The 18 Best Conifers for Landscaping That's Beautiful All Year Long

Dawn Redwood
Photo: Annie Schlechter

When you think of conifers, what probably comes to mind is a Christmas tree or tall pine. Yet these cone-bearing plants come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. Use our guide to the best choices to provide year-round beauty and structure to your landscape.

01 of 18

Silver Korean Fir

Fir Tree
Justin Hancock

A sure standout in the landscape, silver Korean fir features short, tightly packed needles with white undersides. The soft needles also curl toward the stem, giving the tree a decidedly flocked appearance year-round. This fir develops a classic, pyramidal Christmas-tree shape as it grows.

Name: Abies koreana 'Horstmann's Silberlocke'

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 30 feet tall

Zones: 5–8

02 of 18

Weeping White Pine

Weeping White Pine
Kritsada Panichgul

A truly graceful tree, weeping white pine looks like a waterfall of long, blue-green needles. It's especially effective grown over a sturdy arbor or other structure, where it will create a curtain effect. It's a widely adaptable tree native to parts of North America.

Name: Pinus strobus 'Pendula'

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: As tall as it's supported. When unsupported, it grows like a groundcover

Zones: 4-9

Buy It: Weeping Eastern Pine ($40, Kigi Nursery)

03 of 18

Dwarf Blue Spruce

Dwarf Blue Spruce
Justin Hancock

Loved for its beautiful silvery-blue color, dwarf blue spruce is a good choice for small-space landscapes. Many selections reach no more than eight feet tall and take a long time to reach their mature size.

Name: Picea pungens 'Montgomery'

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: Varieties can grow as tall as 10 feet

Zones: 3–8

Buy It: Blue Wonder Spruce Tree ($40, Fast Growing Trees)

04 of 18

Japanese Umbrella Pine

Japanese Umbrella Pine
Justin Hancock

A pine look-alike, this striking evergreen tree has shiny, stiff, dark green needles arranged in little tufts, called whorls, that resemble the ribs of an umbrella. The effect gives the entire tree a distinctive texture. It's an uncommon choice to add a slightly different look to the landscape, and it can be used to create bonsai.

Name: Sciadopitys verticillata

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: Varieties can grow up to 30 feet tall

Zones: 4–8

05 of 18

Contorted White Pine

Contorted Pine
Justin Hancock

One of the most eye-catching evergreen trees in the landscape, contorted white pine features twisted branches and needles. It grows relatively quickly, reaching about 12 feet over its first decade.

Name: Pinus strobus 'Contorta' or 'Torulosa'

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

Size: To 40 feet or more

Zones: 3–9

Buy It: Pinus strobus 'Torulosa' ($50, Kigi Nursery)

06 of 18

Golden Korean Fir

Golden Korean Fir
Justin Hancock

Most conifers have a golden-hued variety that's an either love-it or leave-it proposition. Golden Korean fir is a standout among these varieties. It offers decidedly greenish-yellow needles in the spring, but they slowly fade to green by winter. The tree's sunny coloring contrasts beautifully with its purplish cones.

Name: Abies koreana 'Aurea'

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 30 feet tall

Zones: 5–8

07 of 18

Bristlecone Pine

Bristlecone Pine
Justin Hancock

Known for its exceptionally long life, a bristlecone pine can live for hundreds of years in the wild. However, in cultivated landscapes, they are more likely to last less than a century. This slow-growing North American native has blue-green needles with flecks of white resin, a feature no other pine has. As the name implies, its cones are prickly.

Name: Pinus aristata

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: 30 feet or more

Zones: 3–8

08 of 18

Dwarf Alberta Spruce

Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Jon Jensen

A favorite for its dense growth, small needles, compact size, and nearly perfect cone-shape habit, dwarf Alberta spruce is widely and easily grown. It's native to areas of North America.

Name: Picea glauca var. albertiana 'Conica'

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: Varieties can grow up to 20 feet tall

Zones: 3–6

09 of 18

Mugo Pine

Mugo Pine
Justin Hancock

There are hundreds of mugo pine varieties. Most offer rich, deep-green needles that look lush all year and have a compact, mounded shape, which easily fits into landscapes of all sizes.

Name: Pinus mugo

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: Varieties can grow as tall as 10 feet

Zones: 3–7

10 of 18

Japanese White Pine

Japanese White Pine
Peter Krumhardt

A tree of exceptional beauty, Japanese white pine offers clusters of silvery blue needles at the ends of its branches and a structure that looks especially good in winter. It's widely used as a bonsai or a container plant.

Name: Pinus parviflora

Growing Conditions: Full sun and medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Varieties can grow as tall as 40 feet

Zones: 5–7

11 of 18

Blue Star Juniper

Blue Star juniper
Justin Hancock

Among the thousands of junipers, 'Blue Star' stands out for its silvery-blue color and dense, ground-hugging habit. It generally needs no pruning, but because it grows variably in the wild— from groundcover to a spreading or an upright shrub—this evergreen's height can be pruned if desired.

Name: Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star'

Growing Conditions: Full sun and medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall

Zones: 4–8

Buy It: Blue Star Juniper Dwarf Shrub ($21, The Home Depot)

12 of 18

Eastern White Pine

Eastern White Pine
Peter Krumhardt

A rapid-growing, long-lived needled evergreen tree, the Eastern white pine, offers long, soft, blue-green needles and is adaptable to a range of conditions. It's native to areas of North America and makes an excellent choice for wildlife gardens.

Name: Pinus strobus

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Varieties can grow up to 80 feet tall in cultivation and more than 100 feet tall in the wild

Zones: 3–8

13 of 18

Blue Spruce

Blue Spruce
Justin Hancock

The more grownup version of dwarf blue spruce, this tree offers gorgeous silvery-blue color from its stiff, somewhat prickly needles. A large number of varieties are available, including columnar forms that make an excellent focal point in the landscape.

Name: Picea pungens f. glauca

Growing Conditions: Full sun and medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Varieties can grow as tall as 60 feet in cultivation and 100 feet or more in the wild

Zones: 2–7

14 of 18

Fraser Fir

Frasier Fir
Peter Krumhardt

A top landscape tree, as well as a favorite Christmas tree, Fraser fir offers beautiful dark green needles and a graceful pyramidal shape. During the holidays, this tree is often available potted. Once you've opened all the gifts and removed the decorations, you can plant it. Fraser fir is native to Eastern North America.

Name: Abies fraseri

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: Varieties can grow up to 50 feet tall

Zones: 4–7

15 of 18

Hinoki Cypress

Hinoki Cypress
Bill Holt

For a dense screen, you can't go wrong with Hinoki cypress. This tree offers deep green foliage and a horizontal branching habit. Dwarf varieties of this evergreen conifer have become very popular for use in containers, small accents, and rock gardens.

Name: Chamaecyparis obtusa

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Varieties can grow as tall as 75 feet

Zones: 4–8

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Balsam Fir

Balsam Fir
Peter Krumhardt

Native to areas of northern North America, balsam fir is a top-notch choice because of its woodsy scent, dark green needles, and purplish-blue cones. Try growing your own for the holidays. Blisters on the otherwise very smooth, gray-brown bark are a distinguishing characteristic of balsam fir trees.

Name: Abies balsamea

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: Varieties can grow up to 70 feet tall

Zones: 3–6

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Canadian Hemlock

Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
Marty Baldwin

A graceful, native evergreen tree, Canadian hemlock has arching, feathery-looking flat sprays of lacy foliage. Known for having the smallest needles and cones of its genus, it's a winner, since it doesn't mind a bit of shade. However, hemlock trees have been in widespread decline in the eastern United States since the 1950s, due to an infestations of the pest, hemlock woolly adelgid. If you plant this tree, it will need to be treated to protect it from this insect.

Name: Tsuga canadensis

Growing Conditions: Part shade to full shade and medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Varieties can grow as tall as 70 feet

Zones: 3–7

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Dawn Redwood

Dawn Redwood
Annie Schlechter

Technically, dawn redwood isn't an evergreen, but it is a conifer (in that it produces cones for its seeds). It offers feathery foliage that look beautiful in spring and summer. In autumn, the needles turn russet red and then drop, exposing the tree's delightfully architectural branching habit. It's useful for casting shade and adding privacy to decks, patios, and other outdoor living areas. In the wild, it's considered endangered.

Name: Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: Varieties can grow up to 100 feet

Zones: 4–8

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