Evergreens have always been popular shrubs, and it’s easy to understand why. They offer low maintenance, year-round color, even if you live in the snowy north. Their dense branches offer food and shelter to birds and wildlife, and they provide structure and interest to any landscape. While some become quite large, there are many dwarf evergreens that can be planted to camouflage your home’s sometimes not-so-pretty concrete or block foundation. Bonus: Most evergreens are long-lived plants that require almost no care once established.
Before buying, make sure you choose a shrub that can handle winters in your USDA Hardiness zone (find yours here). Also, read the plant tag or description so you’ll know its maximum height and width. If planting as a foundation shrub, place it at least one mature plant’s width away from your house to avoid overcrowding. And double check its mature size: You don’t want to plant a shrub that’s going to get humongous up against your house, covering windows or becoming a maintenance nightmare.
Ahead, our picks for the best evergreen shrubs to dress up the front of your house:
1. Japanese Holly
Japanese holly has pretty, rounded leaves and a dense form that make it an attractive foundation planting. It has tiny white flowers in spring followed by small, non-descript black berries, and it’s generally deer resistant.
2. Dwarf Mugo Pine
These hardy evergreens have interesting cones in the spring. Their striking architectural form make them an interesting accent plant or foundation planting.
3. Globe Arborvitae
The rounded form of this evergreen is available in many sizes, ranging from a few feet tall to 4 or 5 feet in height. It maintains its tidy, round form without pruning.
Popular for centuries for their classic look, boxwoods can be sheared into shape or left to go natural. They’re hardy plants that deer typically don’t bother. New varieties are more cold-hardy, so they won’t get ugly winter burn either.
5. Skip Cherry Laurel
This is an extremely dense shrub that makes an excellent privacy screen. It has white fragrant flowers in spring, followed by red berries in summer.
6. Siberian Cypress
If you live in an area with harsh winters, Syberian Cypress is the plant for you. This beautiful cold-tolerant shrub with a creeping form has pretty, lacelike foliage that can withstand temps as low -50 degrees F.
7. Inkberry Holly
This petite native holly has shiny, oval leaves and keeps its cute round form without pruning. Plant in a row to make an attractive low hedge that reaches 2 to 3 feet tall and wide.
While lesser known in the evergreen world, this shrub has clusters of bell-shaped flowers that appear in late winter to early spring when you most crave some color. It’s also one of few shrubs that tolerates mostly shade.
9. Creeping Juniper
This ground-hugging evergreen with a blue-green color and fine texture works well at the front of borders or to hold pesky hillsides in place. It’s also drought tolerant once established.
Camellias have glossy foliage and dramatic blooms that appear in late fall to early spring, depending on the type. They only grow in zones 7 and warmer.
11. Blue Holly
This is the classic type of holly you see associated with Christmas, with its characteristic jagged leaves and bright red berries. Make sure to plant both “male” and “female” plants so berries will form.
12. Dwarf Balsam Fir
If your hometown knows only two seasons—hot and humid—avoid this shrub. It doesn’t grow in parts of the country with hot summers (zone 7 and warmer). For everyone else, go ahead and plant a Dwarf Balsam Fir: It has dark green, fragrant needles and keeps its tidy, rounded shape.
13. Dwarf Hiba Cedar
This lesser-known shrub has lacy bright green foliage and a mounded shape with a flat top. It maxes out at 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, so it’s a great choice for foundation plantings.
14. Globe Blue Spruce
Just check out those gorgeous blue needles (which turn silvery-blue in summer). Globe Blue Spruce maintains a neat, spherical shape that makes for an ideal foundation planting.
15. Bay Laurel
This handsome evergreen shrub not only looks great in warm-climate gardens, its leaves can be used to season soups, stews and other dishes. In northern climates, you’ll need to keep it in a pot and bring indoors before cold weather arrives.
16. Plum Yew
These evergreens offer appealing texture, a neat, mounded shape, and tiny fruits that look like plums when planted near a “male” plant. They’re also deer resistant.
Daphne shrubs have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their gorgeous fragrant blooms that appear in late winter to early spring. FYI, though: They only grow in climates with mild winters (zone 6 and warmer).
This finely textured evergreen has tiny glossy green leaves and keeps its rounded form without pruning. It’s a great alternative to boxwood for warm climates.
These spring bloomers may be evergreen or deciduous (drop their leaves), so read the tag to be sure which type you’re buying. Some types also rebloom so you’ll get flowers later in the season, too.
You may not realize it, but rosemary actually is a shrub. In warm climates, this plant can reach up to 6 feet tall. Plus, it’s always nice to have this fresh culinary herb on hand. It also gets tiny blue or purple flowers in spring.
Reminding us that nothing worthwhile comes easy, is this temperamental flowering shrub that tends to be a whole lot of work for gardeners. A native of the tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia and Pacific islands, gardenias need to be planted in acidic soil, under tropical conditions (but with limited direct sunlight) and with zero intentions to be transplanted. Once you get a hang of their care demands, gardenias grow an enchanting white flower that’s beloved not only for its beauty but for its intoxicating fragrance as well.
22. MIRROR BUSH
This hardy, low-maintenance plant is known to grow even in the saltiest coastal environments. Also called the looking glass plant, this shrub gets its name from its glossy, jewel-like. You’ve probably seen a variety of these mirror bushes around as they come in a wide-range of flowers—creamy white, lime green, bright pink, purple, gold or soft yellow.
Though it sounds like a plant straight out of a Stephen King novel, it won’t creep into your window and annihilate your entire family, we promise. It’s not, however, too friendly with other plants. The climbing variety of wintercreepers has been known to climb other plants and ultimately kill them by smothering them and inhibiting photosynthesis. The low-growing variety, on the other hand, can grow with upright leaves that make an attractive, ground hugging mat.
24. RED TIP PHOTINIA
If you find yourself feeling all lovey dovey in the presence of this remarkable shrub, it may be because they’re in the rose family. While their striking red flowers steal the show when they bloom each spring, their rich, dark green leaves are the subject of wonder all year long. Red tip photinia are fast growing and have been known to grow anywhere between one to three feet every year. Still, they’re quite adaptable and can be groomed into short, robust trees.
25. FALSE CYPRESS
Another conifer, the false cypress will bring vibrance and texture to any garden. Not only is their foliage green, but it can also be gold, yellow, lime, blue-gray and silvery-blue, among other whimsical colors. These hefty shrubs love full sun and can be found in tall and wide varieties fit for making hedges, or low-growing varieties you can plant in rocky pathways.
26. MOUNTAIN LAUREL
Also known as the kalmia latifolia, the mountain laurel is a slightly finicky plant that grows best in partial shade. Place it in a full shade and it’ll wilt to death. Under full sun, the foliage may be seared to bits. So, be delicate in your placement. When their white, pink or red flowers die off in the colder months, the leathery deep green foliage holds down the fort, providing some color in an otherwise bland garden.
Kin to azaleas, rhododendrons come in all shapes and sizes. Some varieties, such as the rhododendron minus grow to be about five to six feet tall. Others, such as the rhododendron maximus can be nature’s very own skyscrapers, reaching a staggering 20 feet or taller. They’ll need to be watered twice a week when they’re young, once mature, you’ll only need to give them H2O during dry periods (typically every two to three weeks without rain).
28. DWARF HINOKI CYPRESS
Easily identifiable because of its pyramid-like shape, the dwarf hinoki cypress boasts bright green foliage all year long. This slow-growing, compact plant is quite chill after the first season—where it needs plenty of water to grow and establish its roots. You can pair it with any gold or yellow perennial for a more dynamic garden.
If you’re new to gardening and just don’t know anything about soil types, or you’re worried you’ll forget to water your plant, then try your luck with an oleander. The only thing these hardy plants can’t withstand is an extra-cold winter dipping below six degrees Celsius. Other than that, they can flourish under a lot of turbulent conditions including difficult soil, reflected heat and salt spray.
They don’t call it ‘marvel mahonia’ for nothing. This flashy plant will give you gorgeous yellow blooms in the winter, blue/gray-ish summer berries (some are even edible!), and fine-looking foliage year-round. Just provide them with well-drained soil and they’ll bask in full sun, partial shade and even full shade. Just watch your sweaters and cute summer dresses around those prickly leaves.