12 of the Best Evergreen Shrubs

Boxwood topiaries with ball shape.

fotolinchen / Getty Images

Bearing leaves or needles year-round, evergreen shrubs are the preferred bushes for gorgeous year-round yard appeal. Needle-bearing evergreen shrubs such as yews, with small, tightly spaced needles, are especially useful in hedges because they can be trimmed to precise shapes. Broadleaf evergreen shrubs with small leaves, such as boxwood, can be used in the same way, though they cry out for a good shearing that will turn them into rectangular walls. Other evergreen shrubs are striking enough to go solo and serve as specimen plants.

Here are 12 popular choices for evergreen landscape shrubs.

Tip

Before buying a landscape shrub, always check with your local extension office or a garden center expert for advice on shrubs that are invasive or prone to serious pest or disease problems in your area.

  • 01 of 12

    Rhododendron (Rhododenron Spp.)

    Picture of a rhododendron (affectionately known as a "rhodie").
    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Azaleas and rhododendrons belong to the same genus, and the difference is sometimes hard to identify. While a few azaleas are evergreen, it is the rhododendron group that generally are the broadleaf evergreens, retaining leathery green-to-bronze foliage through the winter. In general, rhododendrons are larger shrubs than azaleas, and they have larger leaves. Azalea flowers typically have five stamens, while rhododendron flowers have ten.

    Rhododendrons are versatile plants, often used singly as specimens, in groups for woodland gardens and shrub islands, or as foundation plants. However, they have a loose, airy growth habit that doesn't work well in hedges.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–9 (depends on variety)
    • Color Varieties: Lavender, pink, rose, red, white, coral, yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained, acidic
  • 02 of 12

    Wintercreeper (Euonymus Fortunei 'Emerald 'n' Gold' )

    'Emerald 'n' Gold' wintercreeper shrub with yellow leaves with green-centered leaves on side of metal stair rail

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    'Emerald 'n' Gold' euonymus is a broadleaf evergreen shrub grown for its variegated leaves, which have green centers with golden margins. This is a low-growing shrub (to about two feet) that sprawls out as much as four feet. It can be a versatile ground cover for both sunny and shady areas. If given support, it will climb a low wall. Foliage turns pinkish-red in the fall, and it may drop off in the colder areas of its hardiness range. Be aware that Euonymus scale can be a significant insect problem.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5–8
    • Color Varieties: Flowers are insignificant; foliage is green with golden margins
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

    Warning

    Wintercreeper is technically an invasive species. It can take over yards in a hurry. To prevent its spread, keep the vines off fences and trees, which can be easily destroyed by its huge stems. It's not so aggressive as to avoid planting it, but it does require regular maintenance.

  • 03 of 12

    Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

    Eastern hemlock landscape tree with large and thick branches and small lacy and needle-like leaves

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    The Canadian hemlock, also known as the eastern hemlock, is a coniferous evergreen with small, lacy needles. The species performs well in shady conditions. While many specimens are large, growing as tall as 75 feet and serving as landscape trees, there are also compact cultivars that function as shrubs. When kept trimmed, the shrubby types form a dense living wall, making them effective privacy screens.

    Canadian hemlocks perform best in cooler climates, and south of USDA hardiness zone 6 they might struggle a bit. Before planting this species, check on the presence in your region of the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), a very small sap-sucking insect that threatens the tree in many areas. Other hemlock species might be a better choice if HWA is a severe problem in your region.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–7
    • Color Varieties: Medium-green needles
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained
  • 04 of 12

    False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Mop')

    'Golden Mop' false cypress shrub with yellow stringy and whip-like branches in sunlight closeup

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Valued for its whimsical golden foliage, 'Golden Mop' (or 'Gold Mop') is a needled evergreen shrub, also known as Sawara cypress. Instead of bearing classic sharp needles, 'Golden Mop' needles are awl-shaped.

    'Golden Mop' is a slow-growing, mounded shrub form of the C. pisifera species that will take ten years to reach its maximum size of five feet. It has stringy, arching, whip-like branches and is most often used in foundation plantings, in rock gardens, or as a specimen shrub in small areas.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
    • Color Varieties: Golden-yellow needles
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained
    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Boxwood (Buxus spp. and Hybrids)

    Boxwood shrub with small densely-packed leaves from above

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Boxwood is a broadleaf evergreen shrub with very small leaves and a dense growth habit that makes it an outstanding plant for formal hedges. It is prized for its small, densely packed leaves, making it ideal for sculpting with a pair of garden shears or electric hedge trimmers.

    These are slow-growing shrubs that rarely grow more than five feet tall, usually kept trimmed even shorter. Although generally evergreen, these shrubs do not like harsh winter winds, which can burn the foliage. In addition to being a very common low hedge plant, boxwoods can make good shrubs for foundation plantings.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5–9 (depends on variety)
    • Color Varieties: Most have light- to medium-green foliage; yellow and deep-green varieties are also available.
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Evenly moist, well-drained, loamy
  • 06 of 12

    Blue Holly (Ilex × meserveae)

    Blue holly shrub branch with bright red berries closeup

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Blue holly is broadleaf evergreen shrub that usually grows six to ten feet tall, but occasionally can grow to 15 feet. Its older leaves develop a dark color that gives it its name. The branch stems also are dark. Hollies are dioecious, meaning that they have specific genders. The most popular blue holly cultivar is 'Blue Princess', a female clone. To produce berries, 'Blue Princess' requires the 'Blue Prince' male holly to be planted nearby, within 50 feet.

    Blue holly is a versatile shrub used in borders, screens, hedges, and for foundation plantings.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-7
    • Color Varieties: Foliage is dark green with a bluish cast; insignificant white flowers in spring produce red berries if the female holly was pollinated by the appropriate male holly
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Prefers moist, well-drained, slightly acidic; good tolerance for nearly any soil
  • 07 of 12

    American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)

    Arborvitae trees trimmed in pyramidal shapes near side of sidewalk

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    In the landscape trade, the common name arborvitae is usually applied to the various cultivars of the Thuja occidentalis species, a group of needled evergreen shrubs and trees in which the needles are arranged in flat sprays that look like fans or scales —much different than most needled evergreens. Arborvitaes are very similar to cedars, though true cedars belong to a different genus, Cedrus. The true landscape arborvitae, T. occidentalis, is sometimes called eastern white cedar, even though it is not a cedar at all.

    T. occidentalis is a smallish to medium-sized tree, growing to a maximum of about 60 feet, though some cultivars are much shorter. 'Emerald Green', for example, achieves a height of only about 12 to 15 feet. 'Golden Globe' is a dwarf cultivar, topping out at only three feet. 'Pendula' is a 10-foot shrub with a weeping habit. 'Danica' is a globe-shaped arborvitae that grows only up to one foot tall.

    Depending on the size and shape of the cultivar, arborvitaes can be used for a variety of landscape purposes, from foundation plantings to hedges, privacy screens to shade trees.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2–7; varies according to variety
    • Color Varieties: Yellow-green to dark green
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained; good tolerance for poor soils
  • 08 of 12

    Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

    Mountain laurel shrub with clusters of small white flowers and pink buds closeup

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Mountain laurel is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that grows to about 15 feet tall and produces profuse clusters of pink or pinkish-white flowers in spring. It has a gnarled, multi-stemmed growth habit and elliptical, leathery leaves, similar to rhododendrons. Mature plants will sometimes have the appearance of small trees with gnarly trunks.

    Mountain laurel is usually planted in masses around foundations, for screens, or in shrub islands.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–9
    • Color Varieties: Blooms are pink to white with dark purple markings
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained, slightly acidic

    Warning

    Be aware that all parts of the mountain laurel plant are toxic.

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Yew (Taxus spp.)

    Yew shrub with small dark-green needles on short brnches

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    Taxus is a very large genus of needled evergreens, many of which are suitable for use as landscape shrubs for various uses. Cultivars commonly grown for landscape fall into species including Taxus baccata, T. canadensis, T. cuspidata, and Taxus × media. Yews can be distinguished from other needled evergreens by the shape and feel of the needles, which are flattish and feel soft to the touch rather than prickly like most needled evergreens. The foliage color is generally very dark green, sometimes bordering on black.

    The tolerance the yew has for shade and the ease with which it can be shaped into a hedge makes it a versatile plant. It is commonly used for foundation plantings.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8, depending on the variety
    • Color Varieties: Dark green needles; some have red berries
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-draining, loamy

    Warning

    Be aware that yew, while a wonderful landscape plant in most ways, is generally included in all official listings of toxic plants and nearly all components are toxic.

  • 10 of 12

    Daphne (Daphne × burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie')

    Picture of daphne with its white flowers.
    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Depending on the USDA hardiness zone, a Daphne shrub can be deciduous, semi-evergreen, or fully evergreen. One of the most popular cultivars is 'Carol Mackie', a small rounded shrub that grows only three to four feet tall and produces pale pink flowers in spring. The leaves are grayish-green with cream-colored margins. While 'Carol Mackie' is hardy to USDA zone 4, it is likely to lose its leaves and possibly suffer some winter damage when grown in USDA zones 4 or 5. In USDA zones 6 to 8, it is more reliably evergreen.

    This shrub can be finicky, sometimes dying for no apparent cause. It is a beautiful choice for shrub borders, screens, or as a foundation plant. The flowers are especially fragrant, so many people like to plant it close to walkways, entrances, and outdoor living spaces such as patios.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8
    • Color Varieties: Medium-green foliage with creamy margins
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained
  • 11 of 12

    Creeping Juniper (Juniperis horizontalis)

    Creeping juniper shrub with blue-green scaly needles

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Of the many juniper species, those known as creeping junipers are generally cultivars of the aptly named Juniperis horizontalis species. These shrubs remain under 18 inches in height, with a spread as much as 10 feet. The foliage consists of prickly, scaly needles that are blue-green in color, sometimes turning purplish in winter. Some varieties produce cones that look like dark blue berries.

    Creeping juniper is generally used as a sprawling ground cover, often in foundation plantings, in rock gardens, or on hillsides. The plants are usually trouble-free, but are sometimes subject to fungal problems or root rot in very wet conditions.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9
    • Color Varieties: Bluish-green foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained; does not like wet soil
  • 12 of 12

    Juniper (Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star')

    'Blue Star' juniper shrub with small silvery-blue needles above mulch

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    'Blue Star' juniper is another needled evergreen with silvery-blue foliage and a low growth habit, but it is more self-contained than creeping juniper. This slow-growing plant is a dwarf, forming a compact mound that reaches just one to three feet in height at maturity, with a similar spread. The foliage is the familiar silver-blue color common to junipers, prickly and scaly in texture. The seed cones are blackish berries.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8
    • Color Varieties: Silvery blue-green foliage; cones are blackish berries
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained; does not tolerate wet, dense soils

There are many, many more evergreen shrub cultivars other than the 12 listed here. But a great many will be close cousins of these very popular varieties.

FAQ
  • How far apart do you plant evergreen shrubs?

    The type of evergreen shrub you've chosen will determine how far apart they should be planted. When planting them, you should leave enough room in between for how wide they will be at maturity.

  • How often should you prune your shrubs?

    Shrubs should be trimmed up approximately every other month. If your shrubs are flowering blooming shrubs, wait to prune them after they bloom.

  • How often should you water evergreen shrubs?

    Newly planted shrubs should be watered well on a daily basis for at least one week. After that, deeply water them one to two times a week until established.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kalmia latifolia. North Carolina State University Extension.

  2. Toxicity of Yew Wood and Roots. PennState Extension.