8 Best Small Evergreen Shrubs

emerald n gold euonymus

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

When you think of small evergreen shrubs, do you picture uninteresting lumps of green dotting a landscape? There are actually many compact bushes out there that are quite colorful characters. These shrubs grow only a few feet in height and spread, but they sport bright blooms and interesting foliage that goes well beyond a basic green. Here are eight small evergreen shrubs that can liven up any garden.


"Evergreen" means the plant retains its foliage throughout the year, but it's a bit of a misnomer because that foliage is not necessarily green. For instance, some plants maintain a golden color year-round.

  • 01 of 08

    Winter Heath (Erica carnea)

    winter heath

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Many first-time growers of this small evergreen shrub quickly become impressed with its prodigious blooming period. Winter heath lives up to its name by putting out flowers in the most unlikely of seasons: wintertime. And if the climate and conditions are right, it might end up flowering for about half the year. The shrub grows to around a foot in height and spread, and it works well in rock gardens and on slopes.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Pink or purple blooms
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, loamy, acidic, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 02 of 08

    Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia 'Minuet')

    Mountain Laurel Flowers Minuet Macro
    JPLDesigns / Getty Images

    Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia 'Minuet') is a broadleaf evergreen that you might be familiar with if you've walked through New England woods in June. In fact, it is the state flower of Connecticut. The laurel bushes you find in the forest can become quite large, but the 'Minuet' cultivar—true to its name—is a dwarf, growing only around 2 to 3 feet in height and spread. Plus, this compact bush offers another advantage over its wild relatives: Its flowers are more colorful. Lightly prune the plant after it is finished blooming to keep it looking full and bushy.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White with a purplish-red band
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, humusy, acidic, moist, well-draining
  • 03 of 08

    Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star')

    Juniperus squamata is a species of juniper native to the Himalayas
    Tetiana Kolubai / Getty Images

    Blue star juniper (Juniperus Squamata 'Blue Star') is strictly a foliage plant. If you like the look of blue spruce trees but lack the room for something so big, consider scaling down and growing blue star juniper. This plant grows to roughly 1 to 3 feet tall with a 1- to 4-foot spread. With its short blue-green needles, blue star juniper looks especially nice planted next to shrubs with golden foliage. The plants also can be massed to form a ground cover.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Blue-green foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 04 of 08

    'Emerald 'n' Gold' (Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald 'n' Gold')

    emerald n gold euonymus

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Euonymus is a genus that includes evergreen shrubs exhibiting some sort of variegation in their leaves. The 'Emerald 'n' Gold' cultivar explains the look of its bicolored leaves with its name. Its foliage is emerald at the center and gold at the margin. 'Emerald 'n' Gold' grows only to around 2 feet tall with a 2- to 4-foot spread. This plant is tolerant of many growing conditions and has the potential to become invasive. Keep it pruned to prevent it from spreading into lawns and climbing trees.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Green and gold foliage, greenish-white flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    'Emerald Gaiety' (Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety')

    Euonymus Emerald Gaiety

    Gratysanna / Getty Images

    Another bicolored euonymus, 'Emerald Gaiety' offers a different color combination from 'Emerald 'n' Gold'. Its leaves are green and white instead of green and gold. The white in the leaves gives this small evergreen shrub an overall bright appearance, which might account for its cheerful name. It grows roughly 3 to 5 feet in height and spread. And despite its classification as a shrub, the plant also can be trained to grow as a vine. Provide support, such as a trellis or mailbox post, and the branches will wind their way up.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Green and white foliage, greenish-white flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 06 of 08

    'Moonshadow' (Euonymus fortunei 'Moonshadow')

    Moonshadow euonymus

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    The 'Moonshadow' euonymus also has a green-and-gold pattern of variegation. But its colors are the opposite of 'Emerald 'n' Gold' with green at the margins and gold at the centers. On some of the leaves, you might see the gold color replaced by an off-white, which happens as the growing season wears on. 'Moonshadow' grows densely to about 3 feet tall with a similar spread, and it only requires a little pruning to keep the bush compact.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Green and gold foliage, greenish-white flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 07 of 08

    Dwarf English Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa')

    boxwood hedge

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Dwarf English boxwood (Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa') is not as colorful as some other small evergreen shrubs, but its classic green foliage is attractive in its own right. The plant grows slowly to roughly 2 to 3 feet tall with a slightly wider spread. It works well as a border or even in a container, and it makes a good foreground or background for other plants. Pruning to keep things neat and uniform will be your primary maintenance task when growing several of these shrubs as a hedge. The plant also likes a layer of mulch to keep the soil moist and protect it from heat.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Medium green foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Evenly moist, well-draining
  • 08 of 08

    Adam's Needle (Yucca filamentosa)

    Adam's needle

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    When several plants are massed together, yuccas can form an impressive display during their blooming period. Adam's Needle (Yucca filamentosa) grows only a few feet tall, though it shoots up a flower stalk in late spring that reaches around 6 feet. The plant is useful for a dry area of the garden where other plants might not grow. Moreover, the varieties with golden foliage, such as 'Garland’s Gold' and 'Golden Sword', are a good choice if you want something other than green.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Green foliage, white flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Light, dry to medium moisture, well-draining