10 Best Evergreen Shrubs
Evergreen shrubs can add year-round beauty to your yard and garden. Which type will you plant this spring?
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
Tatiana Stepanishcheva/Getty Images
One of the best shrub arborvitaes is ‘Mr. Bowling Ball‘, Thuja occidentalis ‘Bobozam.’ This dwarf shrub only grows two to three feet tall and wide with feathery evergreen foliage that covers all the way to the ground.
As its name implies, it grows into a rounded shape without pruning. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 8, it prefers full sun to partial shade and well-drained soils.
If you’re looking for a larger shrub arborvitae, up to four to five feet, try ‘Little Giant.‘
Iva Vagnerova/Getty Images
When considering evergreen shrubs, many people immediately think of yews because they were popular for many decades. Yews are generally hardy in USDA Zones 4 through 7. One popular variety, Taxus x media ‘Densiformis,’ reaches full size at four feet tall and four to six feet wide. To keep it smaller, prune it annually after its flush of spring growth.
Yews are popular because they tolerate conditions ranging from full sun to shade, and they aren’t picky about the soil type.
Marcia Straub/Getty Images
There are dozens of juniper shrubs to choose from. Although they often have bluish-green evergreen foliage, sometimes it’s tipped in yellow. One is Gold Lace juniper, Juniperus x chinensis ‘Gold Lace,‘ which will grow up to five feet tall and six feet wide.
Junipers are hardy in Zones 4 through 9 and prefer full sun with well-drained soil.
Keep this juniper and others like it slightly smaller by trimming back larger branches in early spring. Junipers look best after type of pruning, which helps keep their loose shape.
Boxwood features small green leaves that stay through the winter. Varieties include Buxus microphylla japonica ‘Winter Gem.’ This particular boxwood is known for winter hardiness in Zones 5 through 9.
Many people first see boxwood as tightly trimmed hedges or fancy topiary shapes and wonder who has the time for that kind of pruning. If you let this evergreen boxwood shrub grow without pruning, it will grow up to four feet tall. Or shear it back in spring to maintain a more formal look.
Masahiro Makino/Getty Images
A distinctly Southern shrub, camellia comes in many varieties, with rose-like blooms ranging from white to pink to red. They’re larger than many other evergreens, six feet and taller. Generally hardy in Zones 7 through 10, they grow best in partial shade with well-drained soils. Flowers appear from fall to early spring, depending on the variety.
To give your camellia its best chance, keep it watered the first year until it becomes established. For a smaller camellia, prune it in early spring after it finishes blooming.
DEA / RANDOM/Getty Images
Bird’s Nest Spruce
Bird’s nest spruce, Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’ doesn’t require pruning to keep its size and shape, about three feet tall with a spread of four to five feet. Hardy in Zones 3 through 7, this shrub is almost “plant it and forget it.”
Plant in full sun and well-drained soil, then water until it becomes established. It grows slowly, so plan on it taking quite a while to reach its mature size.
Many false cypress shrubs, like Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Cream Ball,’ are naturally dwarf and don’t require pruning to keep their size and shape. ‘Cream Ball’ only grows one to two feet tall and wide. Its evergreen foliage is tipped in cream, helping it stand out in the garden.
False cypress generally grow in Zones 4 through 8, prefering full sun and well-drained soil. They all have soft, feathery evergreen foliage. Gardeners sometimes confuse them with junipers. They look similar, but false cypress has softer looking foliage.
undefined undefined/Getty Images
While many holly plants grow almost as tall as a small tree, several dwarf varieties like compact Japanese holly, Ilex crenata ‘Compacta’, stay much smaller. This particular holly is hardy in Zones 6 to 9, prefering slightly acidic, well-drained soil.
Japanese holly also grows in full sun to partial shade. To keep it smaller than its mature height (four to five feet), prune it back in late winter, then lightly prune it to maintain its shape. Some people plant Japanese holly instead of boxwood.
Santiago Urquijo/Getty Images
Gardenia grows well in Zones 7 through 10. There are many varieties available, including Gardenia jasminoides ‘Frostproof‘ which grows up to five feet tall and three to four feet wide.
Gardenia prefers full sun and slightly acidic, well-draining soil. Some gardeners mound up soil and plant their gardenias on top of the mound to ensure they aren’t left in standing water. Plant gardenia where you can enjoy the fragrance, one of its best features.
Massimo Ravera/Getty Images
Mugo pines can become much bigger than many people realize. But a dwarf variety, Pinus mugo var. pumilio, hardy Zones 2 through 8, is a good choice. It will take many years to reach its mature size, three to five feet tall and wide.
It grows in full sun to partial shade. Mugo pine also tolerates urban conditions, where air pollution can be tough on some plants.
To keep it more compact, pinch off new growth on the tips of the branches in the spring.