The 20 Best Evergreen Shrubs for a Perfect Garden

These evergreen shrubs will add year-round finesse to your garden.

A row of rounded boxwood shrubs

Yarygin / Getty Images

Shrubs are woody, perennial plants that grow low to the ground. Sometimes they produce berries or colorful flowers, and often you will see them trimmed into tidy lawn ornaments or growing in hedges.

Shrubs are useful in creating a privacy barrier between you and your neighbors. They provide shade and wildlife habitat. They improve both soil and air quality. And all with such little maintenance: Shrubs require only a bit of trimming every couple of years, if at all.

Whether you're looking for something needly or broadleaved, low-growing or tall, here are 20 popular evergreen shrubs to plant for a well-rounded garden.

Some of the plants on this list are toxic to pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database.

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Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)

Row of arborvitae against a red wall

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These evergreen cypresses are fast-growing, hardy, and versatile. You can choose between the narrow pyramidal version, which can grow up to 30 feet tall, or the dwarfed, orb-like version, which grows only one or two feet tall. Both bear bright, soft foliage.

While they're described as low-maintenance, they quickly brown in drought and dry out in windy or salty conditions.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zone: 3
  • Sun Exposure: At least four hours of direct sun per day
  • Soil Needs: Moist, neutral-to-alkaline soil
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Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Texas Mountain Laurel with purple flowers

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With its leathery, deep-green foliage and seasonal clusters of bell-like blooms, this broadleaved shrub is one of the most ornamental. Its pink or white flowers appear in May or June, but even during winter, its pigmented leaves remain open and full of life. People love this shrub not just for its beauty, but also for its lack of reliance on light.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to deep shade
  • Soil Needs: Moist, acidic soil in zones five through nine
  • Pet Safety: All parts of the mountain laurel are highly toxic to mammals
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Boxwood (Buxus)

Ornamental rows of manicured boxwood shrubs

Dennis Gross / EyeEm / Getty Images

Boxwoods are the quintessential garden shrub—the kind you'll often see manicured into geometric or creative silhouettes in formal settings. Yet, they can blend into casual environments just the same.

Often grown as hedges, these shrubs are easy to care for and can adapt to poor soils and mild droughts. Gardeners looking for instant gratification should steer clear, however, as these shrubs are notorious slow growers.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining soil
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Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo)

Close-up of mugo pine with tiny cones

Massimo Ravera / Getty Images

This backyard pine—made especially attractive by its tiny cones—varies in size, height, texture, and color. While dwarf mugo pines grow only about three feet tall and wide, the full-sized version can reach 20 feet.

They provide low-maintenance ground cover and a means of erosion control. Mugo pines are highly adaptive to a range of soil types and climates, but they thrive in cool temperatures and high elevations.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 7
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist soil
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False Cypress (Chamaecyparis)

False cypress trees in flower pots at garden center

Ralf Liebhold / Getty Images

The false cypress is soft, compact, and conical, with flat sprays of foliage. In the breeze, the silvery undersides of its fernlike branches create a graceful shimmer effect. While they can grow to a colossal 70 feet in the wild, the ones you find at nurseries grow only about 20 feet.

Perfect for hedges or rockeries, these shrubs are low-maintenance and cold-tolerant.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-draining soil
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Yucca (Yucca filamentosa)

Yucca Filamentosa with white flowers in bloom

zilber42 / Getty Images

These perennials like hot, dry environments. They have spiky, swordlike leaves and produce large panicles of white flowers. Hailing from the desert, yuccas can tolerate extreme drought, as they store water in their trunks and bulbous bases.

There are between 40 and 50 species of yucca that can grow between two and 30 feet, depending on the variety. They are one of the few shrubs that do well in coastal environments.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 10
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Dry, sandy, alkaline soil
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Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Bearberry branch with red fruits

Christina Vartanova / Getty Images

Only consider this low-growing, berry-studded subshrub if you live in a cold temperate, boreal, or arctic climate, as the bearberry is exceedingly winter-hardy and doesn't take well to heat. Its leathery, teardrop-shaped leaves are covered in silky hairs that protect it in frigid temperatures. The little red fruit is its most distinctive feature, but beware: As its name suggests, it will attract bears.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 6
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade
  • Soil Needs: Acidic, sandy or rocky soil
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Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)

Rosemary plants covering the ground

skaman306 / Getty Images

More than just a savory stew addition, rosemary also makes for a decorative garden shrub with its distinctive needles and seasonal blue, pink, purple, or white flowers. Both its leaves and aromatic flowers are edible.

Rosemary may bloom in summer or fall, depending on the selection. Because it hails from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, rosemary craves warmth and humidity.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 10
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining, loamy soil
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Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera)

Wax myrtle with red and yellow fruits

Yusuke Ide / Getty Images

The Native Americans used wax myrtle to help with diarrhea, indigestion, headaches, and skin issues. The waxy berries after which it's named now decorate many a residential garden in the plant's native Florida.

Naturally, the plant has developed quite the salt tolerance. Like the boxwood, it has dense foliage ideal for creating a privacy barrier. Unlike boxwood, wax myrtle grows rapidly.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Sandy soil
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Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

Gardenia shrub with white flowers

Noppharat05081977 / Getty Images

Beloved for their fragrant white flowers and contrasting deep-green foliage, gardenias are deliciously summery, hailing from the tropics of Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Australia.

Beautiful as they are, though, they're not the easiest to grow. They require good air circulation, the right balance of sun and shade, proper fertilization, and constant attention. They should be planted "proud"—i.e., higher than ground level—to help with draining. Gardenias should not be planted near other plants that could compete with their roots.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11
  • Sun Exposure: Morning sun and afternoon shade
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining, moist, acidic soil
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Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata)

Blue Star Juniper covering a patch of ground

Tetiana Kolubai / Getty Images

This sparkling silver-blue juniper grows into a dense and low-lying compact mound. Its distinctive hue helps to break up walls of green in the garden. It gets its name from this color and the way its long and slender needles jut out from its stems like stars.

Though it may be slow to grow, this actually keeps the plant incredibly low maintenance. A slow metabolism, for example, helps the plant withstand droughts and extreme temperatures.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining, sandy soil
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Weeping Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

Weeping Canadian hemlock in a rocky garden

pcturner71 / Getty Images

Hemlocks can grow to be 100-plus feet tall and live for more than half a century. But some varieties, like the dwarfed Sargentii and Pendula, are small and "weeping." They grow to be much wider than they are tall, sometimes spanning 10 feet horizontally. The Hemlock's Canadian origins mean this droopy shrub prefers a moist and cool environment.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zone: 3
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
  • Soil Needs: Acidic and sandy soil
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Emerald 'n Gold Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)

Emerald 'n gold wintercreeper next to sidewalk

hecos255 / Getty Images

Native to East Asian countries, wintercreeper is a fast-growing shrub often used as ground cover. It should be carefully placed, however, as it's a highly aggressive plant that is considered invasive in some places. Its vines can climb and even kill tall trees.

The "emerald 'n gold" variety is a delightful mix of bright green leaves bordered with yellow. It turns a deep blush color in the fall.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
  • Soil Needs: Acidic soil
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Rhododendron (Rhododendron ferrugineum)

Pink rhododendron lining a sidewalk in the park

Heritage Images / Contributor / Getty Images

Rhododendrons, meaning "red trees," are woody shrubs with spirally arranged, paddle-shaped leaves and clusters of bell-shaped flowers, often a shade of pink. Unlike most flowering shrubs, this one doesn't mind shade. The widely adored azalea is part of the rhododendron family, but unlike the classic rhododendron, azaleas are deciduous, losing their leaves in the fall.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
  • Sun Exposure: Partial sun
  • Soil Needs: Humus-rich, acidic soil
  • Pet Safety: Rhododendron is highly toxic to livestock and pets
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Winter Heath (Erica carnea)

Winter heath with pink flowers

ClaraNila / Getty Images

Hailing from the European Alps, this low-growing alpine subshrub produces flowers in late winter to early spring. Its magenta blooms are urn-shaped, long-lived, and dense, sprouting from nearly every needle-covered branch.

The winter heath is a great pick for adding color to the garden during an otherwise dreary season. It thrives in cold climates but does not do well in long hot spells.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Sandy, acidic soil; medium moisture
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Irish Yew (Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata')

Tall Irish yews lining a driveway

Stephen Barnes / Getty Images

One of the most popular conifers, the dense and columnar Irish yew is often trimmed and displayed in manicured hedges. It's a favorite among birds and insects that eat its fleshy red fruits and find shelter within its tightly packed, deep-green needles. The Irish yew is thought to have descended from the common yew, one of the longest-lived native species in Europe.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 and 8
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Most well-draining soils
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Blue Holly (Ilex x meserveae)

Close-up of a blue holly branch with berries

Ed Reschke / Getty Images

Named for its shiny, bluish foliage, this dense shrub is a hybrid that was developed specially to be cold-hardy. It can survive in temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 Celsius). Like other hollies, it produces glossy, crimson berries in the fall. 

Blue holly—aka Meserve holly—is quick to grow and can reach 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zone: 5
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining, acidic soil
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Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)

Creeping juniper taking over a rock garden

Galina Chetvertina / Getty Images

This sprawling, shrubby juniper is commonly used as ground cover in cold parts of North America. Growing only about a foot or so high, it spreads out—sometimes up to 10 feet wide—into a dense and feathery carpet. This makes it ideal for preventing soil erosion on banks.

Pruning it is not recommended, as it causes the plant to spread at an increased rate.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 10
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Loamy, sandy, acidic soils
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Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium)

Mahonia growing next to a sidewalk

vladimirvasil / Getty Images

The beauty of owning a mahonia is watching its bright-yellow, fragrant flowers burst open in late winter, before most other plants bloom. Its showy, bee-attracting blossoms give way to clusters of blue berries. This, combined with its abundance across the Pacific Northwest, is why the mahonia has been dubbed the "Oregon grape."

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
  • Sun Exposure: Partial sun
  • Soil: Moist, acidic soil
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Bird's Nest Spruce (Picea abies 'Nidiformis')

Bird's nest spruce surrounded by mulch

F. D. Richards / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

This dwarf conifer's outward-curving branches create a mound that dips in the middle, resembling a bird's nest. The shrub, a cultivar of the Norway spruce, is compact, low-growing, and covered in thin, gray-green needles. It's easy to care for and makes a perfect small garden accent that you can be sure won't outgrow its spot.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Rocky, sandy, or claylike soil in zones 3 to 8
Frequently Asked Questions
  • When should you plant shrubs in your garden?

    You should plant shrubs in the fall, no less than six weeks before winter's first freeze. In most growing zones throughout the U.S., this means September through October.

  • Can you grow shrubs in containers?

    Container gardening certainly opens up opportunities for folks in zones that are too hot or too cold to grow their preferred shrubs. Some shrubs tolerate containers more than others. Slow-growing evergreen varieties like boxwoods, yews, and yucca do well in containers.

  • What's the difference between a shrub and a bush?

    Bushes may be classed as shrubs, but not all shrubs are bushes. Shrubs can grow almost as tall as trees and are several-stemmed, whereas bushes always stay low to (almost touching) the ground.

View Article Sources
  1. "Mountain Laurel." ASPCA.

  2. Silva, Bruno, et al. "Recent Breakthroughs in the Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Morella and Myrica Species." International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 16, no. 8, 2015, pp. 17160-17180., doi:10.3390/ijms160817160

  3. Johnson, Nathan. "Invasive Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)." Ohio Environmental Council, 2018.

  4. "Rhododendron." ASPCA.