Evergreen flowering plants represent the best of both worlds. Many gardeners seek plants with pretty flowers, just as many seek specimens with evergreen leaves. Both are important: Great floral displays give your yard eye-popping color in spring and summer, while evergreen foliage offers a year-round constancy that saves your landscape from the feast-or-famine syndrome.
Sure, you can grow different plants to satisfy these dual needs. But, in small yards, you would eventually run out of space doing it that way. It would be much better to have these needs satisfied with one and the same plant wherever possible.
Evergreen shrubs of the broadleaf variety multitask nicely to fill this need for evergreen flowering plants. But it is nice to have other options, too, especially when a problem area in the yard demands a ground cover, or when there is a vacant spot in a flower bed that could really use a perennial that has both beautiful flowers and evergreen leaves.
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Rhododendron flowers can come in many colors, including:
Their evergreen leaves are valued almost as highly as the blooms and can be quite large. Those on 'Cynthia,' a cultivar of the Catawba rhododendron shrub, are 6 inches long. Cynthia (zones 5 to 8) grows 8 to 15 feet tall and wide and has rose-pink flowers. Grow it in full sun to partial shade.
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The Rhododendron genus includes not only its namesake shrubs but also azaleas. Only some of the latter are evergreen. A magnificent example of an evergreen azalea is the Stewartstonian.
What's so great about Rhododendron x Gable 'Stewartstonian' is that it offers beauty during three seasons of the year:
The plant becomes 4 to 5 feet tall, with a similar spread. Grow it in zones 5 to 8.
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Evergreen foliage can provide fabulous visual interest even when it is no longer attached to its plant. Crafts enthusiasts appreciate the time-honored practice of harvesting evergreen boughs (whether broadleaf or needled) to make wreaths, kissing balls, swags, Christmas garlands, and other outdoor Christmas decorations. The broadleaf evergreen leaves of Kalmia latifolia (zones 4 to 9) are especially valued for use in garlands.
The flowers are equally magnificent. They appear in large clusters in late spring. The unusually-shaped buds are of a darker color than the opened flowers (which are often white or light pink) and draw just as much interest.
Mountain laurel shrub (5 to 12 feet tall x 5 to 6 feet wide) does well in full sun to part shade.
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Pieris japonica is a shrub that blooms in early spring. Its new foliage is orange-bronze. Cultivars have been developed that have new leaves that are a bright red; they typically have "fire," "red," or the like in their names, including:
- 'Red Mill'
- 'Mountain Fire'
- 'Red Head'
Even during the winter, Pieris japonica offers:
- Red flower buds, before they open to become hanging clusters of white blossoms
- Evergreen leaves
Grow it in partial shade in zones 5 to 7. It becomes 6 to 8 feet in height, with a similar spread.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Erica carnea and its hybrid, Erica x darleyensis 'Mediterranean Pink' (hardy to zone 6, full sun, 1-foot tall x 2 feet wide), are small evergreen shrubs that offer pink "flowers" for months on end. The trick here is that those flowers are really made up of long-lasting sepals rather than short-lived petals. But when you are treated to their beauty in the winter, during a time when nothing else is in bloom, you won't mind being "tricked" at all.
"Heath" is not only a genus (Erica) but also a family. Erica, Rhododendron, Kalmia, and Pieris all belong to this great family of evergreen flowering plants. But compared to the other three, the leaves of Erica are quite needle-like. The heath family loves acidic soil.
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Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie' (3 feet tall x 4 feet wide) is technically only semi-evergreen at the northern extreme of its range (zones 4 to 8), but it more than makes up for it by being variegated. The flowers are very fragrant, white to light-pink, tubular, and grow in clusters. Grow this bush in partial sun to partial shade.
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Loropetalum chinense 'Pipa's Red' (5 feet tall x 6 feet wide) is a good choice for an evergreen flowering plant where winters aren't terribly harsh, as it's listed for zones 7 to 9 (partial to full sun). Its flowers are hot-pink, but it's best known for its burgundy-tinged, evergreen leaves and arching branches.
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Vinca minor is a blue-flowering vine. But it is most valued as a ground cover for shade, where its broadleaf, evergreen leaves will always look nice. Before planting it, do check, though, to see if it's invasive locally. Creeping myrtle (zones 4 to 8) becomes 3 to 6 inches tall, with a spread of 18 inches.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Like creeping myrtle, Phlox subulata is an evergreen flowering ground cover. But whereas the former creeper can be grown in shade, the latter needs full sun. This zone-3-to-9 plant bears tiny, needle-like leaves. But this ground-hugger (6 inches tall x 2 feet wide) is grown more for its outstanding floral color and number of blooms, which is why it's more popular than the related-but-plainer Phlox stolonifera. Flowers can be pink, red, rose, white, blue, purple, lavender, or bicolored.
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Technically a subshrub, most gardeners treat Iberis sempervirens 'Purity' (10 inches tall x 12 inches wide) as a perennial. Flowers are white, with tinges of lavender. Prune it to keep new evergreen leaves coming, as these look better than the older leaves. Grow candytuft in zones 4 to 8 in full to partial sun.
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Helleborus orientalis (18 to 24 inches tall and wide) is a perennial with shiny, leathery, evergreen leaves. Like winter heath, what we think of as its flowers are really sepals (and they last for months). Flowers come in a variety of colors, including purple, pink, yellow, green, blue, lavender, and red.