Hi Please see attached photo of my small backyard garden. Its a small space and at both ends of the garden I had two emerald cedars, one of which started drying out ( I learned their root system is sensitive). Can you please help me with what evergreen I can plant instead that will grow to a max of 12 feet height and 3 feet wide, is easy to grow and wont dry out etc. I was thinkg of a blue juniper or some ornamental pine. Thanks so much. Can you give me three options please. have a good yar and thans for your time. Jospeh
Thank you for contacting The Toronto Master Gardeners.
Our website does have information you may want to investigate for planting a new shrub, or tree, and soil and water requirements.
It is always a good idea to know how many hours of sunlight and what type of soil you currently have in your backyard before choosing a new evergreen. Pleases note, that any new plantings will require extra watering the first year to establish its roots.
There are evergreens you may want to include in your backyard that meet the criteria of 12 feet tall, also not taking up a great deal of space and preferably dry conditions.
Pinus Mugo is a small shrub and easy to find in garden centres growing a maximum of 15 to 2o feet requires some watering:
Another smaller and easy to find in the garden centres, and low maintenance suggestions are Yews, or Taxus x media ‘Densiformis’:
There are many dwarf varieties: Cedars/Firs/Spruce/Hemlock that can be found in specialized garden centres that provide small or miniature evergreens. Naming some of the varieties found on the web with habitat details:
- The Blues Weeping Colorado Spruce (Picea pungens)– If you are looking for a low-maintenance show-stopping tree, then “the blues” is the right choice for you. This beautiful and extremely hardy variety of weeping blue spruce grows about 3 metres in high and spreads 1.5 to 3 metres. It has thick blue-green needles that hang downward on its branches. It thrives in full sunlight and can survive extreme temperatures to -45 C. degrees. It is one of the most deer-resistant dwarf evergreen trees.
- Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa)– This compact, soft-needled, extremely slow-growing, evergreen is known for having a lush, dark green, fan-shaped foliage, which gives it an almost feathery texture. It can survive lows of -35 C. degrees, and is 3 to 3.5 metres tall, and 1 to 1.2 metres wide. It requires well-drained soil and full to partial sun. If you want an even smaller version of Hinoki cypress (full height of 1.5 metres tall), look for the cultivar “Nana Gracilis.”
- Dwarf Balsam Fir (Abies Balsamea)– Also known as “Nana,” this compact evergreen is a stunning, rounded fir with lush needles. Hardy to -40 C. degrees, its slow growth rate makes it a perfect choice for busy homeowners with limited time for pruning. The dwarf balsam fir has compact, dark green needles, densely packed on its branches. Its maximum spread can reach 1.5 to 1.8 metres wide after years of growth.
- Blue Wonder Blue Spruce (Picea glauca)– Also referred to as “blue wonder,” it can survive extreme winter temperature down to -40 C. degrees. It has a stunning and lovely compact blue-gray foliage, making it a great alternative to dwarf Alberta spruce. It can slowly grow up to 1.8 metres in height, and one metre wide at maturity. If you have limited space in your garden, the “blue wonder” can add a striking accent throughout the year.
- Tip Top Dwarf Swiss Stone Pine (Pinus cembra)– The “Tip Top” is another evergreen tree that is worth planting in your garden. It too is extremely hardy to -40 C. degrees. What makes this dwarf evergreen tree downright adorable is its long, soft needles with white undersides that give the tree a shaggy green puppet look. It grows to a maximum of 1.8 metres in height and one metre wide. Due to its narrow and conical characteristic, “Tip Top” does not require any pruning to maintain its small stature.
- Green Spire Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus)– Commonly called the “Green Spire,” this fast-growing evergreen is perfect for narrow hedges and screens due to its glossy green foliage, giving it a more formal appearance compared to other types of evergreen tree options. Its maximum height can reach up to 1.8 to 2.4 metres with a spread of just 30 to 60 cm wide.
- Dwarf Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii)– Popularly known as “Kotobuki,” the maximum height for this slow-growing, densely needled evergreen is just 1.2 metres and 60 cm wide. What makes Kotobuki excellent for small gardens is its upright candles of new growth and its narrow growth. Its needles measure about half the length of regular Japanese black pines.
- Upright Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia)– Also called the “Fastigiata,” this non-flowering evergreen is known for its slim vertical growth profile. Its height maxes out at 2.4 metres tall and 90 cm wide. Its broad, densely-spaced dark green needles grow on bottlebrush-like upright branches. Each needle measures approximately 5 cm long. It grows well in partial to full sun but prefers afternoon shade during hot summer months.
- Dwarf Pencil Point Juniper (Juniperus communis)– What makes the dwarf pencil point juniper or “compressa” unique is its columnar form. Its height tops out at just 1.5 metres tall and 30 cm wide and can handle temperatures as low as -40 degrees. This sun-loving evergreen has blue-green needles and a tapered shape, making it a great accent plant for small gardens. Female “compressa” produce blue berry-like fruit in the fall.
You may also want to view a quick video exploring different varieties and their care: