The weather is getting chillier, and the beauty of a garden in the spring and summer is becoming a distant memory. But just because winter is on its way does not mean your garden has to die; there are plenty of plants that survive winter. Here is a list of ten winter flowers and winter garden plants that will help keep your garden looking beautiful all year long.
Though the coneflower does not maintain its beautiful purple coloring in freezing temperatures, it will come back in the spring, strong as ever, if properly cared for in the offseason. Hardy to Zones 3-9, the coneflower loves sunlight. They should be planted where they can get full sun. After these flowers go dormant, trim the dead stems and stabilize with 1-2 inches of mulch for protection.
Lily of the Valley
Despite its delicate appearance, the lily of the valley is a tough plant. It can tolerate shade, making it an ideal candidate for a spot that only gets partial sun. Additionally, its poisonous nature makes the plant resistant to deer and other animals.
The blue spruce tree is a perfectly picturesque winter plant. Not only does it look beautiful covered in snow, it is hardy in Zones 2-7, making it suitable for a large portion of the United States. This tree prefers full sun and serves as a great audio, visual, and wind screen. Beware of using insecticides on this tree, as they can strip away the needle coating that gives the blue spruce its hue.
The wintergreen boxwood is another plant that looks great in a snow blanket. Its shallow roots require significant mulch covering for winter protection. Hardy to Zones 4-9, the wintergreen boxwood is very versatile and can therefore be manipulated for use as a hedge. This type of boxwood is more resistant to common boxwood pests than are other variations.
The combination of the catmint’s stunning purple coloring and its fragrant nature makes it a great, hardy alternative to lavender. Moreover, this flower is especially resilient. In addition to being resistant to deer, it tolerates partial sun, drought, and even poor soil conditions.
Coral Bells (Heuchera)
Coral Bells make great additions to shady areas, but require well-drained soil. These flowers are hardy to Zones 3-9, and should be moved to the ground in anticipation of the first frost if they are planted in a container.
This edible flower is hardy to Zone 4. Though the pansy can survive surprisingly low temperatures, it is important to employ frost-protection techniques in the winter, such as covering them with mulch or pine straw. This will also protect them from strong winds that can dehydrate the ever-thirsty pansies. Pansies can even be planted in late winter so they are ready for early-spring flowering.
Hostas are hardy to Zone 3 and like partial sun. Their short, fleshy roots should not be exposed to frost, so make sure to cover with mulch. The large surface area of the hosta plant allows for quicker dehydration, so the mulch will help to retain moisture in the soil. Otherwise, hostas do not require much winter protection.
Winterberries are an iconic winter plant, as they are commonly associated with winter decor. Planted in autumn, these plants are hardy to Zone 2, allowing for some pretty chilly weather. Winterberries like full sun and moist soil, and will add great color to your winter garden.
Like hostas, primroses have shallow roots that should be protected by mulch in the winter to retain moisture. Also a popular plant with fairy gardens, primrose is hardy in Zones 3-8 and prefers light shade.
Preparing Your Garden For Winter
- Plant bulbs that flower in the spring
- Pull up any dying plants/remove dead leaves
- Drain garden hoses and irrigation systems so water does not freeze inside
- After the first killing frost, cut back perennials
- Note: If you do this too early, you could deprive your plant of nutrients it needs to survive the winter
- Spread compost throughout your garden to provide it with a blast of nutrients to last the winter
- Tip: Compost the leaves you rake from your yard
- Label your garden so you know where not to plant come spring
- Tip: Write plant names on popsicle sticks with permanent marker and stick them into the soil
- Right before the first freeze, cover the garden with mulch to protect the plants from harsh temperatures
- Tip: Don’t do this too early. If you do, mice may take up residence in the mulch and feed on your plants. Give the mice time to find other winter homes.
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If you enjoyed this blog, check out “Creating a Winter Garden.”
- Plants that offer interest across the seasons are invaluable in gardens great and small. Designer Andy Sturgeon recommends his top 15 plants for year-round interest.
- What are the best plants for year-round interest?
- Trachelospermum jasminoides
- Amelanchier lamarckii
- Phlomis russeliana
- Acer griseum
- Betula pendula
- Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’
- Nandina domestica
- Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’
- Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone’
- Carpinus betulus
- Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’
- Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten’
- Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii
- Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’
- Rosa glauca
- What are the best plants for year-round interest?
- 13 Best Evergreen Shrubs for the Garden
- Top 10 Evergreen Shrubs
- 1. Daphne
- 2. Box
- 3. Fatsia
- 4. Lavender
- 5. Aucuba
- 6. Camellia
- 7. Euonymus
- 8. Mahonia
- 9. Photinia
- 10. Holly
Plants that offer interest across the seasons are invaluable in gardens great and small. Designer Andy Sturgeon recommends his top 15 plants for year-round interest.
There are plenty of good plants for year-round interest, but some plants have better staying power than others.
For instance, dogwoods are particularly suited to winter gardens with their coloured stems, as are flowering shrubs like chimonanthus and sarcococca, but they can be quite disappointing for the rest of the year.
No matter how exquisite a plant is at its peak, it has no room in any of my gardens unless it is a lot more than just a one-season wonder. If you look around, there are actually plenty of plants for year-round interest that offer excellent value throughout the seasons.
What are the best plants for year-round interest?
Trachelospermum jasminoides is an evergreen climber that will self-cling to its support Photo:
I find it hard to avoid Trachelospermum jasminoides when looking for plants for year-round interest. In plenty of sun, this evergreen climber can flower for what seems like all summer. The scent is sweet, but often overlooked are the autumn tints, which add a reddish-hue to some of the leaves; unusual for an evergreen. Plants can easily be trained to cover a whole fence or trellis to make a green wall of foliage, which no other evergreen climber, apart from rampant ivy, can achieve.
Amelanchier lamarckii, Wikimedia
Amelanchier lamarckii is one of the stars of spring and another favourite plant for year-round interest. Summer berries change to red and eventually darken, although it’s the birds the berries bring in that are the real bonus, followed by the yellows and oranges of autumn leaves.
Despite these attributes, I think I actually prefer it stark naked. In winter, the intertwined stems of a multi-stem tree or shrub are as good as any sculpture, and with a light shining up from beneath, grazing the grey bark of the trunks and making the canopy glow, it is simply unbeatable.
Phlomis russeliana, Wikimedia
“The colour yellow can be awkward and sometimes unloved but I can’t dispense with Phlomis russeliana. You need to be a bit careful as it will take over if you take your eye off it. The robust grey-green downy leaves make tight, weed-beating clumps, and I like to use it at the front of borders and repeat it through the planting scheme. This way it offsets daintier foliage,” says Andy. The whorls of pale-yellow flowers appear in June and keep flowering for a month or so but they come into their own when they fade to dark globes. They remain on upright stems above evergreen leaves through autumn and winter. Sitting among grasses and other seedheads, they are simply breathtaking plants for year-round interest.
The attractive peeling bark of Acer griseum Photo:
If peeling bark is your thing, the paperbark maple, Acer griseum, is the sort of tree that gets even non-gardeners salivating, so you know you are onto something good. For maximum ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’, I always put one near a path, so that the sun sets behind it and shines through the peeling coppery bark, making it irresistible. Covered in small winged fruit for much of the summer, the wine-red autumn tints arrive satisfyingly early, and although these small trees find a well-balanced shape on their own, I like to improve things by removing the odd branch here and there to let the sunlight in.
Winter gardens are rarely without Himalayans, white-barked birch trees, which are great plants for year-round interest and for a close encounter. However, seen from a distance, the winter outline and delicate branch network of our native birch, Betula pendula, outstrips all the others with its graceful, gently weeping form. I have one in my own garden that I can see from the upstairs windows. Each winter, once the yellow leaves have dropped, it’s like being reacquainted with an old friend. Planted en masse, the slender twiggy branches create a purple haze, which in winter sunlight is stunning against the green bulk of pine trees. If you get out the jetwasher, the bark scrubs up pretty well, too.
Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’
The purple moor grass, Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’, starts out as a neat clump of mid-green leaves. Then it sends out spikes of dark-purplish flowers as early as June, way before most grasses are doing anything. After this, in late summer, it turns a rusty-brown colour, then fades as it heads into winter.
The evergreen Nandina domestica will grow in sun or shade in most soils. With its slender upright stems, it brings a certain elegance to almost any planting style. The leaves emerge as a soft-salmon colour in spring. These are followed by starry white flowers. The new leaves turn green, then autumn delivers a second round of fiery tints. Leaves remain coloured throughout winter, and the berries ripen to a vivid red.
Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’
And now I must confess to a guilty pleasure. When I started out in the 1980s, Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ was all the rage because it is evergreen, tough, will grow in any soil and any aspect – and has scented late-autumn flowers and followed by dark-blue berries. But let’s face it: it’s not very subtle. Enter M. eurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis ‘Soft Caress’ to save the day. Far less brutish, with spineless, slender, graceful leaves, this compact, 1m-tall shrub starts flowering in late summer and is genuinely beautiful in leaf. I’ve started using it in gravel gardens because the leaf shape contrasts so well with its neighbours.
Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone’
For height, opt for Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone’. At up to 1.8m tall, the leaves are less imposing, and Andy often plants it with Angelica gigas and some of the taller panicums. The dark-purple stems bear amethyst flowers and compared to its yellow cousin, there are far more of them per plant, leaving something of a thicket of flowerheads, which overwinter well.
Hornbeam is a hardy and reliable hedging plant that can look good all year round Photo:
Hornbeam clipped as a hedge will retain its coppery leaves in winter, but an untrimmed tree will not. The fastigiate Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine’ has a very fine, dense branch network, so even without leaves they have quite a presence. The twiggy, dark-grey silhouettes are outstanding when they are backlit.
Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’
It is impossible to imagine lavender without bees, and Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ is a favourite. “Being relatively small and with a strong-purple flower colour, it makes a good path edging, but I also choose this particular variety for the foliage, specifically its winter leaf.”
This lavender is a wonderful silvery-grey shade. Provided your trim it lightly after flowering, it remains incredibly neat in winter. It appears a little more evergreen, and therefore tidier, than other varieties.
Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’, Wikimedia
Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten’
Brilliant as an edging plant or a carpet under small trees and shrubs, Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten’ is a truly year-round plant, which seems to lighten up dull corners. Andy finds it invaluable for plugging gaps or filling awkward areas. In spring and autumn, the foliage colours up a reddy-bronze between the green veins, which is dazzling. Some people cut off the evergreen leaves in late winter, so that the pretty yellow flowers are seen at their best before the new leaves unfurl, “but I must confess that I prefer the lazy option and leave them on,” he says.
Clerodendron trichotomum fargesii, Wikimedia
Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii
Stretching the seasons comes naturally for the harlequin glorybower. At 5-6m tall, this exotic-looking shrub could be thought of more as a small tree. The new leaves are bronze as they appear in spring, and once they are pumped up into the green leaves of summer, pink buds explode into balls of fragrant white flowers with green sepals. These give way to shiny, metallic, turquoise berries held by star-shaped, scarlet calyces, which steal the show as the leaves yellow and drop in autumn. And if the birds don’t get them, the berries last all winter.
Veronicastrum virginicum, Wikimedia
Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’
Usually grown for its tall, slender, lilac-flower spikes, Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ is a stalwart of naturalistic, prairie-type planting schemes, where it adds an essential vertical accent against flat umbels, daisies, sanguisorbas and grasses. Stunning in death, its spring and summer assets are often overlooked. Whorls of hemp-like foliage are green at first becoming tinged with red. This an eye-catching plant long before the flower buds are even thinking about opening.
Rosa glauca has attractive foliage, flowers and hips that make it a feature plant for many months Photo:
As time rolls on, I have adopted more and more roses into my palette, often picking them for scent, a lengthy flowering season, disease resistance and a glossy leaf. The one I use most has little to offer on paper, however. Rosa glauca has virtually no scent and the small but lovely flowers appear only once. The leaves, however, are extraordinary: slate-grey or bluish-purple on top, and almost crimson underneath, so that the whole plant shimmers. There is barely a mixed border where I haven’t planted at least one. The small, scarlet hips shouldn’t be forgotten either. They quickly follow the flowers and last well into winter, becoming increasingly noticeable as neighbouring plants go off the boil.
For our pick of the top plants for attracting bees, click here.
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Let’s get right into it!
13 Best Evergreen Shrubs for the Garden
- Cherry Laurel
- Mugo Pine
- Pieris Japonica
A nice choice for areas ranging from the Northeast to the southeastern United States. Leucothoe is a hardy, native, and deer-resistant evergreen shrub that requires minimal special care.
Leucothoe axillaris ‘Curly Red.’
Better yet, it’s happy to spread beyond its initial planting area and is a great choice for a section of the garden where you have a lot of square footage to cover and are working on a budget.
Leucothoe adds a handsome dash of color, and provides you with an excellent evergreen shrub. Check out your local nurseries for these guys, or try this L. fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’ from DAS Farms, available via Amazon.
Girard’s Rainbow Leucothoe – Live Plants Shipped 1 to 2 Feet Tall (No California)
I’m a fan of Leucothoe fontanesiana because of that gorgeous color the new foliage produces.
This variety also tends to spread out quite happily and responds with minimal fuss to heavy pruning; I recently had to clear out over fifty percent of a hedge of L. fontanesiana and had zero hesitation doing it.
L. axillaris is the best native option to use if you’re interested in growing an all-native garden. It is at its best in the southeastern United States, and offers handsome flowers and dependable foliage.
Growing Zones: Typically zones 5-8
2. Cherry Laurel
Also known as Prunus laurocerasus, this is a favorite evergreen shrub in the Philadelphia region. Blame its popularity on the characteristic red berries it produces, or its eagerness to grow in warm and humid regions.
Photo by Matt Suwak.
The plant is happy to stand upright, and resists most pests and problems. The only problem I’ve run into is that P. laurocerasus is happiest in a warmer environment, and can suffer in the northernmost extent of its growing ranges.
Photo by Matt Suwak.
Gardeners in the northern limits of the growing area for P. laurocerasus can expect to see some branch dieback during the winter, or wind burn in exposed areas.
P. laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’ is an evergreen shrub that I have plenty of hands-on experience with.
The lovely white flowers give way to gorgeous black berries, and the persistently dark evergreen foliage of this cultivar offers tremendous value as a background plant wherever you need a backdrop of green with seasonal white flowers.
Growing in an area with little natural sunlight? Consider P. laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis,’ the schip laurel, for an upright option.
Schip Cherry Laurel, 12-16″ Tall, available via Amazon
One of our landscape architects favors schip laurel over almost all others, so even though I’m sick of seeing this evergreen shrub everywhere, it’s impossible to ignore its incredible value to the landscape.
It grows taller than other members of this species, and that’s valuable in and of itself!
Growing Zones: Typically zones 6-9
These are a favorite of mine for about… oh… two hundred and sixty-three reasons?
They grow well in a variety of conditions and promise beautiful spring blooms. Better yet, the difference between a shaggy azalea and a well-formed one is only a matter of basic pruning.
Photo by Matt Suwak.
I find that an appreciation of the azalea’s natural tendency to be wild is best countered with fearless shaping.
I prune azaleas in the spring immediately after flowering, but will remove obnoxious or form-ruining shoots of growth as late as September.
I’ve written an entire guide on growing azaleas, complete with recommended cultivars, so check it out for more suggestions!
Choosing an evergreen variety is important for year-long performance. The evergreen azaleas tend to have thicker, leathery leaves while the deciduous varieties have a softer and more delicate leaf.
Growing Zones: Typically zones 6-9
I love yew… that is, “yew” as in Taxus baccata – sorry if I got your hopes up!
Photo by Matt Suwak.
As far as reliable and handsome evergreen shrubs go, it’s hard to beat this one. It produces little more than a soft evergreen foliage and the occasional red (and toxic) red berry, but its performance in the garden is stellar.
Some birds will eat the seeds of the yew, but the seed passes harmlessly through the digestive tract of the animal and causes no trouble.
While yew isn’t typically grown for its usefulness to wildlife, it doesn’t hurt to offer those birds something else to munch on.
I had a family of sparrows living in a yew bush at my last apartment and they made great use of the branches as shelter, and surely nibbled on whatever berries they could find.
Photo by Matt Suwak.
Yew responds very well to pruning and shearing, and can be shaped to whatever form you desire.
These tend to be pretty resistant to most ailments as well, which makes them an excellent worry-free evergreen shrub option for your yard.
Taunton Spreading Yew, available from Nature Hills Nursery
The Taunton spreading yew (T. x media ‘Tauntoni’) is a good choice for informal areas. It tends to maintain a modest height of about 4 feet, and is happiest when it gets to go a little wild.
If you allow your ‘Tauntoni’ to grow free, you’ll see its branches develop into long “shoots” that have always reminded me of a porcupine. I’ve used these in rock gardens and areas where too much formality isn’t necessary.
Hicks Yew, available from Nature Hills
For a more formal and solid hedge, check out Hicks yew (T. x media ‘Hicksii’). It reaches a height of nearly 12 feet, and responds well to heavy pruning for growth as a formal privacy hedge.
Hicks yew grows across most of North America so it is perfect for many gardens, as long as they aren’t too wet!
Growing Zones: Typically zones 4-7
Euonymus for all of us! I like these guys because of the variety in form and color you can find, and except for being a bit messy these evergreen shrubs aren’t plagued with pests and other problems.
Photo by Matt Suwak.
You can find tall and upright Euonymus, as well low and controlled ones.
Most folks are familiar with the Euonymus variety known as burning bush, but the evergreen varieties of this plant are where Euonymus is at its best.
Although the shrub seems to do best when it’s allowed to grow free and kind of wild, I’ve seen perfectly manicured Euonymus hedges before as well.
The handsome colors of this evergreen shrub are also easy to work with in the garden, and add plenty of variety and stable year-round color to your yard.
‘Manhattan’ Euonymus, available from Nature Hills Nursery
The Manhattan Euonymus (Euonymus kiautschovicus ‘Manhattan’) grows to six feet tall in zones 5-10, and is a good option for warmer climates.
With a simple green leaf that’s still lustrous and handsome, it benefits from a bit of protection from strong winter winds to avoid leaf burn.
‘Emerald Gaiety’ Euonymus, available via Nature Hills
For a shorter option, try Emerald Gaiety (E. fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’). Not only does it offer a more modest height and spread than others, its soft colors promise to highlight and never detract from the rest of your garden.
This evergreen shrub can even become a climber if provided with the right supports, like a trellis or arbor!
Growing Zones: Typically zones 5-9
6. Mugo Pine
The Mugo pine, or Pinus mugo, is a favorite of mine.
I don’t know why, exactly; it might be that it’s just a simple pine tree, and it might have something to do with its somewhat contorted growing habit, but I love this evergreen shrub.
The Mugo pine is great in rock gardens and gardens with an Asian theme, but it will thrive in just about any dry and rocky area. If there’s a headache related to mugos, it’s that they can be pretty slow growing.
But that’s alright, since it’s hard to find a good evergreen shrub that looks as unique as a mugo that stays small and contained. With a little bit of patience, you’ll have something that works as a statement piece as well as background color.
Dwarf Mugo Pine, available from Nature Hills Nursery
You’ve only really got one option with this plant: the dwarf Mugo pine (P. mugo var. pumilio). It’ll reach a height of about four feet and spreads out up to ten feet.
Hardy and self-reliant, this is the perfect option for the garden when you want to plant it and forget it.
Growing Zones: Typically zones 2-8
7. Pieris Japonica
Sometimes known simply as Pieris or japonica, this is a lovely show-off of an evergreen shrub.
Whether it’s the lustrous evergreen foliage highlighted with tinges of red and gold or the cascade of bell-shaped flowers, the Pieris has a place in your garden.
Photo by Matt Suwak.
These evergreen shrubs prefer a shady spot where they will be protected from drying winds, and like to set roots into acidic soil.
Well-draining soil is preferred, to prevent nasty fungal infections, and this species is susceptible to many of the same conditions as azaleas.
More specifically, you’ll want to keep an eye out for powdery mildew, bark scale, white flies and leaf miners, and calcium deficiencies.
Photo by Matt Suwak.
I’ve only seen Pieris used as foundation points in the garden and never as a hedge, but it could be something worth pursuing! Its colors are similar to that of Leucothoe and the two could make an interesting pairing in the garden.
‘Mountain Snow’ Pieris, available via Nature Hills
The Mountain Snow Pieris (P. japonica ‘Planow’) is my personal favorite. It maxes out at a height of about five feet and has a similar spread, but the real appeal is the bright red foliage it develops on its new growth. Really a fantastic sight to behold in your own garden!
‘Cavatine’ Pieris, available via Nature Hills Nursery
For a more restrained option, check out the Cavatine Pieris (P. japonica ‘Cavatine’).
Its height of about two feet with a similar spread requires no special pruning, and its foliage maintains a green color accented with beautiful flowers. A short row of Cavatine is jaw-dropping when in full bloom.
Growing Zones: Typically zones 5-9
This species offers a variety of evergreen options, and plants are usually quick to fill up space in the yard.
Because the list of available types of viburnum is huge, you’re just about guaranteed to find one that will be happy in your garden’s conditions.
Photo by Matt Suwak.
Just keep an eye out when you’re purchasing these at a garden center or selecting one other than those on our suggested list; some varieties of viburnum can grow to be huge and others are more deciduous in nature.
Still others can be pesky to prune, like the leatherleaf variety, because they produce an irritating sort of dust on the leaves.
This dust is easily visible when the leaves are shaken, and can make maintenance of the shrub uncomfortable.
While the dust isn’t harmful, it is irritating, so I will wear an isolation dust mask when working with them. Alternatively, spraying the foliage with a hose helps to minimize any falling dust.
Even so, these flowering evergreen shrubs are a solid choice for your yard and tend to be considerably resistant to pests and diseases.
They also take well to pruning and don’t require much more than some general maintenance, though thickly overgrown masses of viburnum may require heavier removal of old limbs.
Despite its drawbacks, I love the leatherleaf type (V. rhytidophyllum) as my evergreen viburnum of choice! It can reach a height of about ten feet and loves to spread out, sending up new leads of growth during every growing season.
Leatherleaf V. Rhytidophylloides ‘Alleghany,’ available via Amazon
It will bloom from May through June and tapers off as the summer heat intensifies.
Unassuming white flowers do not detract from the rest of the garden. Prune these immediately after flowering, because viburnum starts setting new buds in the fall!
Growing Zones: Typically zones 3-9
One of my favorite evergreen shrubs, Mahonia is a plant for people who want something tough and edgy that doesn’t skimp on visual appeal.
It looks like a short and stubby cross between a holly and a staghorn sumac, except it has some very lovely colors and fruits that add a nice accent to the dark green leaves.
It isn’t for everywhere, though, because this is one prickly customer. The leaves are rather sharp and pointed, and tend to aggravate anybody who handles them. It’s also simultaneously a slow grower and a plant that is all too happy to produce volunteer seedlings.
That said, if you’ve got room for a prickly evergreen shrub to ward off trespassers, or you simply want to add a bit of rough-and-tumble flavor to your yard, give mahonia a shot. It’s handsome and worthwhile in its own way, and might be the perfect evergreen shrub for your home!
‘Soft Caress’ Mahonia, available from Nature Hills
For a less prickly customer, consider the Soft Caress Mahonia (M. eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’). The leaves have less of an edge or point than other mahonia cultivars, and this variety is happy to grow in the shade.
It also has a short growth habit and spread, reaching about four feet tall and wide. The only hang-up is that it’s acclimated only to the narrow swath of USDA Hardiness Zones 7-9.
20 Oregon Grape Holly Fruit Vine Seeds (Hollyleaved Barberry Mahonia Aquifolium), available via Amazon
If you want the real deal, try these seeds for Oregon grape (M. aquifolium). The resulting plant will reach nearly eight feet in height and about six feet in width, producing beautiful bluish-purple seeds that wildlife like small birds and insects adore.
Directly plant the seeds in the fall in your garden and cover with about half an inch of soil, then watch for the tell-tale prickly leaves to appear!
Growing Zones: Typically zones 5-9
An evergreen shrub roundup could not be complete without that trusty garden companion, the boxwood (Buxus).
Now, I need to admit I have a certain distaste for boxwood because of how often I see it used on the properties where I garden, and you can only prune so many hundreds of them before you develop a similar distaste yourself.
But all of that aside, boxwoods are an ideal evergreen shrub because of their ease of growth, tendency to maintain a uniform growing pattern, and their eager response to pruning.
They maintain their color year-round, and are not typically not prone to many illnesses, though boxwood blight is typically fatal to these shrubs.
Use boxwood as a long hedge, or to add individual blobs of green in your landscape; I like to think of them as giant green meatballs, dotting the yard. They work well in almost any capacity, and there are enough cultivars to find exactly what you need.
‘Winter Gem’ Boxwood, available via Nature Hills Nursery
My personal favorite boxwood is the Winter Gem (B. microphylla japonica ‘Winter Gem’) because of its stronger form and more appealing foliage.
These work ridiculously well as a long hedge of green meatballs, and are a breeze to prune. They’re also stronger against winds, snowfall, and general abuse than other boxwoods I’ve worked with.
‘Green Mountain’ Boxwood, available from Nature Hills
For a more conical plant, try the Green Mountain boxwood (B. x ‘Green Mountain’). With softer foliage and a more upright growing habit, this is a good choice if you want to sprinkle a few around your yard as reliable and upright evergreen shrubs that don’t steal the show.
Growing Zones: Typically zones 4-8
Juniper (Juniperus) is an old favorite of mine. It was one of the first shrubs I worked extensively with on a tree nursery where I once worked, and I eventually came to savor the irritating feeling their needles provide to bare skin.
Cossack juniper (J. sabina).
Add to those memories its absolute ease of growing, and you’ve got yourself a worthwhile evergreen shrub!
Variety could be juniper’s middle name. You’re able to find low-growing and ground-hugging varieties next to others that grow to become 100-foot-tall trees, and a huge variety of perfectly-sized evergreen shrubs for your yard.
If you’ve got a dry and rocky area where nothing seems to grow, pop in a juniper and watch it take off. These shrubs are perfect for soil retention and as foundational hedges, though the low-growing varieties offer excellent evergreen ground cover.
Blue Rug Juniper, available via Nature Hills Nursery
My go-to favorite is Blue Rug juniper (J. horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’) as both groundcover and accent in the garden.
It’s perfect for growing over and then cascading down a wall or arrangement of stone, and its short height of about six inches is offset by its spread of up to 8 feet! You could buy a handful of blue rug junipers and cover an entire area very quickly, all with a cool blue color.
If you prefer a plain green color, try the ‘Sea Green’ juniper (J. chinensis ‘Sea Green’). It reaches up to about six feet in height and is as easy to care for as they come.
‘Sea Green’ juniper. Photo by Matt Suwak.
These will fill in areas quickly, so plant smartly! Its soft textured foliage breaks up structures like decks and other backgrounds as well, and it can also hide your foundation from view.
Growing Zones: Typically zones 2-8
I’ll add some Yucca (Yucca filamentosa) to this list because they’re gorgeous, hardy, and produce one of the coolest flowers you’ll ever see! Their status as “shrubs” might be up for debate, but in warmer regions of the country, this is a solid choice for year-round greenery.
Photo by Allison Sidhu.
Sharp and upright rosettes of thick green leaves identify this plant, but its enormous flower stalk makes this an evergreen shrub that functions as the main act! The foliage is unique among evergreen shrubs, and adds some fun variety to the texture of your garden.
They are highly resistant to… well, pretty much everything, and that’s a big plus in our book. As the plants age and weather, they produce little twisted bits of fiber, making these an option for those who don’t mind a wilder looking garden.
‘Color Guard’ Yucca, available from Nature Hills
I’m a sucker for variegated plants, so the Color Guard Yucca (Y. filamentosa ‘Color Guard’) is my first suggestion. Once established, it requires very little attention, and it can be root divided every few years. It reaches a height of one to two feet. Not bad!
‘Adam’s Needle’ Yucca, available via Nature Hills
For a more uniform color, try Adam’s Needle yucca (Y. filamentosa ‘Adam’s Needle’). It produces an almost identical flower but reaches heights of two to four feet. Stagger the two of these together, and you’ll find they nicely complement each other.
Growing Zones: Typically zones 4-10, might survive in zone 11 in protected conditions
Our last is something most of us grow as an herb, but for gardeners way down in zone 11, Tuscan Blue rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’) can serve as an excellent evergreen shrub!
‘Tuscan Blue’ Rosemary, available from Nature Hills Nursery
It is a plant that does not respond well to wet feet or cold conditions and prefers warmer, drier climates.
It can reach heights of six to ten feet, and produces beautiful and delicate blue flowers. It’s one of the few shrubs that produces something edible and makes it worthwhile as an addition to a kitchen garden.
Growing Zones: Typically zones 8-11, might survive mild winters in zone 7.
Top 10 Evergreen Shrubs
Evergreen shrubs provide permanent structure in the garden and all-year-round interest.
Some have beautiful flower displays, or are highly scented in winter when little else is growing, and some have variegated or colourful foliage – a perfect foil for summer perennials, and a feature in itself during the winter. Grow evergreen shrubs as stand-alone specimens, as part of a mixed border or as hedging.
There are plenty of evergreen shrubs to choose from so here’s some inspiration in our pick of top ten evergreen shrubs for an easy and reliable display.
Daphne plants are well loved for their small but incredibly fragrant flowers which appear in winter and early spring, when little else in the garden is growing. There are plain-leaved and variegated varieties available, such as Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, which has a rounded compact habit and attractive glossy, yellow-edged leaves. Daphne is a superb small evergreen shrub for the garden. Grow Daphne in sunny or partially-shaded mixed borders, woodland gardens and rock gardens.
Box (Buxus) is a compact and versatile evergreen shrub. Box plants are superb for clipping into small, formal hedges which can be used to edge veg or flower beds, or try creating your own elaborate box parterre! Tolerant of deep shade, its great for awkward sunless spots, or for growing beneath tall trees. Box can also be used for topiary, either in the ground or grown in patio containers. Grow in a well-drained soil in partial or full shade, but keep the soil moist if growing box in full sun.
Fatsia japonica is a versatile shrub with large, glossy hand-shaped leaves borne on stout, upright stems. This architectural shrub is surprisingly hardy, and copes well with coastal conditions and shady areas of the garden. Fatsia plants make an eye-catching feature in borders or large patio containers.
A well-loved shrub, grown for its fragrant summer flowers and scented silver-green foliage. Flowering in shades of purple, lilac or pink, this hardy shrub is versatile; from edging to hedging and borders to patio containers – every garden should have lavender! The flowers are highly attractive to bees and butterflies, and thanks to their Mediterranean origins lavender plants have good drought tolerance, coping well with light, sandy soils. Try cutting some lavender flowers for a vase indoors, or to sprinkle on top of cakes!
One of the toughest shrubs out there! Aucubas are popular evergreen shrubs valued for their tolerance of full shade, dry soils, pollution and salty coastal conditions. Plain-leaved varieties are available, but the speckled yellow cultivars are the most popular and give rise to the common name ‘Spotted Laurel’. The leaves are generally quite large, leathery and glossy in appearance making them useful for achieving a tropical look. Female plants produce bright red berries in autumn if a male pollination partner is planted nearby. Grow Aucuba as specimen plants, for hedges or in difficult heavily-shaded corners of the garden to make a fine contrast to other foliage plants and flowers.
A classic spring-flowering shrub originating from the woodlands of Asia. Camellias are popular for their glossy deep green foliage and abundance of large, showy flowers early in the year. Their flowers can be single or double and come in a range of colours from pink to red, through to yellow or white. Although naturally large shrubs, dwarf varieties are available. They are elegant shrubs, ideal for mixed planting schemes or as specimen shrubs in borders and woodland gardens with partial or dappled shade. They need an acid soil, so if your soil is neutral or alkaline, grow Camellias in large patio containers filled with a mixture of ericaceous compost and a soil-based compost such as John Innes No. 3.
Cultivars of Euonymus fortunei are versatile, low-maintenance, evergreen shrubs with a multitude of uses and a tolerance of poor soils, coastal conditions and shade. Euonymus plants can be grown as evergreen ground cover or trained to climb a wall, and tolerate north-facing walls well. They will also grow as hedges or free standing shrubs in garden borders and containers. With a variety of foliage colours, Euonymus fortunei cultivars are fantastic for adding winter colour to the garden.
Mahonia plants have an architectural form and glossy, spiny leaves, similar to holly. They are valued for their late winter and spring flowers which are bright yellow and highly fragrant. Mahonia flowers are borne on long, elegant racemes or in clusters at the tips of branches, creating a distinctive and striking display when much of the garden is still dormant. Coping well with coastal conditions, clay soils and heavy shade Mahonia makes an unbeatable, low-maintenance addition to shrub borders and woodland gardens.
Photinia is a tough, versatile shrubs, the most popular variety being Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’, whose glossy leaves are bright red when young, gradually changing to bronze-green through to deep green. Photinia grows well in sunny borders, as specimen shrubs in large patio containers, or as hedging, for which Photinia x fraseri is ideal.
A well-known evergreen shrub, with glossy, dark green leaves, which can be either spiny or smooth. Best known for its classic dark green leaves and red berries at Christmas, there are many variegated forms of Holly which make outstanding specimen plants in the garden or as part of a mixed border. Holly also makes a fantastic dense hedge, for which Ilex aquifolium is a good species to use. Spring flowers are highly attractive to bees and are followed by red or yellow berries on female plants, if a male pollination partner is planted nearby. The berries are a good winter food source for birds. Tolerant of harsh conditions, this tough shrub deserves a place in every garden.
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