Different Types of Evergreen Shrubs

Shrubs come in three varieties, they are:

  • Flowering shrubs
  • Evergreen broad leafed shrubs
  • Evergreen needle leafed shrubs

Most flowering shrubs are deciduous in the sense that they lose their leaves during fall. Some shrubs have a beautiful discoloration before the leaves fall off.

Certain evergreen shrubs are flowering ones too ex Camellia. They usually bloom by spring time and jettison their flowers by fall. They retain their leaves through the fall though. Some of these shrubs have pretty berries growing on them too.

In this article we will introduce you to several popular evergreen shrubs employed in landscaping. We have discussed several hybrids available for each variety of evergreen shrub, detailing their unique features. If you are planning on planting evergreen shrubs, or deciding upon buying new ones for your garden, this article will surely help.

What are evergreen shrubs?

Basically these are plants that retain their leaves all year around. The leaves are usually green in color but there are certain evergreen shrubs that give off foliage of other colors like red, purple, orange, yellow and silver. A popular feature in all evergreen shrubs (in some case hybrids) is that they maintain a fixed small or medium heighs and have a clustered branch growth. Most evergreen shrub hybrids grow upto 3-5 feet tall and are ideal for midsize gardens.

Evergreen shrubs serve different purposes in the garden as given below

  1. For boundaries and fencing
  2. For ground covers
  3. For ornamental purposes as a stand alone
  4. For their flowers and berries
  5. For lining the house foundations

Evergreen shrubs can be classified on the basis of several criteria. The major criteria being the shape of the leaves.

The different types of evergreen shrubs

Evergreen shrubs can be grouped on the basis of their leaf structure. Some evergreen shrubs have needle shaped pointed leaves while others have broad leaves. So the two types of evergreen shrubs you will encounter area

  1. Needle leaf evergreen shrubs
  2. Broadleaf evergreen shrubs

Needle leaf evergreen shrubs retain their leaves for two years before shedding their old leaves, broadleaf evergreen shrubs discard their old leaves by winter and start the re-growth by spring. Some needle leaf and broadleaf shrubs change their leaf color come winter.

There are more detailed classifications based on whether the evergreen shrubs give off flowers or if they are non-flowering. Most needle leaved shrubs tend to be non-flowering. So based on their flowering nature you have

  1. Flowering evergreens shrubs
  2. Non-flowering evergreen shrubs

Not all evergreen shrubs have green colored leaves. So based on the color of their leaves you can have

  1. Green leaved evergreen shrubs
  2. Colored evergreen shrubs

We will take up popular broadleaf evergreen shrubs first and follow it up with needle leaf evergreen shrubs.

Broadleaf Evergreen shrubs

You can choose from several varieties of broadleaf evergreens and each variety is further available as different hybrids and cultivars. We have listed here a few popular varieties of broadleaf evergreen shrubs with their popular hybrids and cultivars. Depending upon your taste and site requirements you can plan on planting one or several of them in your garden. The various popular broadleaf evergreens are given below with a short description and a sample picture.

1. Common Boxwood

Common Boxwood Shrub
Common Boxwood Shrub. Photo Credit.

This evergreen plant is very popular in Europe and grows well in several parts of United States. It is an excellent choice for hedging and it also grows well as an accent plant. The various hybrids available in the market today for this variety are as given below

Elegantissima Boxwood – The cream white foliage of this hybrid makes it an excellent choice for ornamental planting as well as for hedging. It is a slow growing variety and responds well to pruning. It has good hardiness and withstands temperatures below zero.

Graham Blandy – This variety is columnar in form and it grows upright. So if you are looking for a vertical accent plant then this evergreen would be a good choice. It has the capacity to reach upto 9 feet tall.

Tide Hill – A dwarf variety that grows upto 1 feet in height and spreads across 4 feet in a span of a few years. A great choice for hedging and foundation planting.

2. Korean Boxwood

Korean Boxwood
Korean Boxwood. Photo Credit.

This broadleaf evergreen has dense foliage and branch clusters. The leaves resemble those of rosemary, with a thick green plume. The color of the leaves turns to bronze towards winter. The hybrid available in Korean boxwood is as below

Justin Brower – Has pointed green leaves and is a dwarf hybrid of Korean boxwood. It can grow up to a maximum of 3 feet. It is slow growing and is an ideal candidate for building small hedges.

3. Hybrid Boxwood

Hybrid Boxwood - Green Velvet
Hybrid Boxwood – Green Velvet. Photo Credit.

Hybrid Boxwood gives you some interesting features and leaf colors, these hybrid maintain their thick foliage through the winter without changing colors. A few poplar hybrids you can consider are.

Golden Dream – A very attractive hybrid of boxwood that has golden bordered leaves. Very eye-catching. They grow in small rounded mounds and are an excellent pick for small hedges.

Green Mountain – Grows in an upright direction and gives a pyramidal look. Takes on a full height of 5 feet, is winter hardy and maintains thick green foliage throughout its life time.

Green Velvet – Has excellent, well textured leaves. Forms small mounds and makes for beautiful foundation planting. Maintains its dark green foliage throughout the winters and grows up to 4 feet in height.

4. Japanese Holly

Japanese Holly Shrub
Japanese Holly Shrub. Photo Credit.

A very popular landscape evergreen that has well rounded glossy green leaves. Grows well in regions which are influenced by full sun. It also thrives easily in partial shade. Excellent choice for a backdrop boundary to colorful flower plants. A few hybrids available in this variety are as below

– Grows in a dense fashion and forms small mounds. Has tiny leaves which are dark glossy green in plumage.

Golden Gem – Has golden yellow leaves and grows as a low spreading mound. Grows well in warmer regions compared to colder ones.

Dwarf Pagoda – It develops a clustered and congested growth with tiny green leaves. Looks excellent when employed for small hedges.

Jersey Pinnacle – Grows in a compact fashion and has dark green leaves through out the year. Thrives well in hard winters and is an excellent choice for foundation planting.

5. Inkberry Holly

Inkberry Holly Shrub
Inkberry Holly Shrub. Photo Credit.

It is a slow growing broadleaf evergreen that reaches close to 30 feet in height when it reaches full maturity. You can have berries growing on the female variety of this holly when the male counterpart is planted close by. The berries are dark red in color and look very enticing (though they are poisonous for humans). The various hybrids available are

Jersey Knight – Grows in a pyramidal and upright fashion and has glossy dark green leaves. It is a male holly and thus does not bear berries.

Longstalk Holly – This is a female holly which grows up to 15 feet in height when it reaches full maturity. Has dark green foliage and has bright red berries when placed nearby a male holly.

Variegata – An attractive hybrid that gives off green leaves streaked irregularly with cream white splashes. It looks very unique and can be used a single specimen or grow in clusters.

6. Meserve Hybrid Holly

Meserve holly
Meserve Hybrid Holly Photo Credit.

This hybrid variety of holly stays pest free, has foliage tinted with a bluish hue, has thick stem and responds well to pruning. You can easily prune this evergreen into any desired shape or size. The female and male varieties of this holly are as below

Blue Maid – This is the female variety of meserve hybrid. It gives off bright red berries and has bluish hued leaves.

Blue Prince – The male variety. Grows in a broad fashion and has a dense structure. The stem is sturdy and the leaves are leathery in texture. The leaves are dark green in color.

Blue Princess – Has a dark green foliage with a bluish tint. It’s a female variety and is very popular in most landscapes.

Other hybrids you can check up on are “dragon lady”, “Honey Jo” and “Honey Maid”.

7. Mountain Laurel

Mountain laurel
Flowering Mountain Laurel Photo Credit.

A beautiful specimen of flowering broadleaf evergreen. The flowers are typically pale pink in color and are very attractive. It display fine-looking lustrous green foliage and grows well in regions of full sun as well as partial shade. Acidic soil is preferable and they grow better in moist conditions. The various bred varieties of mountain laurel are as below.

Bay State – Has a dense dark green foliage and gives off flowers that are red and pink in color. The flowers start blooming at an young age. An excellent choice in any landscape.

Madeline – Gives off very attractive flowers. The first hybrid of mountain laurel to have double layered flowers. It gives off pink buds which develop into full blossoms with white corollas.

Nathan Hale – Attractive dense dark green foliage with red buds and white flowers. This hybrid is disease resistant and makes for an excellent backdrop with its beautiful flowers.

Other hybrids you can check up are “Peppermint” (bluish flowers), “Sarah” (bright red flowers), “Snow drift” (beautiful full white flowers) and “Keepsake” (striking red flowers)

8. Japanese Pieris

Petite Japanese Pieris
Petite Japanese Pieris. Photo Credit.

A beautiful broadleaf evergreen that gives off bell shaped flowers in snow-white and dark-red hues. Has an attractive dark green foliage and grows well in regions with acidic soil. These evergreens prefer well drained soil and regions of partial shade. The hybrids available in this variety are as below

Brouwer’s Beauty – Has a dark green foliage with a backdrop of drooping white flowers.

Dorothy Wycoff – Attractive flowers that are pink colored with white streaks. Has a dense and lustrous foliage which is dark green in color.

Little Heath – Has a very unique looking foliage with its cream white border. It is slow growing and looks very attractive as a single plant or when grown in clusters.

Other hybrids you can consider are “Valley Valentine” (maroon flowers), “Pygmaea” (Urn shaped white flowers)

9. Rosebay Rhododendron

Beautiful Rosebay Flowers
Beautiful Rosebay Flowers. Photo Credit.

Rhododendrons are highly popular because of their attractive flowers. Ranging form light pink to lavender in hue, the flowers look beautiful especially in contrast with the large and broad leaves on these plants. The leaves can be as wide s 12 inches and stay eye-catching through out the year. The various hybrids you can look for in this variety are as below

Chionoides – This hybrid grow in a very dense fashion and it expands broadly. The leaves are dark green in color and are narrow in shape. The flowers grow in good numbers and are white in color with a yellow center. A excellent choice for any landscape.

Dora Amateis – This is a compact and low growing hybrid. They look good when grown in groups or as a part of a small hedge. It gives off small-sized white flowers with a unique fragrance. The flowers grow in trusses. The bushy nature of its growth makes it very eye catching.

Lorna – This is belongs to the family of azaleas with purple-pink funnel shaped flowers with a backdrop of light green foliage. The growth is compact and framework forms a mound. It’s a good selection for small hedges.

Roseum Pink – This evergreen grows in broad mounds and is dense with foliage. It looks very attractive because of the large trusses of pink blossoms that are contrasted by the dark green leaves.

Other hybrids you can consider are “Olga Mezitt” (trusses of pink flowers), “Jenny Tabol” (light yellow flowers), Nova Zembla (red flowers)

Needle leaf Evergreen Shrubs

Here again you have wide range of shrubs to choose from. Most needleleaf shrubs give off cones and pines instead of flowers. Most needle leaf varieties have a tendency to grow into trees, but there are several hybrids available allowing for dwarf growth. A few popular varieties of needle leaf evergreen shrubs that can be considered for landscaping are discussed below.

1. Balsam Fir

Handsome Balsam Fir
Handsome Balsam Fir. Photo Credit.

This evergreen is actually a tree which can grow up to 45 feet in height. It has thick green, shiny needle leaves and its stays bright green through out the year. It grows well in slightly cooler regions (cooler than zone 6) on well drained soil. It can be easily transplanted. A few hybrids that can be consider for small sized gardens are given below

Nana – This is a dwarf hybrid variety of balsam fir. It tends to grow into a flat topped shrubs and looks excellent as a part of fencing. It is also a popular choice in rock gardens.

Tyler’s Blue – It has a blue foliage and tends to grow vigorously. It is a large growing form of balsam fir.

Piccolo – Another dwarf hybrid that grows in a compact fashion with deep green needle leaves. It has a congested branching structure that grows densely. Piccolos grow into a dome shaped form.

2. Korean Fir

Compact Korean Fir
Compact Korean Fir. Photo Credit.

This evergreen is a perfect choice for any type of garden. It has a small stature and smooth textured foliage. It gives off purple cones that look very attractive. It’s a slow growing variety and can reach a maximum height of 20 feet. A few hybrids of this variety are as below

Prostrate Beauty – Grows in a compact fashion and tends to spread linearly. It is a very popular fir for landscaping due to its mound forming growth.

Aurea – Has golden topped needle leaves and gives off dark purple cones that contrast beautifully with the leaves. They grow in an upright fashion and the leaves retain their plumage through out the year.

3. Japanese Plum Yew

Exotic Japanese Plum Yew
Exotic Japanese Plum Yew. Photo Credit.

A very attractive yew that stays popular in many landscapes due to its unique framework (its almost looks muscular) and dark green plumage. The female plants give off a grape sized fruit. They are slow growing and prefer partial shade though they are quite adaptable to full sun. A few hybrids, of this variety, you can consider are as below.

Fastigiata – These hybrids grow with a upright vertical accent. They are medium sized and have a columnar structure.

Duke Garden – It is a low spreading shrub and grows into a mound like structure. It can grow up to 3 feet in height and is a very popular landscape evergreen.

Korean Gold – The leaves are yellow in color and this gives it a very unique appearance. This hybrid tends to grow upright and has a columnar framework.

4. Hinoki Cypress

Attractive Hinoki Cypress
Attractive Hinoki Cypress. Photo Credit.

A very beautiful shrub with thick green foliage and reddish bark. They make excellent additions to a rock garden or as a specimen plant. They prefer a full sun and they grow well in moist soil. Some of the hybrids tend to do well in partial shade also. A few hybrids of this variety are given below.

Blue Feathers – The leaves are soft and blue in tint. It grows into a pyramidal framework with an upright accent. It is a dwarf variety of Hinoki cypress and is well recommended for small hedges.

Baldwin’s Variegated – A unique hybrid with cream white tinted green leaves. The variegated leaves give this shrub an eye-catching appearance. They tend to grow into an oval structure and their growth is upright.

Tsatsumi – A beautiful variety of hinoki cypress with a congested branch work. It has dark green foliage and tends to grow to a maximum height of 5 feet in around 10 years.

There are several cultivars to choose from as far as hinoki cypress is concerned, a few others you can consider besides the ones mentioned above are – “Crippsii”, “Filicoides”, “Nana”, “Saffron Spray”, “Lemon Thread” and “Wells Special”.

5. Common Juniper

Common Juniper Shrub
Common Juniper Shrub. Photo Credit.

A very popular conifer that can be seen growing in most landscapes across North America. There are several hybrids developed for this variety. These evergreens are very tolerant of conditions and are easy to grow. They prefer well drained soil and grow beautifully in full sun. A few hybrids you can consider are as below

Gold Cone – Beautiful golden needles with an upright growth. This plant can steal the show all on its own. Tends to grow up to 10 feet tall when it reaches full maturity.

Miniature – A dwarf variety which develops into a squat compact plant. It looks like a chubby kid. If you are looking for a dwarf juniper then this evergreen should be your ideal choice.

Berkshire – The foliage is silver blue in color. It is a slow growing evergreen and has a compact framework. Ideal choice for rock gardens.

6. Serbian Spruce

Serbian Spruce Shrub
Serbian Spruce Shrub. Photo Credit.

This is just one variety of several spruces available. Most spruces tend to grow vigorously and develop into large forms. If you are looking at mid-sized shrubs, you should consider buying the dwarf hybrid variety of these spruces. Beyond Serbian spruces, the other spruces you should check out are “Norway Spruce”, “White Spruce” (Conica is the dwarf hybrid of this spruce), “Colorado Spruce” and “Oriental Spruce”. Below we have listed a few popular hybrids of Serbian Spruce.

Nana – A dwarf hybrid of Serbian Spruce. It grows compactly as a conical structure. The leaves are of silver and green plumage (They are bi-colored). They grow up to a maximum height of 3 feet so they are ideal for mid sized gardens. Highly recommended for foundation planting.

Pendula – The braches form a weeping structure and are curved. Their unique framework is very eye-catching.

Aurea – This hybrid of Serbian Spruce has blue-green foliage with a yellow tint. The color of the foliage is very unique and is quite a show stealer. It grows into a conical framework and presents a golden aura in the twilight.

7. Russian Arborvitae

Low Growing Russian Arborvitae
Low Growing Russian Arborvitae. Photo Credit.

A very unique needle leaf evergreen with its low-growing framework and rich green, smooth textured foliage. These plants grow well in full sun as well as in partial shade. Ideally they look very attractive as companion plants.

They can also be considered for foundation planting.

Typically it grows to a small height of 12 inches. The leaves take on a purple hue in winter that adds to its attraction. You should also consider checking out the “Oriental Arborvitae”, it is an excellent choice if your garden has poor soil or acidic soil.

8. Japanese Red Pine

Beautiful Japanese Red Pine
Beautiful Japanese Red Pine. Photo Credit.

Has twisted and curved braches that gives it an oriental air. The bark is orange-red with dark green needle leaves. Grows well in sunny locations and prefers well drained soil. This evergreen has a medium size growth and looks extremely picturesque. Ideal for a rock garden. Some hybrids available in Japanese red pine are as below

Pendula – It has a small weeping structure. The branches are twisted and it grows in a cascading fashion. It makes for an excellent ground cover with its bright green foliage and orange bark.

Golden Ghost – It has an upright growth with a unique leaf hue. The leaves are dark green with yellow bands, this makes for a very attractive sight. It is known to be one of the best and most popular conifers around.

Low Glow – An attractive alternative to mugo pine. It gives off white buds and has a dark green foliage. Ideal for the purpose of a ground cover as it has a low growing form.

9. Mugo Pine

Ever Popular Mugo Pine
Ever Popular Mugo Pine. Photo Credit.

The most used and planted evergreen has to be the mugo pine. The good news is that there are several hybrids to choose from. A very versatile evergreen, it has the tendency to grow in different types of soils and conditions. A good amount of sunshine and a well drained soil would ensure excellent growth. It is fast growing and depending on your garden size you should look for either a compact hybrid or a medium sized hybrid. A few popular hybrids of mugo pine are mentioned below.

Mini Mini – As the name suggests, this is a dwarf hybrid of mugo pine. It has a bun shaped framework and very petite looking tiny needles. The maximum height this dwarf would ever reach is 8 inches. It looks beautiful when placed as a part of a small hedge.

Yellow Point – This is again a semi-dwarf variety of mugo pine. It tends to reach a height of around 4 feet. It grows in a beautiful rounded fashion and has the tendency of reaching up to 4 feet wide.

A Few Gardening Ideas For Evergreen Shrubs

You can plant shrubs purely for their aesthetic appeal or you can allow them to perform a role in your landscape.

A few ideas that can be implemented while planting shrubs is as below

1. Making a hedge out of shrubs

Setting up shrubs close to one another, so that they form a compact fencing, is a good idea. Not only do they look great but they cluster together allowing you privacy.

The shrubs you can use for fencing and hedging are

  • Mountain Laurel
  • Holly
  • Yew
  • Chokeberry

2. A means to hide your house foundation

You can plant evergreen shrubs on all the edges of your house to hide the stone foundations from outside view.

An added advantage of such a planting is the warmth generated by the plants that are close to your house, this prevents over chilling during winters.

A few shrubs you can employ for this purpose are

  • Hydrangea
  • Daphne
  • Spruce
  • Yew
  • Azalea
  • Holly

3. Use it along the boundary

Covering your house boundaries with shrubs ensures privacy and it works as a good wind breaker.

It also works as an “outside noise” filter and you get a calmer environment to live in. You can set up your patio or deck by the sides of your shrubs and enjoy the evenings.

Some shrubs you can employ for this purpose include

  • Holly
  • Azalea
  • Rhododendrons
  • Roses
  • Privet

Evergreen shrubs should be considered an essential part of any garden, they provide beauty with function. Apart from the occasional pruning, all types of evergreen shrubs generally require very low-maintanence. You are only restricted by imagination on how you can decorate and liven up your garden with clusters of evergreen shrubs.

When should you plant your shrubs?

The most variety of shrubs are available during spring time.

Spring is usually the right to be planting your shrubs. Early or mid spring should be just fine. Just ensure you give atleast 6-10 weeks for the shrubs to develop their roots before they face the scorching summers.

It is also possible to plant shrubs by early fall or too end of summer. The shrubs will usually go into dormancy during the fall, but they will be able to develop their roots if you give them a few weeks before fall starts.

Summer planting is to be avoided. Shrubs don’t do well with a lot of heat around.

A few ideas for how to plant your shrubs around your garden are as below

  • Planting along the boundary of your house or hedge planting
  • Place them as a backdrop to your flower plants
  • Along the entry way, patio or deck
  • Place one as a solo attraction in the center of the lawn
  • Have a mixed border or fencing with several types of shrubs

Shrubs are heavy duty plants and require very less care, they add beauty not only through their foliage but also the berries and flowers which grow on them. Consider working with shrubs as living borders and fences to give a beautiful look to your garden.

How to trim and prune shrubs for better growth?

Shrubs need to be trimmed and pruned primarily to restrict their growth.

The right time to trim shrubs would be when during the mid fall or early spring. Though mid fall would work out better in most cases.

Remember that most shrubs are spring bloomers, pruning them by early spring can disrupt their flowering. If you want them to give a great show during spring, then lay off on too much pruning.

Trim your shrubs as judiciously as possible so that you don’t disturb its flowering cycle. If you trim off their flowering branches you will need to wait a good period before the new shoots start flowering. Most shrubs flower on their one year old branches.

Several gardeners prune their shrubs only they are done with the initial spring bloom towards mid summer.

So the two timings which are right for pruning are

  • Just after the bloom is over, during early summer or mid summer
  • During fall

When you trim shrubs follow these steps

While pruning your shrubs annually or during the periodic trim, you should keep the following pointers in mind.

  • Use clean and sharp tools. There is nothing worse than using blunt tools on your plants. Rusted tools should be avoided completely. If you have a hedge shrub which have thick woody branches, you should consider using an electric hedge trimmer.
  • Groom your shrubs by cutting off all the old and dead branches. Don’t mind cutting the growth from the tip.
  • You can cut off a few old stems also. But be judicious while doing this.
  • Allow for a year before pruning the stems shorter, to adjust the height you require from the shrubs.

A well trimmed shrub looks elegant and flowers better. Shrubs have a way of growing out of their space within a few months and can cramp their neighbors. If you are using shrubs for your fencing or hedging you would need to be more regular with trimming your shrubs.

Make sure you use sharp tools though and keep your cutting tools clean. Rusted tools can cause infection in plants and blunt tools can crush the branches badly when you trim the shrubs. Happy gardening.