Imagine a garden that stays vibrant and fresh all year long, even in the bleakest of winters. Sounds too good to be true? Evergreen shrubs make this a reality, providing year-round color, structure, and beauty to any garden.

In this blog post, we will explore the various types of evergreen shrubs suitable for different climates and garden styles, as well as answer the question, “what plants are evergreen?” We will discuss acid-loving varieties, flowering evergreens, ground cover plants, hedges, screens, and container-friendly options.

Key Takeaways

  • Evergreen shrubs provide a range of uses for gardens and can be adapted to different climates and soil types.
  • Popular acid-loving evergreens include Camellia, Pieris, Hydrangea, Magnolia, Rhododendron & Azalea.
  • Caring for your evergreen shrubs requires providing the necessary soil fertility & fertilization as well as pruning & shaping techniques.

Evergreen Shrubs: The Essentials

Evergreen shrubs provide a year-round display of glossy green leaves and, in some instances, also offer flowers. They can be used for:

  • Foundation planting
  • Lining paths
  • Framing entrances
  • Creating hedges
  • Creating private areas
  • Creating garden rooms
  • Creating windbreaks
  • Ground cover

There are dwarf and tall evergreen shrubs available in various interesting shapes, suitable for different climates and garden styles. Many of them stand out the most in winter months when their foliage shines in the low winter sun.

Planting these shrubs during spring or autumn is optimal for growth, and some may thrive in dappled shade. Nevertheless, cultivation of box evergreen shrubs could result in problems like box blight and the box tree caterpillar, which are hazards to the plants and could cause their death. To avoid these problems, good garden hygiene and incorporating organic matter into the soil can improve its structure and fertility.

Luckily, a variety of alternatives to box evergreen shrubs can acclimatize to different soil types and conditions, making them adaptable to a range of gardens and soil type.

Cold-Hardy Evergreens

Some evergreen shrubs are known for their resilience in cold temperatures and their ability to flourish in colder climates. Some of these cold-hardy evergreen shrubs even produce bright flowers, adding color and interest to the garden throughout the year. For example, the Yew shrub is a cold-hardy evergreen shrub with dense, finely textured foliage, attractive reddish bark, and colorful flowers.

Another cold-tolerant shrub is the False Cypress, characterized by its graceful limbs, attractive needles, and soft, fern-like texture. These shrubs are perfect for adding year-round greenery and texture to your garden, especially when planted in a shady spot.

Warm Climate Evergreens

Warm climate evergreens flourish in hotter climates and are resilient to heat and sun. These evergreen shrubs, typically found in warm temperate climate regions, remain evergreen throughout the year and can provide color and character to landscapes in warm climates. Some examples of warm climate evergreens include:

  • Bougainvillea
  • Lantana
  • Oleander
  • Agave
  • Yucca

These plants are well-suited for warm climates and can add beauty to any landscape.

One popular warm climate evergreen is the Azalea, a shrub that produces flowers in the early spring season. Other warm climate evergreens include the Mirror Bush, with super-shiny leaves in bright lime green or pink, and the Gardenia, characterized by its glossy, dark green foliage and creamy white fragrant blooms.

Versatile Evergreens

Versatile evergreens, shrubs that can adjust to a range of climates and garden conditions, are a popular choice among many gardeners. Some examples of versatile evergreens include the Arborvitae, Round Form, and the Arborvitae Pyramidal Form, which are particularly tolerant of cold temperatures. Camellia sinensis and Pittosporum are known to be tolerant of acidic soil.

Certain evergreens, such as Rhododendron, Mahonia, and Holly, are capable of flowering and offer a burst of color throughout the seasons.

Acid-Loving Evergreens

joseph-young-Acid-Loving Evergreens

Acid-loving evergreens, shrubs and trees, flourish in acidic soil. These plants necessitate acidic soil in order to grow and prosper. It is essential to know the soil conditions in your garden, as acid-loving evergreens require ericaceous soil, which has a pH below 7.

To determine the soil conditions in your garden, examining the plants already present in both your garden and your neighbor’s can be beneficial. A pH test is the recommended procedure for ascertaining the acidity of the soil in your garden.

Some examples of plants that grow well in acidic soil are Erica, Rhododendron, and Camellia, which are true ericaceous plants that exclusively thrive in acidic conditions.

Ericaceous Compost

Ericaceous compost is a blend of materials explicitly designed to cater to plants needing acidic conditions. Acid-loving evergreens need special compost due to their inability to absorb nutrients from soil that is not acidic. Ericaceous compost facilitates the growth of acid-loving evergreen plants by providing the acidic conditions they require.

The pH level of ericaceous compost is lower than that of regular compost, creating an environment more suitable for acid-loving plants such as Camellias, Blueberries, and Rhododendrons.

This specialized compost ensures that the plants have access to the necessary nutrients in the soil, thereby promoting healthy growth and vibrant foliage.

Popular Acid-Loving Evergreens

Some popular evergreen shrubs that prefer acidic soil conditions include:

  • Camellia
  • Pieris
  • Hydrangea
  • Magnolia
  • Rhododendron

For example, Camellias prefer acidic soil with a pH of approximately 6 to 6.5, unlike some plants that thrive in alkaline soil. The Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica) also thrives in acidic soil.

Azaleas are another popular acid-loving evergreen shrub, thriving in acidic soil with a pH range of 4.5 to 6.0.

Flowering Evergreens

Flowering evergreens, which offer appealing blossoms year-round, can enhance any garden. They can be categorized based on their blooming season. Examples of spring-blooming evergreen shrubs include Azaleas, Camellias, Daphne, Gardenia, and Holly. Summer bloomers include Ceanothus (California lilac), Hydrangea, Lavender, Buddleja (butterfly bush), Rose, Cistus, Deutzia, and Daphne.

Late bloomers, such as Hebe, Caryopteris, and Penstemon, flower in late summer, fall, or late winter, ensuring year-round color and beauty in your garden.

Spring Bloomers

Spring-blooming evergreen shrubs, such as Azaleas, produce vibrant flowers in spring, adding a burst of color and life to your garden. Optimal conditions for the cultivation of spring-blooming evergreen shrubs include planting in a damp and shaded area of the garden, with a preference for acidic soil.

Other spring bloomers include canescens, Encore Azaleas, and certain evergreen azalea varieties.

Summer Bloomers

Evergreen shrubs that bloom during the summer months provide continuous color and interest in your garden. The Mirror Bush is a warm climate evergreen shrub, characterized by its super-shiny leaves in bright lime green or pink. The Gardenia is another summer bloomer, known for its glossy, dark green foliage and creamy white fragrant blooms.

Incorporating these summer bloomers in your garden will create a lively and colorful oasis during the warmest months of the year.

Late Bloomers

Late-blooming evergreen shrubs, such as Hebe, Caryopteris, and Penstemon, flower in late summer, fall, or winter, ensuring year-round color and beauty in your garden. These shrubs provide a consistent aesthetic throughout the year and can be a valuable addition to any garden, regardless of climate.

By incorporating a variety of late bloomers in partial shade, your garden will remain vibrant and colorful even as the seasons change.

Evergreen Ground Cover Plants

Low-growing evergreen plants, utilized as ground cover, can fill in gaps and enhance your garden’s visual appeal. These plants create a lush, green carpet that not only looks beautiful but also helps suppress weeds and prevent soil erosion.

Two popular evergreen ground cover plants are Wintercreeper and Heather.


Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) is an attractive evergreen shrub with a mounding form and variegated leaves that become pinkish to red in winter. This fast-growing, versatile ground cover plant can also be used as a shrub or vine, depending on your garden’s needs.

It can form a dense ground cover and is a vigorous climber, making it a great addition to any garden in need of year-round greenery and texture.


Heather (Calluna vulgaris) is a compact, evergreen shrub that produces spikes of tiny, bell-shaped flowers in shades of:

  • white
  • pink
  • red
  • mauve

Available in a range of colors, these colourful flowers, Heather flowers, bring a touch of elegance and charm to any garden.

This hardy plant thrives in acidic soils and can be massed together to create a tapestry of evergreen foliage in various colors, making it an excellent ground cover option for gardens with acidic soil.

Evergreens for Hedges and Screens

Leucadendron on a blue sky

Evergreen shrubs, commonly chosen for constructing hedges or screens in gardens, offer privacy, structure, and consistent greenery. They can be used to create living fences, divide garden spaces, or simply add an element of interest to your landscape.

Some evergreen shrubs commonly used for hedges and screens include the Ilex Argentea Aureomarginata, a holly bush with spikey dark green and creamy gold-silver variegated leaves, and Blue Holly, a type of evergreen shrub commonly found in the Northern Hemisphere.

Holly Varieties

Holly varieties come in many shapes and sizes, making them ideal for creating hedges and screens in gardens. They are known for their dense growth, glossy deep green leaves with sharp spikes, and colorful berries. By choosing the right holly variety for your specific garden conditions, you can create a beautiful and functional hedge or screen that will provide year-round color, privacy, and a safe haven for wildlife.

Arborvitae Forms

Arborvitae, also known as Thuja, is another popular evergreen shrub used for creating hedges and screens. It comes in a variety of forms, including:

  • Globe-shaped
  • Mounded
  • Conical
  • Pyramidal
  • Rounded

These versatile evergreens are known for their dense growth and attractive foliage, making them excellent options for providing privacy and acting as a barrier when planted closely together.

Some popular arborvitae forms for hedges and screens include the Arborvitae ‘Green Giant’ and American Arborvitae (Thuja Occidentalis).

Container-Friendly Evergreens

Container-friendly evergreens are perfect for those with confined gardening space or those wishing to incorporate some greenery into their patios, balconies, or entryways. These evergreen shrubs can be grown in containers, making them perfect for small gardens or urban environments.

Some popular container-friendly evergreens include the Bay Tree, known for its aromatic leaves, and the Olive Tree, a versatile shrub well-suited for container growth.

Bay Tree

The Bay Tree (Laurus nobilis) is an evergreen shrub with dark-green foliage native to the Mediterranean region. Its aromatic leaves are often used for adding flavor to soups, stews, and curries, making it a practical addition to your container garden.

Young bay trees can be planted in spring, after the risk of frost has passed, and they prefer fertile, well-drained soil in either full sun or part shade. The Bay Tree is a slow-growing plant, making it perfect for container gardening.

Olive Tree

The Olive Tree (Olea europaea) is another evergreen shrub that can be grown in containers, providing an attractive focal point for urban and contemporary gardens. This versatile plant is best suited to climates similar to the Mediterranean climate, characterized by a long, warm summer and a cool, but not excessively cold, winter, as well as an abundance of sunlight.

With proper care and attention, the Olive Tree can thrive in a container, bringing a touch of the Mediterranean to your outdoor space.

How to Care for Evergreen Shrubs

To maintain the health and lifespan of your evergreen shrubs, it’s important to give them the suitable care and attention they need. This includes understanding their soil requirements, fertilizer needs, and pruning techniques. By catering to the specific needs of your evergreen shrubs, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful and thriving garden all year round.

Soil and Fertilization

The quality of soil and appropriate fertilization have a significant impact on the health and growth of evergreen shrubs. For example, acid-loving evergreens require ericaceous compost to thrive, as it provides the acidic conditions they need. Evergreen shrubs also require a higher amount of nitrogen in their fertilizer, as they maintain their leaves or needles throughout the year.

By ensuring that your evergreen shrubs have access to the appropriate nutrients in the soil, you’ll promote healthy growth and vibrant foliage.

Pruning and Shaping

Appropriate pruning and shaping of your evergreen shrubs are necessary to maintain their aesthetic and encourage healthy growth. Pruning should be done after flowering to maintain the desired shape and foster new growth.

Pruning techniques may vary depending on the specific type of evergreen shrub, but generally, it’s important to remove any dead, damaged, or old wood, as well as straggly growth, to improve air circulation and light penetration.

By investing time and effort in proper pruning and shaping, you’ll ensure that your evergreen shrubs remain healthy and attractive throughout the year.


In conclusion, evergreen shrubs are a versatile and valuable addition to any garden, providing year-round color, structure, and beauty. By selecting the appropriate evergreen shrub for your specific climate and garden conditions, and providing proper care and attention, you can enjoy the benefits of these hardy plants throughout the seasons.

With so many different types and varieties to choose from, there’s an evergreen shrub to suit every garden style and need.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a hardy evergreen perennial?

– A hardy evergreen perennial is a plant that retains its foliage all year round, providing attractive greenery throughout the winter months. It is distinct from herbaceous perennials in that it does not die back over the colder season.

  • What are low-maintenance evergreen shrubs suitable for the UK?

– Boxwoods, azaleas, laurels, and euonymus are ideal low-maintenance evergreen shrubs for UK gardens, providing colour and structure throughout the year.

  • Are evergreen plants all year round?

– Evergreen plants are an ideal way to provide structure, foliage and interest in your garden all year round.

  • What plants are in ericaceous soil?

– Ericaceous plants include Rhododendron, Camellia, Azalea, Pieris, Japanese maples (Acer), summer-flowering heathers (calluna) and Blueberries, which need acidic soil with a pH of 6 or below.

  • What plants do not like ericaceous?

– Ericaceous compost is not suitable for lime-loving plants such as gypsophila, delphiniums and buddleia. Therefore, it is important to test the pH level of the soil before introducing any new plants to ensure optimal growing conditions.

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