Top 10 evergreen shrubs

Top 10 Evergreen Shrubs

Evergreen shrubs provide permanent structure in the garden and all-year-round interest. Some have beautiful flower displays or are highly scented in winter when little else is growing, and some have variegated or colourful foliage which is a perfect foil for summer perennials and a feature in itself during the winter. Grow evergreen shrubs as stand-alone specimens, as part of a mixed border or as hedging.

There are plenty of evergreen shrubs to choose from but if you need some inspiration take a look at our pick of top ten  for an easy and reliable display.

Top 10 evergreen shrubs

Daphne – extremely fragrant spring flowers

1. Daphne
Daphne plants are well loved for their small but incredibly fragrant flowers which appear in winter and early spring, when little else in the garden is growing. There are both plain-leaved and variegated varieties available, such as Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, which has a rounded compact habit and attractive glossy, yellow-edged leaves. Daphne is fairly slow-growing making it a superb small evergreen shrub for the garden. Grow Daphne in sunny or partially-shaded mixed borders, woodland gardens and rock gardens. Daphne laureola and Daphne pontica are excellent for difficult, heavily shaded areas of the garden.

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Top 10 evergreen shrubs

Box – perfect for hedges and topiary

2. Box
Box (Buxus) is a compact and versatile evergreen shrub. Box plants are superb for clipping into a small, formal hedge which can be used to edge vegetable or flower beds, or try creating your own elaborate box parterre! Being tolerant of deep shade, it’s great for awkward sunless spots or for growing beneath tall trees. Box can also be used for topiary, either in the ground or grown in patio containers. Grow box in a well-drained soil in partial or full shade. Keep the soil moist if growing box in full sun to prevent the leaves from scorching. Other similar shrubs which can be grown to the same effect include Lonicera nitida, Taxus baccata ‘Semperaurea’ or Ilex crenata.

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Top 10 evergreen shrubs

Fatsia – attractive to bees

3. Fatsia
Fatsia japonica is a versatile shrub with large, glossy hand-shaped leaves borne on stout, upright stems. This exotic-looking shrub is surprisingly hardy and copes well with coastal conditions and tricky shady areas of the garden. Large stems of creamy white flowers, arranged in spherical umbels are produced in the autumn, which are attractive to bees and a great source of late season nectar. Fatsia plants are very architectural and can be grown in borders or large patio containers as an eye-catching feature.

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Top 10 evergreen shrubs

Lavender – highly fragrant, very hardy

4. Lavender
A well-loved shrub grown for its fragrant summer flowers and scented silver-green foliage. Flowering in shades of purple, lilac or pink, this hardy shrub is so versatile; from edging to hedging and borders to patio containers – every garden should have lavender! The flowers are highly attractive to bees and butterflies and thanks to their Mediterranean origins, lavender plants have good drought tolerance, coping well with light, sandy soils. Use the silvery foliage as a contrast to dark foliage plants and try cutting some lavender flowers for a vase indoors, or to sprinkle on top of cakes!

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Top 10 evergreen shrubs

Aucuba – one of the toughest shrubs

5. Aucuba
One of the toughest shrubs out there! Aucubas are popular evergreen shrubs valued for their tolerance of full shade, dry soils, pollution and salty coastal conditions. Although plain-leaved varieties are available, the speckled yellow cultivars are the most popular and give rise to the common name ‘Spotted Laurel’. The leaves are generally quite large, to 20cm (8″) long, leathery and glossy in appearance making them useful for achieving a tropical look in the garden. Female plants will produce bright red berries in autumn if a male pollination partner is planted nearby. Grow Aucuba as specimen plants, for hedges or in difficult heavily-shaded corners of the garden. They will even grow well in large patio containers making a fine contrast or foil to other foliage plants and flowers.

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Top 10 evergreen shrubs

Camellia – elegant shrubs with early flowers

6. Camellia
A classic spring-flowering shrub originating from the woodlands of Asia. Camellias are popular for their glossy deep green foliage and abundance of large, showy flowers early in the year. Camellia flowers can be single or double and come in a wide range of colours from pink to red, through to yellow or white. Although naturally large shrubs, dwarf varieties are available and Camellias tolerate hard pruning well so can easily be controlled if outgrowing their allotted space. They are elegant shrubs, ideal for mixed planting schemes or as specimen shrubs in borders and woodland gardens where they will receive partial or dappled shade. They require an acid soil so if your soil is neutral or alkaline grow Camellias in large patio containers filled with a mixture of ericaceous compost and a soil-based compost such as John Innes No. 3.

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Top 10 evergreen shrubs

Euonymus – versatile and low-maintenance

7. Euonymus
Euonymus fortunei is a versatile, low-maintenance, evergreen shrub with a multitude of uses and a tolerance of poor soils, coastal conditions and shade. Thanks to its prostrate habit this Euonymus plant can be grown as an evergreen ground cover or trained to climb a wall – it tolerates north-facing walls well. They can also be grown as hedges or free standing shrubs in garden borders and patio containers. With a variety of foliage colours available from green to variegated white or gold, Euonymus is fantastic for adding winter colour to the garden.

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Top 10 evergreen shrubs

Mahonia – late winter and spring flowers

8. Mahonia
Mahonia plants have an architectural form and glossy, spiny leaves, similar to holly. They are valued for their late winter and spring flowers which are bright yellow and highly fragrant. Mahonia flowers are borne on long, elegant racemes or in clusters at the tips of branches, creating a distinctive and striking display when much of the garden is still dormant. They are also a fantastic early source of pollen and nectar for bees. Coping well with coastal conditions, clay soils and heavy shade Mahonia makes an unbeatable, low-maintenance addition to shrub borders and woodland gardens. Some species and cultivars have a low-growing habit and can be used as groundcover.

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Top 10 evergreen shrubs

Photinia – great as hedging or in large containers

9. Photinia
Photinias are tough, versatile shrubs, the most popular variety being Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’, whose glossy leaves are bright red when young, gradually changing to bronze-green through to deep green. Photinias light up shrub borders in the spring and make a good foil for summer-flowering plants. Grow Photinias in sunny borders, as specimen shrubs in large patio containers, or as hedging, for which Photinia x fraseri is ideal.

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Top 10 evergreen shrubs

Holly – the classic evergreen shrub

10. Holly
A well-known evergreen shrub, with glossy, dark green leaves, which can be either spiny or smooth. Although best known for its classic dark green leaves and red berries at Christmas, there are many variegated forms of Holly which make outstanding specimen plants in the garden or planted as part of a mixed border. Holly plants also make a fantastic dense hedge, for which Ilex aquifolium and Ilex x altaclerensis are the best species to use. The spring flowers are highly attractive to bees and are followed by red or yellow berries on female holly bushes, if a male pollination partner is planted nearby. The berries are a good winter food source for birds. Tolerant of coastal conditions and partial shade, this tough shrub deserves a place in every garden.

Rebecca Tute
Rebecca works in the Marketing department as part of the busy web team, focusing on updating the UK news and blog pages and Thompson & Morgan’s international website. Rebecca enjoys gardening and learning about flowers and growing vegetables with her young daughter.

17 Comments

  1. A really tall order. Evergreen shrub flowering in summer, fragrant and growing to about four foot please. This is in a raised bed that gets sun until 1pm. Location Devon

    Reply
  2. I have a camellia “rosthorniana cupido” to plant in my border however i don’t have acid
    soil. Would it be ok to mix some ericaceous compost in with it when i plant it ?

    Reply
    • Terri Overett

      Hi Andrew, Many thanks for your comment.

      Ericaceous compost would be a great way of introducing acid to your soil as this will increase its acidity, however there are some fantastic home remedies you can try to add acid to your soil. One way is placing used tea bags around the soil as Tea is slightly acidic, or dilute a tea bag into water when watering your plant as this will provide the acidity needed for your Camellia. Another great way is to incorporate used percolated coffee granules into the soil as coffee also contains some acidity. Finally if you have any pickling vinegar, dilute this into water using 20 parts of water to one part vinegar and this would be a great way of giving your Camellia the acidity it needs.

      I hope that helps :)

      Best wishes,

      Terri

      Reply
  3. Please can you help me. I am trying to find the name of a Evergreen Hibiscus which has blue flowers. If so, do you supply it. Do hope you can help. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Terri Overett

      Hi Marge, thank you for your comment. The evergreen Hibiscus are usually Hibiscus rosa-sinensis hybrids. There are some blue varieties available but unfortunately we don’t sell these. The evergreen Hibiscus tend to be grown as houseplants as they are not hardy outdoors in the UK. Hope that helps, Terri

      Reply
  4. I have a small suburban front garden, in front of a bay window. I’m going to have dwarf lavender in a trough in front of the bay window. I was considering daphne odora aureomarginata in pots either side, but I think they’ll be too big (1.5m). Can they be pruned and kept smaller? And for the back garden – can an amanagowa be grown in a pot?

    Reply
    • Rebecca Tute

      Hi Norma, thanks for your comment. I’ve just spoken to Sue, our hort expert and this is what she said “Daphne is pretty slow growing so they would be fine in pots. Also growing them in pots is likely to restrict their growth so they shouldn’t get out of hand. Prunus amanogawa is a very narrow tree and therefore considered to be a ‘small tree’ . However like all trees it would much prefer to grow in the ground. You could certainly grow in a container for a few years but it would ultimately make a nicer specimen if planted in a permanent position.” I hope this helps you.

      Reply
  5. How about Choisya – surely in the top ten?

    Reply
  6. I love evergreen plants for their ability to really make a garden sing during the winter when most other plants are dormant. And I have at least one of each of the 10 plants listed above! My absolute favourite however is the camellia – in fact I have 5 of them in my small garden! I could also add to this list; rhododendron, laurel and evergreen azalea.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Tute

      Ooh, that sounds lovely – just what you need on a dull winter’s day!

      Reply
  7. Thanks for this post. I am new to gardening and was looking for information on plants that would attract wildlife and that would look good all year round. This has given me plenty of ideas! Looking forward to turning an unloved, overgrown garden into something nice.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Tute

      Glad we could help! Hope you have fun transforming your garden – we’d love to see some before and after photos!

      Reply
  8. New to gardening and looking for inspiration and good advice – I’m going to give Daphne a try as well as Lavender. Hoping to tame the jungle and develop an oasis of calm!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Tute

      Jungle… or wildlife garden?! My garden has definitely swayed towards the ‘jungle’ state in the last year, but I’m trying to convince myself that it’s good for wildlife!

      Reply
  9. I HAVE FOUND THIS VERY USEFUL. I AM ALWAYS LOOKING FOR NEW PLANTS TO GIVE MY GARDEN WINTER INTEREST. I WAS ESPECIALLY INTERESTED TO READ ABOUT THE DAPHNE, WHICH UP TO NOW I HAVE FOUND IMPOSSIBLE TO KEEP IN MY GARDEN.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Tute

      Thanks Mary, I hope you have more luck this year. If there’s anything we can help with, please do ask – that’s what we’re here for!

      Reply

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