Conifers are trees and shrubs that possess needle-like or scale-like leaves that are "evergreen" and cones. Conifer means cone-bearing; while trees that bear cones are coniferous, many of these cones can be completely different from one species to another. Some cones stand atop of the branches and some hang gracefully, although some, such as yew and juniper, have modified cones that closely resemble berries instead of the traditional cone look. The terms conifer and evergreen are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Evergreens also include broadleaf evergreens such as Magnolia grandiflora, Rhododendrons, Euonymus and Boxwood. Although conifers may lose their needles periodically; most are indeed evergreen with a few exceptions, such as the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) and Larch (Larix spp.) that are deciduous. Meaning they lose their “leaves” in the fall. Conifers are known for their wonderful smell and are sometimes even used for making tea, baking or cooking with! Nothing smells better than a conifer releasing that sweet forest aroma.


Natural shapes of conifers can be categorized in a few ways:

Prostrate or creeping - often used for groundcover, this category includes mostly junipers.


Spreading – the plant is wider than it is tall, this category includes many junipers and cultivars of most other conifer varieties. Can be used as a hedge or specimen planting.


Globose or round - dwarf conifers that have a short, round, shrub like form.


Upright conical or pyramidal – this is your typical “Christmas tree” shape. Some conifers have this form when they’re young and then grow into a different form with age. Used mostly as a specimen planting can be used as a wind screen.


Upright narrow or columnar - tall and narrow growth habit that typically is used as a wind screen or as a single specimen planting.