December's plant of the month fits two niche categories: it's an evergreen that thrives in shade, and it's an evergreen native to Indiana. Meet Eastern Hemlock! In addition to its value as an evergreen for shade, eastern hemlock is also beloved for its light and delicate texture, complete with adorable little pine cones less than an inch long.
This gorgeous conifer grows naturally in wooded areas throughout northeastern North America. In Indiana, you can find it happily looking over cliffs and valleys in some of our parks. I have spotted it at Turkey Run State Park and Clifty Falls State Park, and I'm sure it can be found in many other areas as well where shade, water, and quick-draining soil abound. While healthy eastern hemlocks have historically had few serious pest and disease problems, in the past few decades an invasive insect called the hemlock woolly adelgid has become more and more of a problem in the eastern U.S. So far it hasn't been a problem in Indiana, but it never hurts to keep an eye out and let an expert know if you think you've spotted it. Learn more about the pest here.
Common Name: Eastern Hemlock
Scientific Name: Tsuga canadensis
Notable Varieties: 'Gentsch White' (a globe-shaped dwarf variety up to 4' tall and wide)
Light: partial to full shade (can tolerate full sun in colder climates)
Size: 40-70' tall, 25-35' wide
Soil: consistently moist, well drained soil
Other Notes: tolerates deer and black walnut trees; eastern hemlocks are native to Indiana