sun and partial shade.

Other Common Names: Tree of Life, Thuja

Growing Zones: 2-8

Average Size at Maturity: 5-70 feet tall depending on variety (from shrubs to large trees)

Varieties Suitable for Zone 5: Green Giant, Emerald Green, North Pole, Degroot’s Spire, American, Little Giant, Fire Chief, Nigra, Sugar & Spice, Holmstrup

Fruiting Season: Seed cones emerge in early Summer

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Fir (genus Abies)

Zone 5 Evergreen Fir Tree
Japanese Douglas Fir Image by harum.koh via Flickr

These evergreen conifers, with their near-perfectly conical, Christmas tree shape and short, flat needles, can add a touch of classical elegance to any winter landscape. There are over 50 species of fir trees and many more cultivars, many of which are suitable for zone 5, so you are guaranteed to find a fir tree that looks great on your property.

While some fir trees can grow to enormous heights that are too unwieldy for the average backyard, some of the more popular fir varieties, such as the Douglas, Balsam, and Fraser, reach modest average heights of 50-60 feet. While they are popular for their timber and use as Christmas trees, they are most often planted in landscapes as ornamentals or as wind protection for smaller trees.

Fir trees like a cool, moist environment. They should be grown in fertile, well-draining soil in full sun or partial shade.

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 30-250 feet

Varieties Suitable for Zone 5: Douglas, Fraser, Balsam, Korean, Caucasian, California Red, Silver, White, Subalpine

Fruiting Season: Summer

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

3. Hemlock (genus Tsuga)

Zone 5 Evergreen Tree - Hemlock genus
Eastern Hemlock Forest Image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr

Another classic and cold hardy evergreen that is ideal for zone 5 gardeners is the hemlock. Hemlock trees are delicate conifers with graceful, drooping branches and charmingly irregular crowns. Their bright green needles look fabulous all year round; a thriving hemlock tree will stand out in any landscape and works best as a specimen tree or part of an eye-catching hedgerow.

Like arborvitae most hemlock varieties are relatively easy to grow in zone 5 – they thrive in cooler climates and are stunted by heat and humidity, so the moderate zone 5 temperatures are ideal.

Once planted they need very little attention, though hemlock gardeners should keep an eye out for any damaged trees that need to be pruned, and for hemlock wooly adelgid, the most common pest that affects hemlock trees.

Hemlock trees should be planted in moist, acidic, well-draining soil in a location that is sheltered from any harsh wind and heat. As a rule, they should be planted in the shade of taller trees.

Other Common Names: Tsuga, Hesperopeuce

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 30-230 feet tall

Varieties Suitable for Zone 5: Canadian/Eastern, Weeping, Mountain, Northern Japanese, Ulleungdo

Fruiting Season: Summer and Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

4. Holly (genus Ilex)

Zone 5 Evergreen Tree - Holly
Image by Gambier20 via Flickr

While many people think of holly as a Christmas ornament, it is so much more than that! Holly trees have the potential to be fantastic landscaping trees, where they can be planted as ornamentals, topiary, or hedging.

Their bright green spiny leaves and round red berries are their most attractive features, and as one of the few trees with both leaves and fruits in December they will be a godsend to your winter landscape.

If you’re considering planting holly trees on your property make sure to research carefully first, as there are plenty of holly varieties that cannot grow in zone 5, and some varieties are deciduous rather than evergreen.

Holly trees are extremely adaptable plants, tolerant of a wide range of soil types and weather and environmental conditions. Typically they prefer to be grown in well-draining, slightly acidic soil with access to full or partial sun.

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 6-80 feet tall, with a 3-25 foot spread

Varieties Suitable for Zone 5: Blue Princess, Blue Prince, Sky Pencil, Red Sprite, Japanese, Winter Red, American, Catberry, Dahoon, Common Winterberry, Finetooth, Inkberry

Fruiting Season: Fall to Early Winter

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

5. Juniper (genus Juniperus)

Zone 5 Evergreen Tree - Juniper
Utah Juniper – Image by Jim Morefield via Flickr

One of the more underrated evergreens for landscaping has to be the juniper! These trees make a fantastic ornamental shrub or small tree for any garden and come in varieties that range from ground-hugging shrubs to spreading ground cover to tall, narrow trees. Because these varieties grow so differently, juniper trees can be very versatile in their landscaping uses.

They are appealing conifers in every season, with aromatic and intricate foliage that resembles short, sharp needles, and frosty blue berries that appear from spring to fall. While there are plenty of juniper varieties that fall between USDA zones 3-9, most will perform best between zones 4 and 8.

Junipers tend to thrive in most soil types – the most important quality for a planting location is full sun and good drainage, as waterlogged roots can be a detriment to this species, according to Clemson University’s Home & Garden Information Center. They also tend to be highly tolerant of salt spray and urban pollution, meaning they can be planted in the majority of zone 5 environments.

Other Common Names: Juniper-bush, Juniperis

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 1-130 feet tall, with a spread of 1-25 feet

Varieties Suitable for Zone 5: Common Juniper, Greek, Western, Utah, Chinese, Creeping, Rocky Mountain, Eastern Red Cedar, One-Seed, Gold Cone

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

6. Magnolia (Magnoliaceae)

Zone 5 Evergreen - Magnolia Tree
Image by TracyElaine via Flickr

If you’re looking for an eye-catching evergreen that offers color and interest in every season, magnolias are a lovely option. Though these trees are often thought of as heat-loving southern plants, there are plenty of magnolia varieties that thrive in zone 5.

The only catch with magnolia is that not all varieties are evergreen – only the Southern and Sweetbay magnolia is. However, there are ways to get around this: while the Southern magnolia typically does not fare well in zone 5, there are some Southern cultivars that will grow in zone 5.

The Sweetbay becomes deciduous in zone 5, but some cultivars, such as the ‘Jim Wilson’ or ‘Moonglow’ will remain evergreen even in the northernmost parts of its hardiness range.

Evergreen magnolias should be planted in moist, acidic sun, and do well in full sun and partial shade. However, full sun is best for zone 5 magnolias to ensure better leaf and flower production in colder months.

Growing Zones: 5-10

Average Size at Maturity: 20-80 feet tall

Varieties Suitable for Zone 5: Star, Merrill, Yellow Bird, Ann, Jane, Lily, Cucumber, Saucer, Bigleaf, Sweetbay, Kobus

Flowering Season: Early to Late Spring, depending on the variety

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

Four Seasons of Evergreen Appeal

When your deciduous trees drop their leaves in fall, evergreen trees will save your garden from looking drab and lifeless.

And as you can see above, choosing evergreen trees for zone 5 will be a breeze, since there are plenty of beautiful and cold hardy options that will grow well in your climate. Whether you want a candidate for a dense privacy screen, like the arborvitae, or a tree that adds a pop of bright berries to the winter landscape, like the holly tree, you’ll find something that fits your requirements.

But what happens when the last frost dates pass, and you’re looking for brilliant blossoms to fill the spring landscape? Consider some beautiful flowering ornamental trees for zone 5.

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Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

Shannon has always loved looking after trees and plants since as long as she can remember. She grew up gardening with her family in their off-grid home and looking after her neighbor's plant nursery. As a child she also participated in native tree replanting, and as an adult has volunteered in reforestation programs in northern Vietnam. Today, she puts her horticultural efforts into tending her vegetable and herb gardens, and learning about homesteading and permaculture. When she’s not reading, writing, and gardening, she’ll be out fishing and foraging for edible flora and fungi in the countryside around her home.

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