Red leaf bushes and shrubs

Colorful shrubs for season-long beauty in the garden

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Find our full disclosure here.

There’s no doubt about it, flowers are lovely. But for true season-long interest in the garden, the best shrubs don’t just produce pretty flowers. They also have foliage that offers a burst of color and texture for months on end. Today, we’ve teamed up with the good folks at Bloomin’ Easy Plants to introduce you to four amazing colorful shrubs that are real standouts in the landscape.

Why plant colorful shrubs?

Shrubs with colorful foliage are among the shining stars of the garden. Not only do they dress up foundation plantings and shrub beds, they also add form and structure to perennial borders, mailbox gardens, and even hedgerows and privacy plantings. Their brightly colored leaves lend their hues to the garden for the entire growing season, not just while the plant is in flower.

Shrubs with colorful foliage often have various hues on the plant simultaneously, as shown on the fall color of Nightglow™ Diervilla.

As an added bonus, shrubs with colorful foliage often change in appearance throughout the growing season. Their new leaves may emerge one color in the early spring, only to change to a different shade through the summer months. Then, come autumn, they may turn yet another color before the leaves fall from the plants. This kind of season-long interest is hard to come by in the garden, but these shrubs have it in spades.

Of course in addition to their beautiful foliage, the best colorful shrubs for your garden also have gorgeous blooms. Regardless of their shape or color, the flowers these shrubs produce add a whole other layer of interest to the landscape. Plus, many are attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, as well. Colorful shrubs are a win-win for so many reasons.

Many colorful shrubs, like this Electric Love™ Weigela, also produce beautiful blooms.

The best colorful shrubs for your garden

These four vibrant and easy-care shrubs from Bloomin’ Easy Plants are exceptional choices for any garden that receives full sun. They’re fully winter hardy down to at least -30 degrees F and require very little pruning due to their smaller stature.

1. Nightglow™ Diervilla

A stunning shrub whose foliage emerges a beautiful burgundy before deepening into a dark, velvety near-black when summer arrives, Nightglow™ bears clusters of yellow, tubular flowers from spring through summer. At autumn’s arrival, this colorful shrub changes to a brighter red before leaf drop (see photo above). Maturing at just two to three feet in height with an equal spread, this well-behaved Diervilla is perfectly suited to landscapes both big and small.

Nightglow™ Diervilla offers both gorgeous foliage and pretty flowers for season-long interest.

2. Rainbow Fizz™ Spirea

This shrub is like a living rainbow! In early spring, the new foliage is a coppery red (see the photo at the top of this page). But as summer’s heat arrives, the leaves change to multiple hues of gold, yellow, and orange. Yes, all those colors are on the plant at the same time! Oh, and to top it off, Rainbow Fizz™ also puts on a show of pink fuzzy blooms almost all summer long. Autumn brings a flush of coppery red to this colorful shrub. Its small stature of just three to four feet in height and width, combined with a mounded growth habit, make it the perfect shrub for along walkways and even in containers.

The green, orange, and yellow foliage of Rainbow Fizz™ spirea looks great with the bright pink blooms.

3. Electric Love™ Weigela

Weigela is a favorite of the hummingbirds in my garden; they adore feeding on the tubular blooms. But Electric Love™ offers so much more than just colorful blooms early in the season. The red flowers are backed by dark leaves with green veination that look rich and velvety all season long. Standing just one to two feet tall with double the spread, this compact flowering shrub with colorful foliage is so versatile. I suspect it would do just as well in a container or patio planting as it would in a shrub island or foundation bed.

Electric Love™ Weigela offers a combination of bright blooms and velvety foliage.

4. Strobe™ Weigela

Much like the previous weigela, Strobe™ is covered in trumpet-shaped flowers in the spring, though this time they’re a brilliant hot pink. Behind the bright pink blooms is a cascade of foliage colors throughout the growing season. First, the foliage on this three foot by three foot shrub is green and bronze. Then it ages to orange before turning a lovely crimson red in the autumn. The color changes may be somewhat dependant on night temperatures, so if you live where summer nights are hot, the color change may not be as dramatic. But, in areas where summer nights are a bit cooler, prepare to have your socks knocked off by this colorful shrub.

The bronze leaves of Strobe™ weigela make a beautiful backdrop for the bright pink flowers.

We hope you’ll plan to include some of these shrubs with colorful foliage in your garden. Fall is an excellent time to get planting! To find a local, independent garden center near you that carries the colorful shrubs described above, please visit the “Find a Retailer” feature on the Bloomin’ Easy website.

A big thank you to Bloomin’ Easy Plants for sponsoring this post and allowing us to help spread the word about the benefits of including foliage shrubs in your garden.

For more on great shrubs for your garden, check out the following posts:

  • Dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens and landscapes
  • Panicle hydrangeas: 3 no-fail choices for reliable blooms
  • Flowering shrubs for your garden: 5 beauties for full sun
  • Flowering shrubs for the shade

What are your favorite shrubs with colorful foliage? We’d love to hear about them in the comment section below.

Zone 9 Bushes That Flower: Growing Flowering Bushes In Zone 9 Gardens

Flowering shrubs play important roles in the landscape. They can be used as privacy hedges, borders, foundation plantings or specimen plants. With the long growing season of zone 9 landscapes, long blooming flowers are very important. When windows can be open in the middle of winter, fragrant landscaping plants are also a benefit. Continue reading for information on flowering shrubs for zone 9.

Growing Flowering Bushes in Zone 9

Some shrubs are considered reliable, long bloomers in cold climates and warm climates alike. Certain varieties of these shrubs just may show better cold hardiness or heat tolerance than others. When purchasing zone 9 flowering shrubs, read tags and ask nursery or garden center workers plenty of questions to be certain the shrub is the right fit for your landscape.

For example, if you live in a coastal area, be sure to ask how the plant tolerates salt spray. If you hope to attract birds and pollinators, ask about this. If wildlife has a nasty habit of eating everything in your landscape, inquire about deer resistant plants. In zone 9 it is especially important to ask about a shrub’s heat tolerance and whether it will require a sheltered location.

Common Flowering Shrubs for Zone 9

Some zone 9 bushes that flower well are:

Rose of Sharon – Hardy in zones 5-10. Prefers full sun- part shade. Blooms from early summer to fall.

Knock Out Rose – Hardy in zones 5-10. Prefers full sun- part shade. Blooms spring to fall. Excellent heat tolerance.

Hydrangea – Hardy in zones 4-9. Prefers full sun to shade depending on variety. Blooms all summer. Even sun-loving hydrangeas may need protection from the intense heat and sun of zone 9.

Daphne – Hardy in zones 4-10. Full sun- part shade. Blooms spring to summer.

Butterfly Bush – Hardy in zones 5-9. Prefers full sun. Blooms summer to fall.

Glossy Abelia – Hardy in zones 6-9. Fragrant blooms in summer through fall. Evergreen to semi-evergreen. Attracts birds but deters deer. Full sun to part shade.

Dwarf English Laurel – Hardy in zones 6-9. Fragrant spring-summer flower spikes. Bird attracting black fruit summer-fall. Part shade.

Gardenia – Hardy in zones 8-11. Fragrant blooms in spring and summer. Height 4-6’, Width 3’. Full sun-part shade. Evergreen

Rosemary – Hardy in zones 8-11. Midsummer blooms. The entire shrub is fragrant. Height depends on variety, some may be low growing and sprawling, while others are tall and upright. Deer resistant. Attracts pollinators. Evergreen. Full Sun.

Camellia – Hardy in zones 6-11. Fragrant blooms from fall to spring. Evergreen. 3-20’ tall and wide depending on variety. Part shade.

Fringe Flower – Hardy in zones 7-10. Full sun to part shade. Attracts pollinators and birds.

Dwarf Bottlebrush – Hardy in zones 8-11. Full Sun. Evergreen. Spring through summer blooms. Deer resistant. Attracts birds and pollinators.

Azalea – Hardy in zones 6-10. Full sun to part shade. Late winter to early spring blooms. Evergreen. Attracts pollinators.

Indian Hawthorn – Hardy in zones 7-10. Full sun to part shade. Evergreen. Spring and summer blooms.

Carolina Allspice – Hardy in zones 4-9. Sun to shade. Fragrant spring through summer blooms.

How to Prevent and Deal with Snow or Ice Damage on Trees and Shrubs

Incorporating various plants into your landscape is a great way to add both interest, appeal, and functional use. But if the plants require a lot of attention, they can quickly become more of a hassle than a joy. Chances are, you’re a busy person and you don’t have time to be cutting back, trimming, fertilizing, or managing pests and diseases on a bunch of high-maintenance plants.

That’s why you might be looking for a list of low maintenance plants to add to your landscape.

If that’s the case, we’ve got you covered. In fact, we’ve rounded up 12 different low maintenance plants (in the trees, shrubs, and flowers categories) to help get you started.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that the proper installation of these plants is key. That’s because you can easily turn a low maintenance plant into a high maintenance one if you install it incorrectly (such as putting a shade-loving plant in the full sun). We have often found that many homeowners who say they have a “high maintenance landscape” actually just have plants which are installed improperly.

Likewise, all plants, even ones we’ve selected require some degree of care. But if your landscape designer chooses wisely, that amount of maintenance can be drastically reduced.

Understanding those key points, let’s take a look at some of our top picks.

Low Maintenance Trees

While the definition of what makes a tree “low maintenance” may differ a bit, we’re considering trees that are relatively disease and pest-resistant and those that don’t need lots of care, such as regular pruning, to fall under the category of low maintenance trees. While there is no such thing as a tree that needs zero care, these 4 won’t give you lots of extra work:

1. Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple trees are famous for their bright fall foliage. There are many varieties of Japanese Maples, some of which are airy and upright and others that are compact and domed. Generally speaking, all forms of the Japanese Maple would make a good selection as a low maintenance tree that serves as a small ornamental accent.

2. Serviceberry

Serviceberry trees are deciduous members of the Rosaceae family. They offer four-season interest with beautiful blooms in the spring, some fruit in the winter, bright fall foliage, and beautiful bark color in the winter. Growing and caring for a Serviceberry tree does not take a lot of work. It is a very cold-hardy tree and will perform well, even in the winter and makes an excellent small ornamental accent.

3. Crape Myrtle

Perhaps one of the most well-known trees in the Alexandria, Arlington, and Springfield, VA area, the Crape Myrtle is often referred to as the “lilac of the South.” it has striking flowers and beautiful foliage that makes it a stunning addition to a landscape. It is also relatively low maintenance as far as flowering trees go. It only needs approximately 30 to 60 minutes of pruning each year and it will look and perform well for you. Crape myrtles come in a variety of colors and will grow to vary in size when they mature.

4. Magnolia

Magnolia trees can be evergreen or deciduous but both types are known for their large and striking blossoms. These trees are known to be hardy and adaptable. Though they prefer slightly acidic soil, they will adapt to your natural soil, even if it’s sandy or heavy in clay. These trees often serve as small ornamental accent plants, but there are some varieties that will eventually grow into medium-sized trees.

Low Maintenance Shrubs

Like trees, when looking at low maintenance shrubs, we’re looking at varieties that don’t require a lot of tending to. These are shrubs that are known to be fairly drought-tolerant and generally resistant to problems with disease or pests. Here are 4 that are easily adaptable to most landscapes:

5. Burning Bush

This shrub is named for the bright crimson color it turns in the fall. Native to Asia, this large bush will adapt well to almost any site or soil condition and requires minimal care. While it’s almost wholly hands-off, occasional pruning will help keep its size down if you have a tight space. This medium to large-sized shrub has many uses and can even create excellent privacy screens during spring through fall.

6. Nandina

This hardy and adaptable shrub has been nicknamed “heavenly bamboo” for its ability to thrive almost anywhere and its resemblance to bamboo. Nandina is known for their evergreen nature and their unique color combinations with leaves that change from green to reddish purple. Different cultivars will grow as small or medium-sized shrubs.

7. Azalea

These members of the Rhododendron family produce showy and fragrant blooms in the spring in colors like white, lavender, orange, gold, red, and purple. They are easy to care for as they require very little attention, as long as they were properly planted and are in moist, but well-drained soil. They are fairly slow growers so these are ideal choices for tighter spots. With regular pruning, it’s easy to keep them confined within most spaces.

8. Hydrangea

Generally speaking, hydrangeas are versatile and easy to grow. There are many varieties of this flowering shrub, though Oakleaf has been said to be one of the easier to care for as they can tolerate cold weather, handle more sun, and even withstand drought. But all varieties of hydrangea are relatively low maintenance and produce stunning blooms. These shrubs vary in size from 3-8 ft.

Low Maintenance Flowers

Choosing low-maintenance perennials will help add interest and color to your landscape without adding a bunch of extra work. Perennials will re-grow each season vs. annual flowers which only last one growing season and will need to be replanted. Here are 4 that you might want to consider if you’re looking for low-maintenance flowers:

9. Daylilies

Daylilies establish themselves quickly and are easy to grow. They are incredibly drought-tolerant and therefore require minimal (if any) watering. Color variations include yellow, gold, orange, red, and purple.

10. Salvia

Salvia is of the largest genus in the Mint family. Perennial Salvias are easy to grow and perform well in our local climate. We particularly like Russian Sage, a low maintenance perennial that produces tall spires of bluish flowers.

11. Lavender

Lavender is known for its attractive foliage, vibrant flowers, and distinct scent, which is said to have a calming effect. It’s also an un-demanding, tough woody perennial that requires very little care. Lavender only needs well-drained soil and some room to grow and it will thrive.

12. Coreopsis

More commonly known as “Tickseed,” Coreopsis is appreciated for its bright and showy flowers and its ability to thrive in almost any soil. While there are more than 100 species, almost all of them are low maintenance and drought-tolerant.

A Beautiful Design Incorporating Low Maintenance Plants

Knowing which plants to incorporate is one important piece of the puzzle—but it’s not everything. It’s also a matter of incorporating them in a way that makes sense.

As we mentioned, it’s important to ensure that all of your plants are installed in a way that will allow them to thrive. This means thinking about things like access to sunlight, watering needs, and the plant’s location in terms of other plants around it. It can be a lot to figure out.

But there’s even more to it than that. There is also the need for an eye for design in your installation process. Without that, you would risk your finished project looking like a random hodgepodge of plants installed without any real thought or plan.

This is where a talented landscape designer in Alexandria, Arlington, or Springfield, VA will be invaluable. Just like you could tell someone all of the best colors needed to paint a picture, it won’t make them able to produce a masterpiece. In the same light, ordering a bunch of these plants and having them delivered to your driveway isn’t going to get you that professionally designed landscape you’re after.

It’s also important to note that while we’ve named some of our favorite low maintenance plants, they won’t necessarily work for every property. We have dozens of other great ideas and suggestions if these plants aren’t right for you.

A beautiful, low maintenance landscape can add tremendous value—if it’s designed and installed properly. The truth is, that’s a big “if.” By making the right choice in a landscape design company, you can make sure that you wind up with the truly low-maintenance landscape you were looking to achieve.

If you’re looking for some guidance on adding low maintenance plants to your landscape, request a consultation, get your customized plan, and relax as we give you the royal treatment.

Image Sources: japanese maple, serviceberry, crape myrtle, magnolia, burning bush, nandina, azalea, hydrangea, daylilies, russian sage, lavender, coreopsi

Dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens and landscapes

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Find our full disclosure here.

Gardens in suburbia seem to be shrinking. As houses grow bigger, yards grow smaller and there’s less and less room to garden. Combine that limited space with shrinking free time and narrowing gardening budgets, and you have the perfect recipe for an overgrown landscape. Smaller gardens quickly become overrun by full-size shrubs when the homeowner doesn’t have the time to be constantly pruning them to a suitable size. Thankfully, plant breeders are coming to the rescue by selecting and developing many new varieties of dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens that stay naturally petite without a lot of fuss.

Today, we’ve teamed up with the good folks at Bloomin’ Easy® to introduce you to a handful of beautiful dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens and tell you why these plants are such a good fit for your backyard (or front!).

The many benefits of small shrubs

Dwarf flowering shrubs, such as those listed below, are ideal choices for both urban and suburban gardeners with limited space, or for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time pruning, deadheading, and otherwise maintaining their landscape. With their ease of care, prolific flower production, and minimal pest and disease problems, small shrubs like these are a sure bet for just about any landscape setting.

Compact flowering shrubs like this spirea are great for small yards and low-maintenance landscapes.

In addition to all of those perks, small shrubs are generally easier to plant than most larger shrubs, too. One- to two-gallon-sized containers are the norm for dwarf flowering shrubs, so there’s no need to wrestle with a massive balled-and-burlapped root ball or an enormous five-gallon container that weighs a hundred-plus pounds. Simply dig a hole twice as wide as the pot but no deeper, loosen the shrub’s roots once it’s popped out of the container, and settle the root mass into the planting hole. Use the soil you dug out of the hole to backfill and water the shrub well. A layer of one to two inches of shredded bark mulch spread around the shrub’s root zone (but not right against the base of the trunk) helps retain soil moisture and restrict weed competition. As you can see, the process of planting dwarf flowering shrubs is far easier than planting larger specimens. There’s no need to call in a tractor or forklift!

5 beautiful dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens

Once you recognize the many benefits of using smaller shrub varieties, it’s time to pick out a few favorites and get planting. Here are some excellent choices from the Bloomin’ Easy line of flowering shrubs. When selecting plants for this line, their breeders focus on compact, tidy size and form, as well as flower power and winter hardiness.

1. Flare™ Hydrangea
A compact panicle hydrangea that maxes out at just two to three feet tall and equally as wide, this compact flowering shrub is perfect for small yards or for gardeners who don’t want to fuss with having to prune their hydrangeas “just right” in order to get them to bloom. Plus, panicle hydrangeas flower on new wood, so there’s no chance of bud freeze. The cone-shaped flowers are white when they open, but they age to bright red-pink. Give this dwarf hydrangea four to six hours of full sun each day and it will bloom its head off every year. Hardy down to -40 degrees F, Flare™ is a must when it comes to dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens.

Flare panicle hydrangea is an excellent small flowering shrub for the garden.

2. Nightglow™ Diervilla
A tiny little powerhouse of a shrub, this compact cultivar of the bush honeysuckle has so much to offer. The deep burgundy foliage reaches just two to three feet tall and wide at maturity which, of course, means no pruning is necessary! The clusters of canary-yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers occur from spring through summer and are a welcome sight to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Winter hardy to -30 degrees F, Nightglow™ requires at least six hours of full sun per day to perform its best.

Dwarf bush honeysuckle Nightglow is a great choice for smaller yards and gardens.

3. Bella Bellissima™ Potentilla
A personal favorite of mine, this dwarf flowering shrub is not only beautiful and low maintenance, it’s also packed with shocking pink blooms. Potentilla is a great plant for supporting beneficial insects of all sorts, and with the compact growth habit of Bella Bellissima™, gardeners can lend a hand to “good” bugs without having to dedicate a ton of space to their efforts. Maturing at just two to three feet tall and wide, this mounding shrub is smothered in blooms from spring to summer. An occasional deadheading or shearing does keep this shrub a bit “cleaner” looking, but it isn’t necessary for continual flower production. With a winter hardiness of -50 degrees F (!), there’s nothing to stop you from adding this beauty to your must-have list of dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens.

Small-space flowering shrubs like Bella Bellissima potentilla are a great fit for gardens.

4. Rainbow Fizz™ Spirea
A blend of copper, yellow, and red foliage graces this compact flowering shrub throughout the season, making the name Rainbow Fizz™ more than appropriate. Though it gets a tad taller than the rest of the compact shrubs on this list, topping out at three to four feet tall and wide, it’s still far smaller than most other spirea varieties on the market. Flat-topped clusters of red flower buds open to a fuzzy pink off and on all summer long. Give this dwarf shrub full sun and it can handle whatever winter throws at it down to about -40 degrees F.

Rainbow Fizz spirea is a compact flowering shrub that reaches just two to three feet tall and wide.

5. Peach Lemonade™ Rose
We’ve written about this multi-colored rose variety before on Savvy Gardening, but we have to mention it again. The young flowers are a sunny yellow, but as each bloom ages, it turns to a bright shade of pink. And no, we aren’t kidding! Peach Lemonade™ is in continual bloom from late spring through fall, so there’s often pink and yellow flowers on the plant at the same time. And, because it’s on a list of dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens, it’s important to note that this rose reaches just three feet tall and wide. Requiring little more than full sun and an occasional top-dressing of an organic, granulated rose fertilizer, this variety withstands winters down to -30 degrees F.

Peach Lemonade rose is a compact variety that has bi-colored flowers and a small stature.

We hope you enjoyed discovering the many perks of dwarf flowering shrubs and learning about why they’re such a good fit for modern gardens. We’d like to give a big thank you to Bloomin’ Easy® for sponsoring this post and allowing us to introduce our readers to a few great dwarf shrub varieties to get them started. To find a source for these plants, please visit one of the nurseries or online retailers you’ll find on the “Find a Retailer” feature on the Bloomin’ Easy website.

Want to learn about more great shrubs for your garden? Check out the following posts:

Flowering shrubs for your garden: 5 beauties for full sun
Evergreens to create privacy
Panicle hydrangeas: 3 no-fail choices for reliable blooms

Let’s get right into it!

13 Best Evergreen Shrubs for the Garden

  1. Leucothoe
  2. Cherry Laurel
  3. Azalea
  4. Yew
  5. Euonymus
  6. Mugo Pine
  7. Pieris Japonica
  8. Viburnum
  9. Mahonia
  10. Boxwood
  11. Juniper
  12. Yucca
  13. Rosemary

1. Leucothoe

A nice choice for areas ranging from the Northeast to the southeastern United States. Leucothoe is a hardy, native, and deer-resistant evergreen shrub that requires minimal special care.

Leucothoe axillaris ‘Curly Red.’

Better yet, it’s happy to spread beyond its initial planting area and is a great choice for a section of the garden where you have a lot of square footage to cover and are working on a budget.

Leucothoe adds a handsome dash of color, and provides you with an excellent evergreen shrub. Check out your local nurseries for these guys, or try this L. fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’ from DAS Farms, available via Amazon.

Girard’s Rainbow Leucothoe – Live Plants Shipped 1 to 2 Feet Tall (No California)

I’m a fan of Leucothoe fontanesiana because of that gorgeous color the new foliage produces.

This variety also tends to spread out quite happily and responds with minimal fuss to heavy pruning; I recently had to clear out over fifty percent of a hedge of L. fontanesiana and had zero hesitation doing it.

L. axillaris is the best native option to use if you’re interested in growing an all-native garden. It is at its best in the southeastern United States, and offers handsome flowers and dependable foliage.

Growing Zones: Typically zones 5-8

2. Cherry Laurel

Also known as Prunus laurocerasus, this is a favorite evergreen shrub in the Philadelphia region. Blame its popularity on the characteristic red berries it produces, or its eagerness to grow in warm and humid regions.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

The plant is happy to stand upright, and resists most pests and problems. The only problem I’ve run into is that P. laurocerasus is happiest in a warmer environment, and can suffer in the northernmost extent of its growing ranges.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Gardeners in the northern limits of the growing area for P. laurocerasus can expect to see some branch dieback during the winter, or wind burn in exposed areas.

P. laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’ is an evergreen shrub that I have plenty of hands-on experience with.

The lovely white flowers give way to gorgeous black berries, and the persistently dark evergreen foliage of this cultivar offers tremendous value as a background plant wherever you need a backdrop of green with seasonal white flowers.

Growing in an area with little natural sunlight? Consider P. laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis,’ the schip laurel, for an upright option.

Schip Cherry Laurel, 12-16″ Tall, available via Amazon

One of our landscape architects favors schip laurel over almost all others, so even though I’m sick of seeing this evergreen shrub everywhere, it’s impossible to ignore its incredible value to the landscape.

It grows taller than other members of this species, and that’s valuable in and of itself!

Growing Zones: Typically zones 6-9

3. Azalea

These are a favorite of mine for about… oh… two hundred and sixty-three reasons?

They grow well in a variety of conditions and promise beautiful spring blooms. Better yet, the difference between a shaggy azalea and a well-formed one is only a matter of basic pruning.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

I find that an appreciation of the azalea’s natural tendency to be wild is best countered with fearless shaping.

I prune azaleas in the spring immediately after flowering, but will remove obnoxious or form-ruining shoots of growth as late as September.

I’ve written an entire guide on growing azaleas, complete with recommended cultivars, so check it out for more suggestions!

Choosing an evergreen variety is important for year-long performance. The evergreen azaleas tend to have thicker, leathery leaves while the deciduous varieties have a softer and more delicate leaf.

Growing Zones: Typically zones 6-9

4. Yew

I love yew… that is, “yew” as in Taxus baccata – sorry if I got your hopes up!

Photo by Matt Suwak.

As far as reliable and handsome evergreen shrubs go, it’s hard to beat this one. It produces little more than a soft evergreen foliage and the occasional red (and toxic) red berry, but its performance in the garden is stellar.

Some birds will eat the seeds of the yew, but the seed passes harmlessly through the digestive tract of the animal and causes no trouble.

While yew isn’t typically grown for its usefulness to wildlife, it doesn’t hurt to offer those birds something else to munch on.

I had a family of sparrows living in a yew bush at my last apartment and they made great use of the branches as shelter, and surely nibbled on whatever berries they could find.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Yew responds very well to pruning and shearing, and can be shaped to whatever form you desire.

These tend to be pretty resistant to most ailments as well, which makes them an excellent worry-free evergreen shrub option for your yard.

Taunton Spreading Yew, available from Nature Hills Nursery

The Taunton spreading yew (T. x media ‘Tauntoni’) is a good choice for informal areas. It tends to maintain a modest height of about 4 feet, and is happiest when it gets to go a little wild.

If you allow your ‘Tauntoni’ to grow free, you’ll see its branches develop into long “shoots” that have always reminded me of a porcupine. I’ve used these in rock gardens and areas where too much formality isn’t necessary.

Hicks Yew, available from Nature Hills

For a more formal and solid hedge, check out Hicks yew (T. x media ‘Hicksii’). It reaches a height of nearly 12 feet, and responds well to heavy pruning for growth as a formal privacy hedge.

Hicks yew grows across most of North America so it is perfect for many gardens, as long as they aren’t too wet!

Growing Zones: Typically zones 4-7

5. Euonymus

Euonymus for all of us! I like these guys because of the variety in form and color you can find, and except for being a bit messy these evergreen shrubs aren’t plagued with pests and other problems.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

You can find tall and upright Euonymus, as well low and controlled ones.

Most folks are familiar with the Euonymus variety known as burning bush, but the evergreen varieties of this plant are where Euonymus is at its best.

Although the shrub seems to do best when it’s allowed to grow free and kind of wild, I’ve seen perfectly manicured Euonymus hedges before as well.

The handsome colors of this evergreen shrub are also easy to work with in the garden, and add plenty of variety and stable year-round color to your yard.

‘Manhattan’ Euonymus, available from Nature Hills Nursery

The Manhattan Euonymus (Euonymus kiautschovicus ‘Manhattan’) grows to six feet tall in zones 5-10, and is a good option for warmer climates.

With a simple green leaf that’s still lustrous and handsome, it benefits from a bit of protection from strong winter winds to avoid leaf burn.

‘Emerald Gaiety’ Euonymus, available via Nature Hills

For a shorter option, try Emerald Gaiety (E. fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’). Not only does it offer a more modest height and spread than others, its soft colors promise to highlight and never detract from the rest of your garden.

This evergreen shrub can even become a climber if provided with the right supports, like a trellis or arbor!

Growing Zones: Typically zones 5-9

6. Mugo Pine

The Mugo pine, or Pinus mugo, is a favorite of mine.

I don’t know why, exactly; it might be that it’s just a simple pine tree, and it might have something to do with its somewhat contorted growing habit, but I love this evergreen shrub.

The Mugo pine is great in rock gardens and gardens with an Asian theme, but it will thrive in just about any dry and rocky area. If there’s a headache related to mugos, it’s that they can be pretty slow growing.

But that’s alright, since it’s hard to find a good evergreen shrub that looks as unique as a mugo that stays small and contained. With a little bit of patience, you’ll have something that works as a statement piece as well as background color.

Dwarf Mugo Pine, available from Nature Hills Nursery

You’ve only really got one option with this plant: the dwarf Mugo pine (P. mugo var. pumilio). It’ll reach a height of about four feet and spreads out up to ten feet.

Hardy and self-reliant, this is the perfect option for the garden when you want to plant it and forget it.

Growing Zones: Typically zones 2-8

7. Pieris Japonica

Sometimes known simply as Pieris or japonica, this is a lovely show-off of an evergreen shrub.

Whether it’s the lustrous evergreen foliage highlighted with tinges of red and gold or the cascade of bell-shaped flowers, the Pieris has a place in your garden.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

These evergreen shrubs prefer a shady spot where they will be protected from drying winds, and like to set roots into acidic soil.

Well-draining soil is preferred, to prevent nasty fungal infections, and this species is susceptible to many of the same conditions as azaleas.

More specifically, you’ll want to keep an eye out for powdery mildew, bark scale, white flies and leaf miners, and calcium deficiencies.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

I’ve only seen Pieris used as foundation points in the garden and never as a hedge, but it could be something worth pursuing! Its colors are similar to that of Leucothoe and the two could make an interesting pairing in the garden.

‘Mountain Snow’ Pieris, available via Nature Hills

The Mountain Snow Pieris (P. japonica ‘Planow’) is my personal favorite. It maxes out at a height of about five feet and has a similar spread, but the real appeal is the bright red foliage it develops on its new growth. Really a fantastic sight to behold in your own garden!

‘Cavatine’ Pieris, available via Nature Hills Nursery

For a more restrained option, check out the Cavatine Pieris (P. japonica ‘Cavatine’).

Its height of about two feet with a similar spread requires no special pruning, and its foliage maintains a green color accented with beautiful flowers. A short row of Cavatine is jaw-dropping when in full bloom.

Growing Zones: Typically zones 5-9

8. Viburnum

This species offers a variety of evergreen options, and plants are usually quick to fill up space in the yard.

Because the list of available types of viburnum is huge, you’re just about guaranteed to find one that will be happy in your garden’s conditions.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Just keep an eye out when you’re purchasing these at a garden center or selecting one other than those on our suggested list; some varieties of viburnum can grow to be huge and others are more deciduous in nature.

Still others can be pesky to prune, like the leatherleaf variety, because they produce an irritating sort of dust on the leaves.

This dust is easily visible when the leaves are shaken, and can make maintenance of the shrub uncomfortable.

While the dust isn’t harmful, it is irritating, so I will wear an isolation dust mask when working with them. Alternatively, spraying the foliage with a hose helps to minimize any falling dust.

Even so, these flowering evergreen shrubs are a solid choice for your yard and tend to be considerably resistant to pests and diseases.

They also take well to pruning and don’t require much more than some general maintenance, though thickly overgrown masses of viburnum may require heavier removal of old limbs.

Despite its drawbacks, I love the leatherleaf type (V. rhytidophyllum) as my evergreen viburnum of choice! It can reach a height of about ten feet and loves to spread out, sending up new leads of growth during every growing season.

Leatherleaf V. Rhytidophylloides ‘Alleghany,’ available via Amazon

It will bloom from May through June and tapers off as the summer heat intensifies.

Unassuming white flowers do not detract from the rest of the garden. Prune these immediately after flowering, because viburnum starts setting new buds in the fall!

Growing Zones: Typically zones 3-9

9. Mahonia

One of my favorite evergreen shrubs, Mahonia is a plant for people who want something tough and edgy that doesn’t skimp on visual appeal.

It looks like a short and stubby cross between a holly and a staghorn sumac, except it has some very lovely colors and fruits that add a nice accent to the dark green leaves.

It isn’t for everywhere, though, because this is one prickly customer. The leaves are rather sharp and pointed, and tend to aggravate anybody who handles them. It’s also simultaneously a slow grower and a plant that is all too happy to produce volunteer seedlings.

That said, if you’ve got room for a prickly evergreen shrub to ward off trespassers, or you simply want to add a bit of rough-and-tumble flavor to your yard, give mahonia a shot. It’s handsome and worthwhile in its own way, and might be the perfect evergreen shrub for your home!

‘Soft Caress’ Mahonia, available from Nature Hills

For a less prickly customer, consider the Soft Caress Mahonia (M. eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’). The leaves have less of an edge or point than other mahonia cultivars, and this variety is happy to grow in the shade.

It also has a short growth habit and spread, reaching about four feet tall and wide. The only hang-up is that it’s acclimated only to the narrow swath of USDA Hardiness Zones 7-9.

20 Oregon Grape Holly Fruit Vine Seeds (Hollyleaved Barberry Mahonia Aquifolium), available via Amazon

If you want the real deal, try these seeds for Oregon grape (M. aquifolium). The resulting plant will reach nearly eight feet in height and about six feet in width, producing beautiful bluish-purple seeds that wildlife like small birds and insects adore.

Directly plant the seeds in the fall in your garden and cover with about half an inch of soil, then watch for the tell-tale prickly leaves to appear!

Growing Zones: Typically zones 5-9

10. Boxwood

An evergreen shrub roundup could not be complete without that trusty garden companion, the boxwood (Buxus).

Now, I need to admit I have a certain distaste for boxwood because of how often I see it used on the properties where I garden, and you can only prune so many hundreds of them before you develop a similar distaste yourself.

But all of that aside, boxwoods are an ideal evergreen shrub because of their ease of growth, tendency to maintain a uniform growing pattern, and their eager response to pruning.

They maintain their color year-round, and are not typically not prone to many illnesses, though boxwood blight is typically fatal to these shrubs.

Use boxwood as a long hedge, or to add individual blobs of green in your landscape; I like to think of them as giant green meatballs, dotting the yard. They work well in almost any capacity, and there are enough cultivars to find exactly what you need.

‘Winter Gem’ Boxwood, available via Nature Hills Nursery

My personal favorite boxwood is the Winter Gem (B. microphylla japonica ‘Winter Gem’) because of its stronger form and more appealing foliage.

These work ridiculously well as a long hedge of green meatballs, and are a breeze to prune. They’re also stronger against winds, snowfall, and general abuse than other boxwoods I’ve worked with.

‘Green Mountain’ Boxwood, available from Nature Hills

For a more conical plant, try the Green Mountain boxwood (B. x ‘Green Mountain’). With softer foliage and a more upright growing habit, this is a good choice if you want to sprinkle a few around your yard as reliable and upright evergreen shrubs that don’t steal the show.

Growing Zones: Typically zones 4-8

11. Juniper

Juniper (Juniperus) is an old favorite of mine. It was one of the first shrubs I worked extensively with on a tree nursery where I once worked, and I eventually came to savor the irritating feeling their needles provide to bare skin.

Cossack juniper (J. sabina).

Add to those memories its absolute ease of growing, and you’ve got yourself a worthwhile evergreen shrub!

Variety could be juniper’s middle name. You’re able to find low-growing and ground-hugging varieties next to others that grow to become 100-foot-tall trees, and a huge variety of perfectly-sized evergreen shrubs for your yard.

If you’ve got a dry and rocky area where nothing seems to grow, pop in a juniper and watch it take off. These shrubs are perfect for soil retention and as foundational hedges, though the low-growing varieties offer excellent evergreen ground cover.

Blue Rug Juniper, available via Nature Hills Nursery

My go-to favorite is Blue Rug juniper (J. horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’) as both groundcover and accent in the garden.

It’s perfect for growing over and then cascading down a wall or arrangement of stone, and its short height of about six inches is offset by its spread of up to 8 feet! You could buy a handful of blue rug junipers and cover an entire area very quickly, all with a cool blue color.

If you prefer a plain green color, try the ‘Sea Green’ juniper (J. chinensis ‘Sea Green’). It reaches up to about six feet in height and is as easy to care for as they come.

‘Sea Green’ juniper. Photo by Matt Suwak.

These will fill in areas quickly, so plant smartly! Its soft textured foliage breaks up structures like decks and other backgrounds as well, and it can also hide your foundation from view.

Growing Zones: Typically zones 2-8

12. Yucca

I’ll add some Yucca (Yucca filamentosa) to this list because they’re gorgeous, hardy, and produce one of the coolest flowers you’ll ever see! Their status as “shrubs” might be up for debate, but in warmer regions of the country, this is a solid choice for year-round greenery.

Photo by Allison Sidhu.

Sharp and upright rosettes of thick green leaves identify this plant, but its enormous flower stalk makes this an evergreen shrub that functions as the main act! The foliage is unique among evergreen shrubs, and adds some fun variety to the texture of your garden.

They are highly resistant to… well, pretty much everything, and that’s a big plus in our book. As the plants age and weather, they produce little twisted bits of fiber, making these an option for those who don’t mind a wilder looking garden.

‘Color Guard’ Yucca, available from Nature Hills

I’m a sucker for variegated plants, so the Color Guard Yucca (Y. filamentosa ‘Color Guard’) is my first suggestion. Once established, it requires very little attention, and it can be root divided every few years. It reaches a height of one to two feet. Not bad!

‘Adam’s Needle’ Yucca, available via Nature Hills

For a more uniform color, try Adam’s Needle yucca (Y. filamentosa ‘Adam’s Needle’). It produces an almost identical flower but reaches heights of two to four feet. Stagger the two of these together, and you’ll find they nicely complement each other.

Growing Zones: Typically zones 4-10, might survive in zone 11 in protected conditions

13. Rosemary

Our last is something most of us grow as an herb, but for gardeners way down in zone 11, Tuscan Blue rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’) can serve as an excellent evergreen shrub!

‘Tuscan Blue’ Rosemary, available from Nature Hills Nursery

It is a plant that does not respond well to wet feet or cold conditions and prefers warmer, drier climates.

It can reach heights of six to ten feet, and produces beautiful and delicate blue flowers. It’s one of the few shrubs that produces something edible and makes it worthwhile as an addition to a kitchen garden.

Growing Zones: Typically zones 8-11, might survive mild winters in zone 7.

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