Is there a Hemlock Whisperer out there?

Hello all, for those of us who LOVE hemlocks, but struggle with them, is there anyone out there having great success and willing to impart wisdom to those of us who are lacking??
I sure would appreciate some help here…


On the same boat as you are.

I purchased a Sargent’s Weeping Hemlock from Kubota Gardens (Seattle, WA) about 3 years ago and had just repotted it 2 weeks ago in a wooden grow box.
Did major root work (did not bareroot). So far, it is still alive and the buds have pushed out growth already. Did not use 100% pumice. Instead, I used 50% pumice, 25% soil “sifted” orchid mix (sifted through 1/4 inch sifter, 25% Miracle grow potting soil. I added granular humic acid, about 1 cup per 2 gallon.

I still have 3 field grown Mountain hemlocks (in 5 gallon nursery containers) that need repotting. Buds are popping but had not fully opened yet. I am contemplating on repotting them or not this week.

Any advise from the community?

Thank you!

Funny… I had completely forgotten my deceased weeping Hemlock. Was glorious! Slowly lost limbs over several years. Gave it up one spring…
Just DONT barefoot a hemlock…

I’m no expert, but has someone who has been collecting them for a few years with mixed results, here’s a few things I’ve noticed. It’s mostly about collecting, but hopefully it’s useful.

  • They need a lot of drainage. Like, A LOT! They seem very susceptible to root rot.
  • I will only ever put collected hemlocks in boxes from now on. Boxes I build have given me by far the best survival rate. I think because they provide good drainage, good heat/cold buffering, and the organic nature is more conducive to good microbiomes. At least that’s my theory.
  • Leave them in partial sun until you’re certain they’re really strong.
  • After collecting, they will lose lower branches and older needles. Don’t panic.
  • They do not tolerate free-loading branches. Any branch that is partially shaded gets dropped. You see this in nature too.
  • Similar to the previous point, I often lose branches when I wire one but not the others. This could be because of my bad wiring, but when I wire most of the branches I’m less likely to lose any. My theory is the constriction signals to the tree this branch isn’t worth it.
  • But I’ve totally had hemlocks that seem totally fine after collecting and then the following spring (one year later) they drop a few week branches and just die really quick. The only thing that has allowed me to save any trees is immediately using Randy’s saw dust technique (see the Randy Knight stream). How do I tell the difference between shedding weak branches vs. the death spiral? If after losing the weak branches I start losing newer needles on branches that aren’t weak, shaded out, or appear damaged, etc., then I throw them in sawdust and pray.

I’ve only been collecting them for a few years and it’s mostly been smaller test material (nothing really old and valuable) until I can get my technique down, but I’m still figuring things out.


Hemlocks more than most other conifers really seem to be a mountain species. In Portland we have native hemlocks 40ish miles away on Mt. Hood. They grow great up there. But when we cultivate them in the landscape in Portland they rarely get old. I believe that they are very intolerant of pollution, ph variance and wet feet. They are also highly intolerant of root damage. Lots of things change when cultivating in little pots but these are some observations from your friendly neighborhood anarchist… I mean, your friendly neighborhood aborist…
Well, both, I guess

1 Like

what advice are you looking for? For what species?

Well I have mountain hemlock, western hemlock, iron springs hemlock, hebe hemlock, and a named species of Canadian mountain hemlock that i can’t remember, and one other that I don’t recall the name of. The 2 iron springs are dying. I’ve had some mountain hemlock do ok, and some die. The Hebe is putting on new growth at the moment… the other two are new this year. They seem to suffer after potting them in bonsai mixture, 2 or 3parts akadama, 1 pumice, 1 lava. I’m looking for soil mixture recipe, anything else that may be relevant. I am keeping them on the shaded side of the house, I’m trying to water them with rainwater most of the time, my water is high pH, and high kh, low gh. There are other people that have posted struggles too. So I thought I’d ask for help for all of us. We all hate watching our trees die :frowning_face:

I have a western hemlock that finally started pushing buds. I was starting to get worried there.

post some pictures to help us along!

My experience comes from mountain hemlock and western hemlock, yamadori.

I havent had the chance to put them in a 3:1:1 mix yet or even a 1:1:1. They are all in pure pumice and doing much better since I have them in morning sun and afternoon shade.

I figure repotting efficacy for hemlock comes down to a cool approach to the roots. Make sure you use sharp instruments and cut off all damaged roots, as I figure they dont heal roots as well as other genus.

An aeration layer is pretty important for for repotting and a full moss dressing on top goes a long way.

I definitely make sure major work is 12 months apart. With hands off years in between. I feel that hemlock get stressed easily and remember it with a vengeance. It takes a good year for them to let go of their rage and calm the frack down.

I know nothing about water chemistry and its effects on hemlock. I just use tap water and strictly organic fish emulsion fert in low doses.
Hope this helps