When it comes to landscaping, choosing the type of plants you want can be difficult. Sure, you can ornament your garden with violas or marigolds, but those are annuals, and you’ll have to do it all again next year. You can go for lavenders or daylilies, but because they’re perennials, they go through a dormant phase and your yard may end up looking like a post-apocalyptic death zone in their off-season. Enter evergreen shrubs. These plants are convenient because they retain their foliage all year round and give you exuberant greenery, even when their blooms aren’t in season. From flowering shrubs such as azaleas to dense hedges such as the boxwood, check out the 21 types of evergreen shrubs that’ll keep your yard looking lively all year long.
Reminding us that nothing worthwhile comes easy, is this temperamental flowering shrub that tends to be a whole lot of work for gardeners. A native of the tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia and Pacific islands, gardenias need to be planted in acidic soil, under tropical conditions (but with limited direct sunlight) and with zero intentions to be transplanted. Once you get a hang of their care demands, gardenias grow an enchanting white flower that’s beloved not only for its beauty but for its intoxicating fragrance as well.
2. Mirror Bush
This hardy, low-maintenance plant is known to grow even in the saltiest coastal environments. Also called the looking glass plant, this shrub gets its name from its glossy, jewel-like. You’ve probably seen a variety of these mirror bushes around as they come in a wide-range of flowers—creamy white, lime green, bright pink, purple, gold or soft yellow.
You can never go wrong with a plant that offers tons of diversity, and junipers are just that. Not only are they evergreen, low maintenance and hardy, but they make excellent ground cover plants as well as towering trees. While they’re mostly hassle-free, it’s best to plant them in a spot where your pups and cats won’t reach because they can be mildly toxic to pets.
Even if you don’t know it by name, you’ve definitely encountered a yew plant—especially during the holidays, as they are often used in Christmas decorations. Yew plants are conifers, which means they produce cones and red berries instead of flowers, so they complement the winter holidays well. When the cones and berries aren’t in bloom, yews offer evergreen needles for foliage. Plant this towering shrub with extreme caution as yew berries, bark and needles contain taxine alkaloids which is poisonous to people, cats and dogs if ingested.
Popular for their ability to ornament your garden with white, pink or read flowers in the dead of winter (depending on the variety), camellias also have rich green foliage when they’re not in bloom. And they’re quite easy-peasy to take care of—simply plant them in a partially sunny area with well-drained, rich soil. As the plant grows, the foliage blooms to provide shade for the roots so they can take a little more sun.
6. Japanese Holly
Known for their small green leaves, black berries and bushy appearance, Japanese hollies make great hedge plants. These shrubs grow anywhere between six to 10 feet tall, depending on the variety, so you can potentially make a mini-forest in your backyard if space allows. If you’re going to add them to your repertoire of plants, prepare for tons of watering and some serious pruning. Japanese holly doesn’t do well in dry soil, so it’s best to irrigate the plant regularly and add mulch to hold the moisture. You also want to ensure that you’re trimming any dead wood to make room for more luscious foliage.
7. Blue Holly
Named for of their blue-green leaves, blue hollies are another top favorite for holiday decorating. They grow tiny, inconspicuous flowers in the wintertime and sometimes in the spring if they feel up to it. The female plants—called blue princess holly—bear bright red berries in the wintertime when pollinated by their male counterpart, the blue prince holly.
Though it sounds like a plant straight out of a Stephen King novel, it won’t creep into your window and annihilate your entire family, we promise. It’s not, however, too friendly with other plants. The climbing variety of wintercreepers has been known to climb other plants and ultimately kill them by smothering them and inhibiting photosynthesis. The low-growing variety, on the other hand, can grow with upright leaves that make an attractive, ground hugging mat.
The best thing about azaleas is not just that they’re also low-maintenance, but that they come in a wide-range of colors. From white, purple, pink, red, orange and yellow plant one of each and you’ll have a home-made special bouquet for any special occasion. Plant these shrubs in well-drained soil and add mulch to retain moisture and prevent root rot. Keep in mind that full sunlight will obliterate their precious foliage, so opt for a lightly shaded spot when planting.
10. Red Tip Photinia
If you find yourself feeling all lovey dovey in the presence of this remarkable shrub, it may be because they’re in the rose family. While their striking red flowers steal the show when they bloom each spring, their rich, dark green leaves are the subject of wonder all year long. Red tip photinia are fast growing and have been known to grow anywhere between one to three feet every year. Still, they’re quite adaptable and can be groomed into short, robust trees.
You know those pristinely trimmed hedges you see at fancy gardens? Yup, those are most likely boxwoods. If you want to bring some of that majesty to your backyard, hang tight, because they can be a bit needy at first. You must plant your boxwoods in an area most suitable for them, not just where you think they look the prettiest. Take into consideration that they don’t like too much direct sunlight and choose an area that gets some partial shade in the summer. Until they’re about 2-years-old, they’ll also need frequent, deep irrigation that gets down to their roots.
12. False Cypress
Another conifer, the false cypress will bring vibrance and texture to any garden. Not only is their foliage green, but it can also be gold, yellow, lime, blue-gray, silvery-blue among other whimsical colors. These hefty shrubs love full sun and can be found in tall and wide varieties fit for making hedges, or low-growing varieties you can plant in rocky pathways.
13. Mountain Laurel
Also known as the kalmia latifolia, the mountain laurel is a slightly finicky plant that grows best in partial shade. Place it in a full shade and it’ll wilt to death. Under full sun, the foliage may be seared to bits. So, be delicate in your placement. When their white, pink or red flowers die off in the colder months, the leathery deep green foliage holds down the fort, providing some color in an otherwise bland garden.
Kin to azaleas, rhododendrons come in all shapes and sizes. Some varieties, such as the rhododendron minus grow to be about five to six feet tall. Others, such as the rhododendron maximus can be nature’s very own skyscrapers, reaching a staggering 20 feet or taller. They’ll need to be watered twice a week when they’re young, once mature, you’ll only need to give them H2O during dry periods (typically every two to three weeks without rain).
15. Round Form Arborvitae
Like pom poms for your garden, the round form arborvitae is the perfect plant to add some eccentricity that’ll have visitors cooing. These small, globe-like shrubs are renowned for being able to maintain their rich foliage, no matter how rough the elements may get. Round form arborvitaes make great foundation plants, so feel free to grow them on the side of your house, on either side of your front porch or along your driveway.
16. Japanese Pieris
If you’re looking for a flowering shrub that wows all year long, look no further than the Japanese Pieris, which you probably know by its more colloquial name—lily of the valley shrub. This showy plant is beloved by gardeners for its ever-changing colors. When it initially comes to life, the Japanese Pieris exhibits bronze foliage; in late summer, early fall colorful flower buds start to appear (either white or pink) and reach their full glory in the fall/winter months.
17. Dwarf Hinoki Cypress
Easily identifiable because of its pyramid-like shape, the dwarf hinoki cypress boasts bright green foliage all year long. This slow-growing, compact plant is quite chill after the first season—where it needs plenty of water to grow and establish its roots. You can pair it with any gold or yellow perennial for a more dynamic garden.
If you’re new to gardening and just don’t know anything about soil types, or you’re worried you’ll forget to water your plant, then try your luck with an oleander. The only thing these hardy plants can’t withstand is an extra-cold winter dipping below six degrees Celsius. Other than that, they can flourish under a lot of turbulent conditions including difficult soil, reflected heat and salt spray.
19. Mugo Pine
Fancy having that fresh pine smell in your vicinity all year long, but without the hassle of planting a ginormous pine tree in your teeny backyard? Then opt for the mugo pine instead. Where their cousins grow to be a whopping 150 feet tall on average, these stout shrubs are slowing growing, adding about 12 inches per year and capping at around five feet on average.
Plant these thick shrubs in a row and you’re sure to keep your nosy neighbors away. And while they don’t require much attention once established, some pruning here and there is required to keep them looking right. They’re quite popular among deer so make sure you provide protection. It’s also wise to plant them away from roads that are salted in the winter as they are not halite-friendly.
They don’t call it marvel mahonia for nothing. This flashy plant will give you gorgeous yellow blooms in the winter, blue/gray-ish summer berries (some are even edible!), and fine-looking foliage year-round. Just provide them with well-drained soil and they’ll bask in full sun, partial shade and even full shade. Just watch your sweaters and cute summer dresses around those prickly leaves.
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