12 Popular Evergreen Shrubs

Boxwood topiaries with ball shape.

fotolinchen / Getty Images

Bearing leaves or needles year-round, evergreen shrubs are the preferred bushes for privacy hedges, since they keep you from being exposed to prying eyes for all 12 months of the year. Needle-bearing evergreen shrubs such as yews, with small, tightly spaced needles, are especially useful in hedges, as 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 nice, rectangular walls. Other evergreen shrubs may be striking enough to go solo and serve as specimen plants. 

Here are 12 popular choices for evergreen landscape shrubs.


Before buying a landscape shrub, always check with your regional University Extension office or a garden center expert for advice on shrubs that may be 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 10.

    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 Growing Zones: 3–9 (depends on variety)
    • Color Varieties: Lavender, pink, rose, red, white
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, humusy, well-drained, acidic
  • 02 of 12

    'Emerald 'n' Gold' 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 2 feet) that sprawls out as much as 4 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.

    • USDA Growing 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
  • 03 of 12

    Eastern 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 is known as one that performs well in shady conditions. While many specimens are large, growing as tall as 70 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 zone 6 they may 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 may be a better choice if HWA is a severe problem in your region.

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

    'Golden Mop' FalseCypress (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 one of the false cypresses. It is a needled evergreen shrub, like a true cypress, but instead of bearing a classic sharp needle, 'Golden Mop's' needles are awl-shaped.

    'Golden Mop' is a slow-growing, mounded shrub form of the C. pisifera species that will take 10 years to reach its maximum size of 10 feet. It has stringy, whip-like branches and is most often used in foundation plantings, in rock gardens, or as a specimen shrub in small areas.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–7
    • Color Varieties: Golden-yellow needles
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, rich, 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 5 feet tall, usually kept trimmed even shorter. Although generally evergreen, these shrubs do not like harsh winter winds, which can turn the foliage bronze or cause it to fall. In addition to being a very common low hedge plant, boxwoods can make good shrubs for foundation plantings.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–9 (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 6 to 8 feet tall, but occasionally may grow to 15 feet. Its older leaves develop a darker color that gives it its name. The branch stems also are dark. The most popular blue holly cultivar is 'Blue Princess', a female clone. To produce flowers and berries, it will require a nearby male plant, such as 'Blue Prince.'

    Blue holly is a versatile shrub used in borders, screens, hedges, and for foundation plantings. In zone 5, though hardy, it may not be reliably evergreen unless planted in a sheltered location.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–8
    • Color Varieties: Foliage is dark green with a bluish cast; there are also insignificant white flowers and red berries that are visible through winter
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Prefers moist, well-drained, slightly acidic; good tolerance for nearly any soil
  • 07 of 12

    Arborvitae (Arborvitae 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 Arborvitae occidentalis species, a group of needled evergreen shrubs and trees in which the needles are arranged in flat sprays that look like 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, A. occidentalis, is sometimes called "eastern white cedar," even though it is not a cedar at all.

    A. occidentalis is a smallish to medium-sized tree, growing to a maximum of about 50 feet, though some cultivars are much shorter. 'Emerald Green', for example, achieves a height of only about 12 to 14 feet. 'Golden Globe' is a dwarf cultivar, topping out at only 3 feet. 'Pendula' is a 10-foot shrub with a weeping habit. 'Danica' is a globe-shaped arborvitae that grows only 2 feet 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 Growing 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 and produces profuse clusters of pinkish flowers in spring. It has a gnarled, multi-stemmed growth habit and elliptical, leathery leaves, similar to rhododendrons. Old plants will sometimes take on the appearance of small trees with gnarly trunks.

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


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

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–9
    • Color Varieties: Rose to white with purple
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade; tolerates full sun and full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained, slightly acidic
    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. baccata, T. cuspidata, and Taxus × media. Yews can be distinguished from other needled evergreens in the shape and feel of the needles, which are flattish and feel soft to the touch rather than prickly like most needled evergreen. 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 also very common for foundation plantings.


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

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2–10, depending on the variety
    • Color Varieties: Dark green needles; some types have red berries
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-draining, loamy; does not tolerate dense clay
  • 10 of 12

    'Carol Mackie' Daphne (Daphne × burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie')

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

    Depending on the hardiness zone in which you're growing it, 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 2 to 3 feet tall and produces pale pink flowers in late spring. The leaves are grayish-green with cream-colored margins. While 'Carol Mackie' is hardy to zone 4, it is likely to lose its leaves and possibly suffer some winter damage when grown in zone 4 or 5. In zones 6 to 8, it is more reliably evergreen.

    This shrub can be finicky, sometimes dying for no apparent cause. It is a good choice for shrub borders, screens, or as a foundation plant. The flowers are especially fragrant, so many people like to plant it close to living areas.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–9
    • Color Varieties: Medium-green foliage with creamy margins
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, 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 8 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 sometimes subject to fungal problems or root rot in very wet conditions.

    • USDA Growing 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

    'Blue Star' 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 1 to 3 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 Growing Zones: 4–8
    • Color Varieties: Silverish 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 than the 12 listed here. But a great many will be close cousins of these very popular varieties.

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. Ray, Charles David. "Toxicity of Yew Wood and Roots." PennState Extension, 2014.