Last updated on January 24th, 2022
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Small Evergreen Shrubs that offer ‘Year Round Interest’
Evergreen shrubs, for anyone who is not familiar with the term, is a plant that does not drop their leaves for the winter like ‘deciduous’ plants (plants that drop their leaves for winter) do. This means, that with some careful consideration, you can plant a garden that has all year round interest and evergreen plants, in particular, are good for all year round colour.
Evergreen plants that are small 10-90cm (4″ – 3ft) by nature, usually require less maintenance and care as they require very little pruning. They are usually ideal for planting in pots and planters, meaning they can be moved around to specific areas of the garden where they can be enjoyed. They can also be planted in the garden where larger evergreen plants may not be suitable and can also be used as groundcover plants, helping to fill in spaces and suppress weeds.
Some of the plants below have ‘AGM’ after their name, this means they have been awarded an RHS Award of Garden Merit – To learn more about this read here.
1. Convolvulus cneorum AGM
This elegant, small shrub will add a touch of all-year-round colour to your garden with its silvery-grey foliage and beautiful white flowers (blushed with a pink tint) that have bright yellow centres throughout the summer. Plant this shrub in full sun, in well-drained fertile soil. Ideal for planting in pots.
- Height and Spread: 50cm x 50cm
- Ideal for pots
2. Cotoneaster microphyllus AGM
An excellent shrub for groundcover. Its arching branches produce delicate white flowers in late spring before a mass of red berries appears in abundance in autumn and into early winter, these berries will also attract birds into the garden. They provide year-round colour and make excellent groundcover plants but are not very well suited for pots. They grow well in fertile but well-drained soil in full sun and semi-shade. If you are looking for a nice groundcover plant for a shadier part of the garden that attracts birds this is an ideal candidate. Once fully established it is also drought tolerant.
- Height and spread: 90cm x 150cm
- Ideal for groundcover and attracting birds into the garden
3. Dwarf Rhododendron
There are many varieties of dwarf Rhododendrons and they make excellent plants for use in planters or when planted in the ground. They can grow anywhere from 30cm (1ft) tall to around 150cm (5ft) tall so always check the variety to make sure you choose one of the smaller ones, if this is what you think, will be more suited for your chosen position. They prefer partial shade and flower around April and May with a mass of flowers. Plant in acidic soil or ericaceous compost if planting in the pots.
- Height and spread 30-90cm x 30-90cm
- Ideal for pots and planters and shady spots of the garden
4. Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ (v) AGM
The Euonymus Emerald Gaiety is perfect for planting in many a situation. It makes an excellent groundcover plant as well as being a good choice to use as an informal hedge and as a small climber. It grows well in moist, well-drained soils and is at home in full sun or shade. This hardy shrub has variegated green foliage with a cream edge.
- Height and spread: 100cm x 150cm but can be pruned
- Try planting as a small climber again a wall
- Ideal for pots or planted into the ground
5. Hypericum ‘Hidcote’ AGM
Also known as St John’s Wart, these evergreen shrubs produce attractive bright yellow saucer-shaped flowers from July to October and have dark green ovate leaves. Ideal for planting in shrub borders and as a hedging plant. Prefers a well-drained, fertile soil in full sun or semi-shade. It can be pruned back hard if needed and shoots well from old woody stems.
- Height and spread 150cm x 150cm
- Ideal for a shrub borders or as a hedging plant
6. Hebe Pink Paradise
Also known as the ‘Shrubby Veronica’ plant this is a dwarf variety of the popular, compact Hebe with spear-shaped leaves that have red edges. As it only grows to around 50cm it makes it ideal to plant in pots and display on the patio. The pink blushed with white flowers appear in late spring and early summer. Can be planted in full sun and semi-shade and prefers well-drained soil in a more protected spot. It is classed as hardy but may need protection from severe frost.
- Eventual height and spread: 50cm x 50cm
- Flowers spring / summer, compact shape
- Ideal for pots and planters
- Protect from severe frost
7. Lavandula angustifolia
Lavender as it is more commonly known, is a dwarf evergreen shrub that is also actually a herb and can be used in cooking. It is very hardy and will grow in poorer soils but does need to be planted in well-drained soil. The spiked purple/violet flowers are highly scented and appear in summer. Ideal for pots and a good plant for attracting bees and butterflies.
- Eventual height and Spread: 20cm x 30cm
- Is drought tolerant once fully established
- Highly scented flowers
- Prune every year flowering to keep it looking compact.
8. Skimmia japonica
Skimmia Japonica – Image Source: Wikimedia.org
This popular evergreen shrub is best known for its bright red flower buds that appear in autumn and last through the winter before masses of fragrant white flowers appear in spring. Ideal for pots, they only grow to around 60cm (2ft) x 60cm (2ft) but remember to plant in ericaceous compost as they are acid-loving plants.
- Prominent red flower buds followed by fragrant white flowers in spring
- Skimmia ‘Rubella’ is a male variety and the Skimmia japonica ‘Nymans’ is a female variety and produces red berries.
9. Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis
If you need a plant for a shadier part of the garden then this compact evergreen shrub may be just the ticket. This dense evergreen shrub produces white flowers in Summer that have pink anthers upon the leaf stems followed by black fruit.
- Prefers to be planted in a semi-shade spot but will tolerate shade
- Plant in moist, humus-rich soil
- Eventual height: 2ft (60cm)
10. Vinca major ‘Variegata’ AGM
Last on our list is a shrub that is perfect for using as a groundcover, trailing over walls and down slopes. The variegated leaves are green with a cream edge and purple/blue flowers appear upon the foliage in spring presenting a mass of colour.
- Height and spread: 10-50cm x 150-250cm
- Will grow in most soils including damp but must be well-drained
- Flowers spring – autumn