UMass Extension Landscape, Nursery and Urban Forestry Program

Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Low Maintenance Landscapes

Fact Sheet Category: 
Plant Materials: General

Trees, shrubs and vines are integral parts of the landscape, providing wildlife habitat, beauty and shade to a property. Plants modify the immediate environment by altering the microclimate surrounding them, reducing noise and trapping air pollutants. In addition to their aesthetic and environmental value, woody ornamentals often represent a considerable financial investment in the landscape.

When choosing woody ornamentals for the landscape, it is important to look for characteristics that make a plant a " high value" selection. The ideal plant is one that is tolerant of environmental stress factors such as drought, poor soil conditions and air pollution. It would have few insect or disease problems that might require management. In addition, it would have good form and multi-seasonal interest. While no one plant can be considered ideal, plants that are structurally weak, short lived or intolerant of environmental stresses will require a higher degree of maintenance.

The axiom "the right plant for the right place" is particularly true for woody ornamentals. When selecting plants for the landscape, mature height and spread must be considered as well as the conditions and limitations of the planting site. A woody ornamental planted in the wrong location may fail to thrive, need increased maintenance or become an out-of-scale landscape feature, thus losing its value to the property.

The first step in ensuring good plant health is choosing a recommended low maintenance plant and planting it in the correct location. However, planting practices will also affect plant health. Improper planting techniques or inadequate site preparations usually cause woody plants to decline in vigor or fail. Some common practices that often result in plant failure are:

  • planting at the wrong depth (too deep/too shallow)
  • soil compaction from heavy equipment, etc.
  • insufficient removal of burlap, twine, etc.
  • deep mulching up to and against the bark
  • mower damage, string trimmer injury or herbicide damage as a result of turf growing up to the trunk
  • too much or too little water

The following list of woody ornamentals shares certain characteristics that make them deserving of increased use: reduced maintenance requirements, increased drought tolerance, non-invasive nature, winter hardiness and year round interest. Many are native to North America and would be useful alternatives for invasive species. Unless noted, they have no significant insect or disease problems.

Some may be difficult to locate but their desirable traits make the search worthwhile.

Deciduous Trees

Acer buergerianum Trident Maple 20'- 25' H Zone 5
  • width: 30'
  • slow to medium growth rate, rounded crown, usually multi-stemmed
  • new foliage reddish, maturing to dark green; yellow/orange/red fall color
  • prefers full sun and well-drained acid soils, tolerant of drought
  • excellent for use as a lawn specimen, patio or street tree
Acer campestre Hedge Maple 35' H Zone 5
  • width: 25' - 35'
  • slow growth rate; rounded, dense crown; low branching; winged, corky twigs
  • dark green leaves with rounded lobes, yellow fall color late in season
  • non-invasive roots, good in combination with shrubs
  • cv. Postelense has golden yellow foliage when young
  • very adaptable, tolerant of: dry soils, air pollution, soil compaction, pH
  • excellent small lawn specimen or pruned into a hedge, good substitute for privet and Euonymus alatus
Acer tataricum subsp. ginnala (syn. Acer ginnala) Amur Maple 20' H Zone 2
  • width: equal to height
  • variable growth rate: rapid when young, slow when mature
  • upright, rounded habit, usually multi-stemmed
  • glossy dark green leaves turn scarlet in fall, bright red samara in summer
  • prefers full sun to light shade, tolerant of wind and drought
  • cv. Flame has outstanding fall color
  • good small specimen tree, adaptable for patios and container planting
Acer griseum Paperbark Maple 25' - 30' H Zone 5
  • width: 15'
  • slow growth rate with an open, rounded habit
  • bluish-green trifoliate leaves, deep red fall color late in season
  • exfoliating cinnamon colored bark is an outstanding feature, especially effective in winter
  • prefers full sun and well-drained soils, tolerant of pH, clay soil
  • excellent specimen tree
Acer rubrum Red Maple 40' - 60' H Zone 3
  • width: 20' - 30'
  • medium growth rate, reaching 10' - 12' in 5-7 years
  • pyramidal habit when young, rounded crown at maturity
  • red flowers in dense clusters effective before the leaves appear
  • excellent fall color on most specimens; many cultivars available
  • prefers moist, acid soils but tolerant of many conditions; adaptable to wet soils
  • a good specimen or street tree; intolerant of urban conditions
  • North American native
Acer saccharum Sugar Maple 60' – 75' H Zone 4
  • width: 45' – 50'
  • medium growth rate in youth, slower with age
  • generally an upright, rounded habit with dense foliage
  • good green foliage with spectacular fall colors of orange, red and yellow
  • prefers a moist, well drained soil; pH tolerant, not tolerant of salt
  • North American native
Acer triflorum Three-flower Maple 20'-30' H Zone 5
  • width: 20'-30'
  • medium growth rate; upright open habit
  • dark green trifoliate leaves with yellow/red fall color
  • brown exfoliating bark with vertical fissures; year round interest
  • full sun, well-drained soil, acid conditions preferred
  • fine landscape specimen, patio tree or in the mixed border
Aesculus x carnea Red Horsechestnut 30-40' H Zone 4
  • width: 30'-40'
  • medium growth rate; broadly rounded habit
  • dark green, palmately compound leaves with 5 (occasionally 7) leaflets
  • rose-red flowers borne on 8" panicles; cv 'Briotii' has larger, dark red flowers
  • less susceptible to leaf blotch the common horsechestnut
  • good landscape specimen tree
Betula nigra 'Cully' HeritageTM River Birch 40-70' H Zone 4
  • width: 40'-60
  • medium growth rate, will reach 40' in 20 years
  • off-white to salmon/white exfoliating bark is an outstanding feature
  • pyramidal growth habit, rounded with maturity, single or multi-stemmed
  • adapted to moist situations but will tolerate dry conditions
  • resistant to the Bronze birch borer; less susceptible to birch leaf miner
  • cv Dura-Heat™ is more compact, tolerates heat and drought; cv. 'Little King' (Fox Valley™) is a natural dwarf form 10'-12'H
  • North American native
Carpinus betulus European Hornbeam 40'-60' H Zone 5
  • width: 30'-40'
  • slow to medium growth rate; rounded crown with maturity
  • ribbed nutlet in three-lobed, pendulous bract, 1 ½" – 3' long
  • smooth, steel grey bark, "muscled" in appearance
  • clean, dark green foliage; yellow fall color
  • full sun to light shade, tolerant of various soil conditions
  • tolerates heavy pruning and is often used a hedge or screen
  • an excellent landscape plant for many different situations
Carpinus caroliniana American Hornbeam (Ironwood) 30' H Zone 2
  • width: 20'-30'
  • slow growth rate; spreading rounded crown
  • nutlets in leaf-like, pendulous, three-lobed bracts, 3 1/2" long
  • smooth grey bark, "muscled" in appearance, frequently multi-stemmed
  • dense green foliage with orange/red fall color
  • tolerates shade and damp soil, good as an understory tree or shady lawn specimen
  • container stock easily transplanted, established trees hard to move
  • North American native
Cercidiphyllum japonicum Katsuratree 60'-100' H Zone 4
  • width: 20'-30', occasionally equal to height
  • moderate to fast growth rate; wide spreading, usually multi-stemmed; can be trained to a single stem
  • heart-shaped rounded leaves; clear golden fall color with sweet fragrance
  • considered pest free
  • sun or part shade; tolerant of wind but not drought
  • graceful specimen year round
  • cv.'s 'Pendula' and 'Amazing Grace' are weeping in habit
Cladrastis kentukea American Yellowwood 50' H Zone 3
  • width: 40'
  • moderate growth rate; open, arching dome-shaped tree
  • pinnately compound leaves with 5-7 leaflets,
  • yellow fall color and smooth silver-grey bark, nice framework branches in winter
  • white wisteria-like fragrant flower clusters in June
  • likes sun and well drained, moist sandy soils
  • good underutilized shade tree
  • North American native
Cornus kousa Kousa Dogwood 30' H Zone 5
  • width: 20'-30'
  • medium growth rate; vase-shaped habit when young, horizontal branching when mature
  • sun or part shade, likes acid well-drained soil, more drought tolerant than C. florida
  • blooms in June after C. florida, the four 1"- 2" pointed bracts persist 4-6 weeks, some turn pinkish with age
  • raspberry-like fruit in late August through October, purple/red fall foliage
  • tolerant of dogwood anthracnose; resistant to dogwood borer
  • an excellent small tree for most landscapes; works well as a specimen tree, patio tree or in combination with small shrubs.
  • good winter interest with the branching pattern and exfoliating bark.

Special note: hybrids of C. florida x C. kousa (the "Stellar" series) are available; these six interspecific hybrids show characteristics midway between the two parents, most notably increased resistance to dogwood anthracnose and dogwood borer as evidenced by twenty years of field testing by Dr. Elwin Orton of Rutgers University, NJ. New hybrids of C. kousa
x C. nuttalli (the "Jersey Star" series) are also resistant to dogwood anthracnose as well as powdery mildew; check for hardiness. C. florida 'Appalachian Spring' is reputed to be resistant to dogwood anthracnose.

Cornus mas Cornelian Cherry Dogwood 20'-25' H H Zone 4
  • width: 15-20'
  • moderate growth rate, rounded to oval habit
  • multi-stemmed, low-branched shrub or small tree; can be grown with a single trunk
  • small clusters of yellow flowers with drooping yellow bracts appear early spring (March) before leaves
  • clusters of shiny red berries effective in the fall
  • exfoliating bark with maturity
  • prefers sun, tolerant of part shade, wind, adaptable to all soils
  • Cary Award winner
  • pleasant early flowering tree; useful as patio specimen, good winter interest
  • C. officinalis, Japanese Cornel, is very similar to C. mas and may be used interchangeably
Cotinus obovatus American Smoketree 20'-35' H Zone 5
  • width: often equal to height
  • slow growing tree with rounded habit
  • dark blue-green leaves 6" long turning reddish purple to orange, red and yellow in fall
  • fuzzy smoke-like masses of greenish flowers in June and July
  • sun or part shade, pH 5-7, tolerant of wind, drought, soil compaction
  • good small tree with excellent fall color
  • North American native
Crataegus phaenopyrum Washington Hawthorn 25'-30' H Zone 3
  • width: 20'-25'
  • medium growth rate; rounded oval habit; thorns
  • dark green, lobed leaves, excellent orange/scarlet fall coloration
  • white flowers in clusters in June; bright glossy red, persistent fruit from fall into winter
  • full sun, well-drained soils, tolerant of urban conditions
  • less susceptible to leaf blight than other Crataegus; is susceptible to rust
  • use as specimen tree, near buildings, street tree
  • several cultivars available; 'Princeton Sentry' is almost thornless
  • North American native
Crataegus viridis 'Winter King' Winter King Hawthorn 20' - 25' H Zone 4
  • width: equal or greater than height
  • medium growth rate; densely rounded habit, vase-shaped branching; thorns
  • medium green foliage, purple/scarlet fall color
  • white flowers in May, persistent red fruit, 2" in diameter
  • less susceptible to leaf blight than other Crataegus; is susceptible to rust
  • good specimen tree, fruiting characteristics are outstanding
  • North American native
Ginkgo biloba Ginkgo 50' - 80' H Zone 4
  • width: variable, 30' to equal or greater than height
  • slow to medium growth rate; pyramidal when young, becoming broad with spreading branches
  • bright green fan-shaped leaves, turning yellow in fall
  • full sun, sandy, moderately moist soil; pH adaptable, salt and pollution tolerant
  • male cultivars preferred as fruit of female trees has unpleasant odor
  • cv.'s Autumn Gold, Lakeview, and Santa Cruz are male
  • useful urban tree, good for parks and municipal plantings, fastigiate cultivars available
Halesia tetraptera (H. carolina) Carolina Silverbell 30' - 40' H Zone 4
  • width: 20'-35'
  • fast growth rate with central leader, conical habit
  • bell-shaped white flowers drooping in clusters late April/early May
  • smooth bluish-grey bark, becoming ridged with maturity
  • sun or part shade, acid soil, tolerant of urban conditions
  • graceful tree for the landscape
  • North American native
Koelreuteria paniculata Goldenraintree 30'-40' H Zone 5
  • width: equal or greater than height
  • moderate growth rate; open branching pattern
  • large compound leaves cast dense shade
  • large clusters of yellow flowers, held above the foliage in July
  • persistent bladder-like fruit (may be messy)
  • drought tolerant; prefers sun, adaptable to: soil conditions, pH
  • excellent tree for lawn specimen, blooms when little else is in flower
Liquidambar styraciflua American Sweetgum 60'-75'H Zone 5
  • width: 2/3's or equal to the height
  • medium to fast growth rate; distinct pyramidal habit when young, rounded crown at maturity
  • alternate, simple, star-shaped leaves; dark green above, light green underneath; outstanding fall color
  • rounded fruit capsule, remains on tree into the winter; can be messy
  • prefers full sun and moist soil; has fleshy roots and takes time to establish after transplanting
  • useful for lawns, parks, or a specimen trees; many cultivars available
  • North American native
Magnolia x loebneri Loebner Magnolia hybrids 25' H Zone 5
  • width: often as wide as tall
  • medium to fast growth rate; broadly rounded habit
  • flowers generally with 12 or more petals, fragrant, mid to late April
  • silvery-grey furry buds provide winter interest
  • cv. Ballerina: up to 30 petals, fragrant, white with pinkish blush; escapes spring frosts
  • cv. Leonard Messel: 12 petals, dark pink in bud opening to pinkish white, yellow fall color; Cary Award Winner
  • cv. Merrill: 15 white petals, 3"-3 1/2" across, late April, fragrant; cucumber-like pods with red seeds in fall
  • excellent specimen trees
Magnolia stellata Magnolia stellata 15' – 20' H` Zone 4
  • width: 10' to 15'
  • slow growth rate; oval to rounded habit
  • white flowers with 12 to 18 petals, 3" to 4" in diameter, fragrant, in April
  • prefers a moist, well drained soil high in organic material; full sun for best flowering
  • cv. Centennial vigorous, upright habit, originated at the Arnold Arboretum
  • cv. Royal Star has large flowers 4" to 5" across
  • excellent specimen tree for residential and commercial landscapes
Magnolia virginiana Sweetbay Magnolia 20' H Zone 5
  • width: 10'-20'
  • moderate growth rate; multi-stemmed spreading habit
  • dark green leaves, 3"-5" long, silvery underneath, evergreen in mild winters
  • fragrant creamy-white 3" flowers in May/June
  • bright red seeds in 2" pods effective in the fall
  • likes full sun, tolerant of shade, wet soils
  • small specimen or patio tree
  • North American native
Malus 'Donald Wyman' Donald Wyman Crabapple 20' H Zone 5
  • width: 25'
  • moderate growth rate; spreading, rounded form
  • deep pink buds open to white flowers, bright red fruits, 1/8" in diameter, effective in fall and persist through winter
  • full sun, well-drained soil; tolerant of drought, salt, air pollution
  • resistant to apple scab and cedar apple rust
  • one of the best ornamental Crabs, can be used as a specimen or in massed plantings
  • many lovely crabapples are available; be sure to select only disease resistant cultivars
  • Cary Award Winner
Nyssa sylvatica Tupelo, Black Gum 30'-50' H Zone 4
  • width: 20'-30'
  • medium growth rate; pyramidal form when young, distinct horizontal branching when mature
  • dark green lustrous leave, exceptional burgundy/ scarlet fall foliage
  • prefers moist, well-drained soils, pH 5.5 -6.5
  • full sun or part shade, tolerant of wind and wet conditions, moderately drought tolerant
  • excellent winter aspect with horizontal branching, good for naturalizing
  • container stock easily planted, established tree hard to move
  • North American native
Ostrya virginiana American Hophornbeam 25'-40'H Zone 4
  • width: two thirds the height
  • fairly slow growth rate; good small tree with pendulous or horizontal branching habit
  • grows in full sun to partial shade, very drought tolerant once established
  • fruit is a small nut enclosed in wafer-like, papery structure resembling hops, 1 ½" - 2 ½" long
  • nice grey bark flaking into narrow dark stripes
  • great small tree for the landscape, tolerant of urban conditions
  • North American native
Oxydendrum arboreum Sourwood (Sorrel Tree) 40' H Zone 5
  • width: 20'
  • slow growth rate; narrow tree with drooping branches
  • small, lily-of-the-valley shaped flowers in hanging clusters in July
  • rich green leaves, scarlet fall color, smooth grey bark
  • full sun or part shade, moist well-drained soil, pH 4.0-6.0
  • beautiful flowering tree; excellent fall color in combination with persistent fruiting capsules
  • best used as a specimen plant
  • North American native
Ptelea trifoliata Hoptree 15'-20'H Zone 3
  • width: equal to height
  • slow growth rate; small, rounded habit, may be shrub-like
  • small, inconspicuous fragrant flowers followed by showy, wafer-like papery fruit
  • dark green summer foliage with yellow fall color
  • adaptable to most soils, sun or light shade; understory tree in native woodlands
  • interesting small tree for the landscape; golden leaved cultivar available
  • North American native
Styphnolobium japonicum (formerly Sophora japonica) Japanese Pagoda Tree 50-75' H Zone 4
  • width: variable, may equal height
  • slow growth rate when young, more rapid with maturity
  • upright with spreading habit and broad crown
  • compound leaves, 6"-10" long
  • pea-like fragrant flowers in drooping panicles in mid to late summer, persistent yellow fruit pods may be messy
  • full sun or part shade, well-drained soil, tolerates heat, drought, and urban conditions
  • lovely leguminous tree, good as a specimen or as a shade tree, excellent for showy late bloom
Sorbus alnifolia Korean Mountain-ash 40' H Zone 4
  • width: 20'-30'
  • medium to fast growth rate; pyramidal habit when young, rounded with maturity
  • alternate simple leaves, bright green aging to dark green, orange/red fall foliage
  • smooth, grey beech-like bark, good winter interest
  • white flowers in 2"-3" clusters in May
  • persistent pinkish red fruit, very ornamental
  • more disease resistant than other Sorbus species
  • specimen tree, parks, golf courses
Stewartia pseudocamellia Japanese Stewartia 20' - 40' H Zone 5
  • width: variable
  • slow growth rate; single stem or multi-stemmed, pyramidal habit
  • camellia-like flowers in July, white with yellow stamens, 2 2" diameter
  • excellent bark, flaking off to reveal grey, brown, tan and olive coloration
  • full sun or part shade, moist well-drained soil, pH 4.5-5.5
  • handsome small tree with year round interest, best shown as a specimen
  • Cary Award Winner
Styrax japonicus Styrax japonicus 20'-30' H Zone 5
  • width: equal to height
  • medium growth rate; broadly rounded crown with horizontal branching
  • fragrant bell-shaped pendulous white flowers in May/June
  • full sun or part shade, light loamy soil, pH 5.0-7.0
  • cv. Pink Chimes has pink blossoms; weeping forms available
  • lovely small tree for patio or lawn specimen
Syringa reticulata Japanese Tree Lilac 30' H Zone 4
  • width: 15'-25'
  • moderate growth rate; upright spreading habit
  • creamy white fragrant flowers in large upright panicles, up to 12" in June; cherry-like bark
  • resistant to powdery mildew
  • full sun, pH adaptable, well-drained soil
  • excellent specimen tree, may be used as a street tree, good for parks, golf courses
  • cv. Ivory Silk compact, heavy flowering
  • Cary Award winner
Ulmus parvifolia Chinese or Lacebark Elm 40'-50' H Zone 4(5)
  • width: 40'
  • medium to fast growth rate; variable habit, some are rounded, some are vase shaped
  • dark green leaves, yellow/purple fall color
  • mottled bark, in tones of grey, green, orange and brown, is an excellent feature
  • sun, moist well-drained soil, tolerant of urban conditions
  • resistant to Dutch elm disease, elm leaf beetle and Japanese beetle
  • tough tree for the landscape, many cultivars available, not to be confused with U. pumila (Siberian Elm) which is a brittle, inferior tree.

Conifers

Abies concolor Concolor or White Fir 50'-100' H Zone 6
  • width: 15'-30'
  • medium growth rate; pyramidal habit with horizontal branching
  • fragrant bluish-green needles, 1 1/2"-2" long, cones green when young, purple/brown at maturity
  • full sun, moist well drained sandy loam, will tolerate light shade, heat, drought; dislikes clay soil
  • a good substitute for pest-prone spruce
  • cv. Candicans, with blue needles, is a good substitute for Colorado Blue Spruce
  • suitable for large landscapes
  • North American native
Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca' Blue Atlas Cedar 120' H
(usually 40'-60' in landscape
Zone 6
  • width: 30'-40'
  • rapid growth rate when young
  • stiff erect growth habit when young, flat topped when mature; not for the small area
  • evergreen needles in bunches, silvery-blue in color, upright cones 3"x 2"
  • tolerates sun or part shade, likes moist conditions but tolerant of dry soils
  • will not tolerate exposed sites or wet areas
  • best used as a specimen tree, needs a spacious location
Cedrus libani Cedar of Lebanon 120' H
(usually 40-60 in landscape)
Zone 5
  • width: 80'
  • slow growth rate; pyramidal in habit, maturing to flat topped with horizontal branching
  • dark green needles with upright cones
  • full sun, moist well-drained soils, intolerant of shade or pollution
  • best used as a specimen tree, needs a spacious location
Cephalotaxus harringtonia Japanese Plum Yew 5'-10' H Zone 6
  • width: variable, spreading
  • dark green, yew-like needles, evergreen
  • prefers moist, well-drained soils; very drought tolerant once established
  • shade and heat tolerant evergreen, may be used as a substitute for Taxus (Yew)
  • thought to be deer resistant
Xanthocyparis nootkatensis
(formerly Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)
Alaska Falsecypress 45' - 60 H Zone 4
  • width: 20'-30'
  • medium growth rate; conical habit with drooping branches
  • dense, dark blue-green, scalelike needles
  • full sun, requires moist soil and atmosphere
  • cv. Pendula has graceful hanging branches
  • best used as a specimen
  • Cary Award Winner
  • North American native
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracillus' Hinoki Falsecypress 6' H Zone 4
  • width: 3'-4'
  • handsome evergreen foliage ranging from dark green to gold, somewhat drooping branches, graceful
  • sun or light shade, moist, well-drained soils; some protection from wind
  • useful as specimen, foundation shrub, mixed border
  • many cultivars available, ranging in height from 9" to 50' and color from deep green, bluish silver to gold
Chamaecyparis pisifera Sawara Falsecypress 50'-70' H Zone 4
  • width: 10'-20'
  • medium growth rate; pyramidal open habit
  • evergreen, scale-like needles, brownish red shedding bark
  • full sun, tolerant of wind, salt air, acid well-drained soils
  • many cultivars are available with different needle formation and coloration
  • best used as a specimen
Chamaecyparis thyoides Atlantic White Cedar 40' - 50' H Zone 4
  • width: 10' - 20'
  • medium growth rate; narrow spire-like habit when mature
  • green to bluish-green foliage, with silvery-like resin glands on the back
  • reddish-brown to grayish colored ridged bark
  • prefers moist, sandy soil in full sun; tolerates wet soils and salt spray
  • excellent evergreen for low, wet sites and coastal planting
  • North American native
Juniperus virginiana Eastern Red Cedar 40' - 50' H Zone 3
  • width: 8' - 20', very variable
  • medium growth rate; pyramidal growth habit
  • medium green foliage color, may become bronzed in winter
  • female Aberries@ green to blue in color; shaggy reddish-brown bark
  • prefers moist, sandy soil in full sun; tolerant of drought, salt spray, gravelly soils
  • good choice for open, exposed areas, coastal planting, windbreaks
  • North American native
Metasequoia glyptostroboides Dawn Redwood 70' - 100' H Zone 5
  • width: 25'
  • fast growth rate: 50' in 15 - 20 years, pyramidal in habit
  • bright green foliage turning red-orange-brown in fall; deciduous
  • reddish-brown bark , becomes exfoliating with age; trunk forms buttresses when mature
  • easy to transplant; likes well-drained soils in full sun; tolerant of wet soils
  • excellent specimen tree or planted in groves; good for parks, golf courses or other spacious areas
Microbiota decussata Russian Arborvitae 12" H Zone 3
  • width: unknown at this time; wide spreading in habit
  • arching branches with scale like needles, feathery texture
  • dark green in summer, purple/copper in winter
  • prefers moist, well-drained soil; sun or light shade; very cold tolerant and a vigorous grower
  • especially useful as an evergreen for light shade; good ground cover

Many two and three needled pines (Pinus species) are commonly used in the landscape. While ornamentally useful, these pines have a complement of insects and diseases that make them high maintenance trees due to the need for annual and timely applications of pesticides. Pines such as the Austrian pine (Pinus nigra), Red pine (P. resinosa), Mugo pine (P. mugo) and Japanese Black pine (P. thunbergii) are subject to shoot blight (Sphaeropsis/Diplodia), pine shoot moths, scale insects and borers such as the black turpentine beetle; all of which may disfigure or kill these pines. The following five needle pines, while not entirely pest free, may be subject to insects that cause damage that is mainly aesthetic and not usually fatal. The primary insect pest of five needle pines is the white pine weevil, which attacks the central leader, causing it to die back to a lower set of lateral branches. While temporarily disfiguring, a new leader may be established by bracing one of the lateral branches into an upright position or, if left alone, will often produce a new leader from a lateral on its own.

Pinus cembra Swiss Stone Pine 35'-40' H Zone 3
  • width: 15'-20'
  • slow growth rate; densely columnar when young
  • needles in clusters of 5, 2 1/2" - 5" long, very dense foliage
  • egg-shaped cone, 2" - 3" long, purple-green changing to purple-brown with maturity
  • full sun, well-drained soil; tolerant of wind
  • well-proportioned small pine, slow growing, good for the small landscape
Pinus parviflora Japanese White Pine 25'-50' H Zone 5
  • width: 25'
  • variable growth rate; wide spreading, casts medium shade
  • slender needles in clusters of 5, 2"-3" long, bluish-green with a silvery band on the underside
  • purplish bark with an open branching pattern, graceful winter aspect
  • full sun, moist, well-drained soil, tolerant of most soil conditions, salt air, wind, and drought
  • good substitute for pest prone Japanese Black pine (Pinus thunbergii)
  • excellent specimen pine; graceful with attractive cones, good for coastal areas
Pinus strobus Eastern White Pine 50' -120' H Zone 3
  • width: 20' - 40'
  • fast growth rate; pyramidal habit when young; open horizontal branching with maturity
  • needles in clusters of five, 2"-4" long, bluish-green and pliable; smooth grayish-green bark when young, dark
  • brown and furrowed with age
  • prefers moist, acid well-drained soils; prefers full sun; tolerates light shade when young, intolerant of high winds and salt
  • good evergreen for large properties
  • North American native
Sciadopitys verticillata Japanese Umbrella Pine 30'-60' H Zone 4
  • width: 15-20'
  • extremely slow growing; variable habit, often broadly pyramidal, very dense
  • Dark-green needles 2"-5" long in whorls around the stem giving an "umbrella" appearance
  • cones 3" - 5" long
  • sun, moist well-drained soils, protection from wind
  • useful as a specimen or in a mixed border

Broad Leaf Evergreens

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Bearberry 6"-12" H Zone 2
  • width: 2'-4'
  • slow growth rate; low growing spreading habit forms an evergreen ground cover
  • shiny dark green leaves turn reddish bronze in fall and winter
  • small pinkish-white flowers followed by bright red berries in fall
  • difficult to transplant, use container-grown plants; requires full sun and well-drained acid soil; tolerant of salt and
  • sandy, infertile soils
  • excellent ground cover for open, exposed areas and coastal planting
  • Cary Award Winner
  • North American native
Ilex crenata Japanese Holly Height varies with cultivar Zone 5-6
  • width: 15"-10'
  • alternate, simple, evergreen leaves closely spaced on the twigs
  • generally compact, multi branched growth habit
  • moist, well-drained soils; full sun to light shade
  • subject to mite infestations under hot, dry conditions; white fly may pose a problem
  • useful in the border, foundation, hedges, rock gardens
  • many cultivars available; a good substitute for Boxwood (Buxus species)