1 Norway spruce
PICEA ABIES, ZONES 3 TO 8
This well-known spruce has a pyramidal shape with shiny dark green foliage. It prefers full sun and moist soil, but it does tolerate most garden soils. The aptly named weeping variety adds a rustic, organic element when draped over fences or walls, or when grown in a rock garden.
Why we love it:
For years, Norway spruce has been a favorite tree for large landscapes. But now many dwarf varieties are available, and they’re perfect for smaller-scale home gardens.
2 Common juniper
JUNIPERUS COMMUNIS, ZONES 2 TO 6
If you’re in the market for a small-space evergreen, look no further than the dwarf varieties of common juniper. They need full sun, adjust to poor soil and require minimal maintenance once they are established. Some members of this species max out around 15 feet high.
Why we love it: Common juniper serves as a secure roosting and nesting site for many bird species. Fruit-eating fliers like waxwings enjoy the berrylike cones in fall.
3 Bald cypress
TAXODIUM DISTICHUM, ZONES 4 TO 11
You’re likely to find large varieties of this tree (which is deciduous but bears cones) in the swamps of the eastern U.S. It needs full sun and acidic soil to thrive, growing best in moist, deep soil with good drainage. Slow-growing species include Secrest, which reaches just 6 feet.
Why we love it: If you’ve got a soggy spot that collects water, this moisture-lover is the tree for you.
4 Mugo pine
PINUS MUGO, ZONES 2 TO 7
The mugo pine prefers full sun and cool summer climates but is one of the most cold-hardy conifers available. It also adapts well to many conditions and tolerates wind and drought.
Why we love it: Mugo pine is ideal for foundation plantings or other small areas around a home garden. Maintain its compact habit with a little bit of annual late-winter pruning.
When you think of a conifer, that picturesque Christmas tree shape probably comes to mind. However, these popular trees actually come in about 10 interesting shapes—from weeping to spreading to mounding.
5 Colorado spruce
ZONES 3 TO 7
Adaptable and somewhat drought-tolerant, use this spruce as a specimen plant, privacy screen or shade tree. Reaching 50 feet, the sun-loving conical conifer features densely packed branches full of green or bluish needles. Research disease problems before you buy. Why we love it:
Birds love the tree’s thick branches and the prickly needles that offer shelter, whether it’s from stormy weather or predators.
6 Scotch pine
ZONES 3 TO 7
Native to the British Isles, the Scotch pine has become naturalized in parts of northern North America. This conical, long-needled tree usually reaches about 40 feet tall in urban conditions. It prefers acidic soil but adapts to other soil types if they are well-draining. Dwarf varieties of this evergreen are available.
Why we love it: Scotch pine is fast-growing and features unique orange or reddish brown bark.
7 Eastern white pine
PINUS STROBUS, ZONES 3 TO 7
With long, deep green needles and a quick growing habit, white pines are a solid choice for most yards, particularly sunny ones. This classic conifer reaches 50 to 80 feet tall, so its verdant silhouette is sure to be noticed in winter. Prune it into a hedge or give it room to grow into an elegant specimen.
Why we love it: Deep branches are hospitable to birds during harsh weather, and the cones are a go-to food source for nuthatches and other seedeaters.
8 Canada hemlock
TSUGA CANADENSIS, ZONES 3 TO 7
A densely branched 70-foot silhouette and soft needles give the Canada, or eastern, hemlock a graceful look. It’s a slow grower, tolerates shade and is most successful in moist conditions. Give it shelter from winter sun and wind. Once mature, after a couple of decades, shade-tolerant Canada hemlock begins to produce small brown cones.
Why we love it: It makes a good hedge, especially when it’s young.
Purchase trees from reputable local nurseries and growers who carry the plants best suited to your growing zone. Before you buy, consider the tree’s light needs and mature size—you don’t want to have to move it later.
9 Hinoki false cypress
CHAMAECYPARIS OBTUSA, ZONES 5 TO 8
For unique form and texture, this false cypress is a top choice. It has fan- or shell-shaped golden-green foliage and interesting bark. Smallspace gardeners should look for the slow-growing cultivars like Minima, golden Nana Aurea, Graciosa and green Nana Gracilis. Nursery-grown cultivars are shorter than 10 feet tall. Most of the false cypress tolerate full sun to partial shade and prefer moist soil that drains well.
Why we love it:
Tightly packed, swirly foliage makes hinoki false cypress an absolute rock star, especially in the winter.
10 Oriental spruce
ZONES 4 TO 7
A unique alternative to the ever-popular Norway spruce, oriental spruce boasts short needles that are glossy dark green and soft to the touch. The drooping branches grow horizontally, giving the tree a classic pyramidal shape. While you might have to protect it a bit in winter, it tolerates some shade and drought.
Why we love it:
Look for dwarf types of this evergreen to thrive in small home gardens. It maintains its dark green color better than many spruces. Birds and other wildlife rely on this spruce for winter cover.
Dainty Doll hinoki false cypress 9