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Evergreens for Every Purpose

Evergreen shrubs are the ideal plants for low maintenance landscapes where they are cold hardy and durable. Discover the broad range of forms, textures and species available for use as hedges, upright accents, groundcovers and flowering fillers here.

Contributors: Susan Martin

As gardeners of all ages and levels of experience are finding less time to garden, they are turning to lower maintenance plants to meet their needs, be it screening a neighbor, creating a hedge, or adding winter interest. Proven Winners offers easy-to-grow evergreens in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Find the perfect one for your landscape here.

Evergreens for Tall Hedges

In select cases, a very tall 25-30 ft evergreen hedge is necessary to screen a view, particularly if the view is from a second story window or if the land is sloped downward, making the hedge appear shorter than it actually is. In such cases, Spring Grove® Western Arborvitaes (Thuja plicata) are the perfect choice. They will reach 25-30ft tall and 10-12 ft wide each, so you’ll need about eight plants to line the back of a 100ft lot. This is a fast growing evergreen that is hardy in zones 5-8 and is deer resistant. Additional evergreens for tall hedges include North Pole® arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), which grows 10-15 ft tall and Polar Gold arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) which reaches 12-15 ft and has attractive gold foliage. Both are extra hardy in zones 3-7.


Evergreens for Short to Medium Hedges

Boxwoods and hollies are the classic evergreens to use as short to medium height hedges. Two boxwoods rated at the top of the list for boxwood blight resistance are North Star and Wedding Ring®North Star (Buxus sempervirens) requires little to no pruning to form a 2-2 ½ ft tall, dense hedge in zones 5-8.  Also, check out our fast growing Sprinter® boxwood (Buxus microphylla), hardy in zones 5-9.

An excellent native alternative to boxwood that is great for short hedges is Gem Box® inkberry holly (Ilex glabra). Its appearance is very similar to boxwood, but it is very resistant to disease and rarely requires pruning to maintain its dense, rounded shape. It grows 2-3 ft tall in zones 5-9. 

Gardeners in warmer zones 6-8 should consider Brass Buckle® Japanese holly (Ilex crenata). This is a dwarf 12-18 inch tall, golden-foliage evergreen that is perfect for edging walkways, patios or borders. It can be sheared to shape, if desired. 

For medium-sized hedges that grow 5-10 ft tall, try Castle Spire® and Castle Wall blue hollies (Ilex meserveae). Castle Spire® is a pyramidal holly with large, lustrous, dark green leaves and bright red berries in fall through winter. Castle Wall is its pollinator, so be sure to include at least one in the hedge planting. These hollies make excellent replacements for capitata and hicksii yews in full sun to part shade in zones 5-7.


Evergreen Groundcovers

Low growing, wide spreading, evergreen shrubs make excellent low maintenance groundcovers for the landscape. One you may not be familiar with is Celtic Pride Microbiota, or Siberian Cypress. Though the straight species is commonly plagued by tip dieback, this selection has a reputation for superior disease resistance and excellent winter color. It is extremely cold hardy in zones 2-7.

Low growing wintercreeper is also a very popular groundcover in zones 5-8, its brightly variegated foliage lights up partially shaded to sunny areas. Choose from Gold Splash® or White Album (Euonymus fortunei).


Evergreens as Upright Accents

Upright evergreens make beautiful accents when planted at the corner of a house, at a focal point in a garden bed, or alongside a deck stairway. Soft Serve® Chamaecyparis is a gracefully shaped evergreen with a billowy conical form, reaching 6-10 ft tall by 5-6 ft wide at maturity in zones 4-8. It is deer resistant and maintains excellent color through the winter months. For a more formal look in zones 6-8, try Sky Pointer® or Patti O® Japanese hollies (Ilex crenata), which are narrowly conical, tightly branched shrub with shiny, dark green leaves. For brighter color in zones 3-7, choose ‘Filip’s Magic Moment’ arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), an easy-to-grow alternative to Dwarf Alberta Spruce with gold foliage.

Flowering Evergreens

Most people think of arborvitaes or needle evergreens when they conjure up images of evergreen shrubs. Don’t forget that rhododendrons and azaleas are evergreen too, and they offer the added bonus of beautiful flowers. ‘Amy Cotta’ is the first to bloom in spring in zones 4-8, a heavy flowering, rich pink, compact form of ‘PJM’ rhododendron. Next are the Dandy Man rhododendrons, which were selected for their unique combination of hardiness, heat tolerance, and root rot resistance. They are available in both pink (hardy to zone 5) and purple (hardy to zone 4). Lastly, the Bloom-A-Thon® azaleas take center stage in mid-spring followed by multiple rounds of rebloom from summer into fall in zones 6b-9.

The next time you are looking to add privacy, winter interest or low maintenance plants to your landscape, consider planting evergreen shrubs. For little effort, you’ll enjoy many years of reliable growth and beauty in your garden in all four seasons.

Want to explore more evergreen shrubs from Proven Winners? Check out our Pinterest board

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See some of our evergreen shrubs featured on, plus get winter protection tips. 

24 Best Evergreen Shrubs for Year-Round Interest



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