Home & Garden Garden The 20 Best Evergreen Shrubs for a Perfect Garden These evergreen shrubs will add year-round finesse to your garden. By Olivia Young Olivia Young Twitter Writer Ohio University Olivia Young is a writer, fact checker, and green living expert passionate about tiny living, climate advocacy, and all things nature. She holds a degree in Journalism from Ohio University. Learn about our editorial process Updated November 9, 2022 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Yarygin / Getty Images Home & Garden Planting Guides Indoor Gardening Urban Farms Insects 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. 1 of 20 Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) bodo23 / Getty Images 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: 3Sun Exposure: At least four hours of direct sun per daySoil Needs: Moist, neutral-to-alkaline soil 2 of 20 Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) JennyPPhoto / Getty Images 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 9Sun Exposure: Partial to deep shadeSoil Needs: Moist, acidic soil in zones five through ninePet Safety: All parts of the mountain laurel are highly toxic to mammals 3 of 20 Boxwood (Buxus) 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 9Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shadeSoil Needs: Well-draining soil 4 of 20 Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo) 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 7Sun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Moist soil 5 of 20 False Cypress (Chamaecyparis) 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 8Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shadeSoil Needs: Moist, well-draining soil 6 of 20 Yucca (Yucca filamentosa) 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 10Sun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Dry, sandy, alkaline soil 7 of 20 Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) 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 6Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shadeSoil Needs: Acidic, sandy or rocky soil 8 of 20 Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) 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 10Sun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Well-draining, loamy soil 9 of 20 Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera) 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 9Sun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Sandy soil 10 of 20 Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) 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 11Sun Exposure: Morning sun and afternoon shadeSoil Needs: Well-draining, moist, acidic soil 11 of 20 Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata) 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 8Sun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Well-draining, sandy soil 12 of 20 Weeping Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) 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: 3Sun Exposure: Partial shadeSoil Needs: Acidic and sandy soil 13 of 20 Emerald 'n Gold Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) 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 9Sun Exposure: Partial shadeSoil Needs: Acidic soil 14 of 20 Rhododendron (Rhododendron ferrugineum) 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 8Sun Exposure: Partial sunSoil Needs: Humus-rich, acidic soilPet Safety: Rhododendron is highly toxic to livestock and pets 15 of 20 Winter Heath (Erica carnea) 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 7Sun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Sandy, acidic soil; medium moisture 16 of 20 Irish Yew (Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata') 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 8Sun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Most well-draining soils 17 of 20 Blue Holly (Ilex x meserveae) 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: 5Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shadeSoil Needs: Well-draining, acidic soil 18 of 20 Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) 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 10Sun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Loamy, sandy, acidic soils 19 of 20 Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium) 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 9Sun Exposure: Partial sunSoil: Moist, acidic soil 20 of 20 Bird's Nest Spruce (Picea abies 'Nidiformis') 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 8Sun Exposure: Full sunSoil 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 "Mountain Laurel." ASPCA. 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 Johnson, Nathan. "Invasive Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)." Ohio Environmental Council, 2018. "Rhododendron." ASPCA.