Shrubs: evergreen for specific situations

The variations in colour and texture of evergreen shrubs provide structure and interest to your garden, even in the dead of winter. They are also labour-saving, being easy to care for.  A useful rule-of-thumb for beginner gardeners is to plant 60-80% of evergreens.

Introduction

Selecting shrubs with different seasons of interest in the form of flowers and or berries creates a dynamic feel to your garden.

Below are selections for dry or moist shade, exposed positions, hedges and ground covers. It excludes conifers but many great selections of these can be found on the RHS Plant Selector.

Practical considerations

Before choosing a shrub it is important to understand your garden. Here are a few points to consider before making your choice;

  • A suitable soil test (RHS Soil Analysis Service) will help identify the soil texture and acidity or alkalinity which will influence the range of suitable plants. Acid-loving (lime-hating) or ericaceous shrubs grow best in a pH range of 4-6, and ideally pH 5-5.5. 
  • Note the number of hours of sunshine the position receives as the seasons change
  • Consider the ultimate height and spread of the shrub as well as rate of growth
  • Assess the microclimate of your garden and choose suitable plants

Suitable plants

This selection consists of usually widely available, evergreen shrubs for general garden use and many of the cultivars listed have received the Award of Garden Merit. Plants are grouped by flowering time, foliage colour and for specific growing conditions.

Key

v = variegated

Shrubs with ornamental berries and fruit

Arbutus unedo AGM
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (v) – lime hating
Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’ AGM
Berberis × media ‘Parkjuweel’ AGM, B. ‘Rubrostilla’ AGM
Cotoneaster bullatus AGM, C. microphyllus AGM, C. × watereri ‘John Waterer’ AGM
Gaultheria mucronata ‘Bell’s Seedling’ AGM, G. procumbens AGM, G. shallon – lime hating
Ilex aquifolium AGM, I. × altaclerensis (many)
Mahonia aquifolium, M. japonica AGM
Nandina domestica AGM
Photinia davidiana (syn. Stranvaesia)
Pyracantha (many)
Ruscus aculeatus
Skimmia japonica
, S. japonica subsp. reevesiana ‘Robert Fortune’ AGM
Viburnum davidii AGM

Flowering shrubs arranged by the season of flowering

a) Spring (March to May)
Arctostaphylos uva-urs – lime hating
Berberis darwinii AGM, B. linearifolia, B. × lologensis, B. ‘Goldilocks’ AGM
Camellia japonica, C. sasanqua, C. × williamsii – lime hating
Choisya ternata AGM
Cistus laurifolius AGM, C. × purpureus AGM
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
Erica carnea, E. × darleyensis
Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ AGM
× Halimiocistus sahucii AGM
Leptospermum scoparium – lime hating
Mahonia aquifolium, M. japonica AGM
Osmanthus × burkwoodii AGM
Pieris floribunda, P. Formosa, P. japonica
Rhododendron (many) – lime hating
Rosmarinus officinalis
Skimmia japonica
Viburnum tinus
Vinca major
, V. minor

b) Summer (June to August)
Berberis darwinii AGM, B. linearifolia, B. × lologensis, B. ‘Goldilocks’ AGM
Calluna vulgaris – lime hating
Cistus × cyprius AGM, C. laurifolius AGM, C. × purpureus AGM
Daboecia cantabrica – lime hating
Desfontainia spinosa AGM
Erica cinerea, E. vagans
Escallonia (many) 
× Halimiocistus sahucii AGM
Hypericum forrestii AGM, H. ‘Hidcote’ AGM, H. ‘Rowallane’ AGM
Kalmia latifolia AGM – lime hating
Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ AGM
Magnolia grandiflora
Olearia × haastii
Osmanthus delavayi
AGM
Pyracantha (many)
Rhododendron (many) – lime hating
Santolina chamaecyparissus AGM, S. rosmarinifolia subsp. rosmarinifolia
Teucrium fruticans (wall-side)
Vinca major, V. minor
Yucca flaccida
‘Ivory’ AGM

c) Autumn (September to November)
Calluna vulgaris – lime hating
Camellia sasanqua – lime hating
Daboecia cantabrica – lime hating
Desfontainia spinosa AGM
Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’ (v) AGM, E. × ebbingei
Erica carnea, E. cinerea, E. vagans
Escallonia (many)
Fatsia japonica AGM
× Halimiocistus sahucii AGM
Hypericum forrestii AGM, H. ‘Hidcote’ AGM, H. ‘Rowallane’ AGM
Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ AGM
Mahonia × media ‘Charity’AGM
Vinca major

d) Winter (December to February)
Camellia japonica, C. sasanqua, C. × williamsii – lime hating
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
Eleagnus × ebbingei
Erica carnea
, E. × darleyensis
Fatsia japonica
AGM
Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ AGM
Mahonia × media ‘Charity’ AGM, M. japonica AGM
Rhododendron (many) – lime hating
Skimmia japonica
Viburnum tinus

Shrubs with ornamental foliage

a) Golden-yellow or variegated
Aucuba japonica ‘Picturata’ (v), A. japonica ‘Variegata’ (v)
Buxus sempervirens ‘Aureovariegata’
Calluna vulgaris ‘Beoley Gold’ AGM, C. vulgaris ‘Gold Haze’ AGM, C. vulgaris ‘Multicolor – lime hating
Choisya ternata ‘Lich’ Sundance AGM
Cotoneaster atropurpureus ‘Variegatus’ (v) AGM
Elaeagnus × ebbingei ‘Limelight’ (v) AGM, E. × ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’ (v) AGM, E. pungens ‘Maculata’ (v)
Erica carnea ‘Aurea’, E. carnea ‘Sunshine Rambler’ AGM, E. cinerea ‘Golden Hue’ AGM, E. cinerea ‘Windlebrooke’ AGM, E. vagans ‘Valerie Proudley’ AGM – lime hating
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ (v) AGM, E. fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ (v) AGM, E. fortunei ‘Silver Queen’ (v) AGM, E. fortunei ‘Variegatus’ (v), E. japonicus ‘Ovatus Aureus’ AGM
Griselinia littoralis ‘Variegata’
Hebe × franciscana ‘Variegata’ AGM
Ilex × altaclerensis ‘Golden King’ (v) AGM,  I. aquifolium ‘Silver Queen’ (v) AGM, I. crenata ‘Golden Gem’ AGM
Laurus nobilis ‘Aurea’ AGM
Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Aureum’ (v) AGM, L. lucidum ‘Excelsum Superbum’ (v) AGM, L.‘Vicaryi’
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Variegatus’ AGM
Pieris japonica ‘Variegata’ – lime hating
Prunus lusitanica ‘Variegata’
Rhamnus alaternus ‘Argenteovariegata’ AGM
Viburnum tinus ‘Variegatum’
Weigela florida ‘Variegata’AGM
Yucca gloriosa ‘Variegata’ AGM, Y. filamentosa ‘Variegata’ AGM, Y. filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’ (v) AGM

b) Silver or grey foliage
Artemisia abrotanum AGM
Brachyglottis (Dunedin Group) ‘Sunshine’ AGM
Convolvulus cneorum AGM
Eucalyptus gunnii AGM (cut down each spring)
Hebe albicans AGM, H. pimeleoides ‘Quicksilver’ AGM, H. ‘Pewter Dome’ AGM
Santolina chamaecyparissus AGM, S. chamaecyparissus var. nana AGM
Teucrium fruticans (wall side)
Yucca gloriosa AGM,  Y. recurvifolia AGM

Shrubs for hedges and screens

Berberis darwinii, B. × stenophylla AGM, B. julianae
Buxus sempervirens
Cotoneaster lacteus
AGM
Elaeagnus × ebbingei
Euonymus japonicus
Ilex aquifolium
AGM, I. × altaclerensis
Lonicera nitida
Olearia
 × haastii
Osmanthus
 × burkwoodii AGM
Prunus laurocerasus AGM, P. lusitanica AGM
Pyracantha rogersiana AGM
Rhododendron – lime hating
Rosmarinus officinalis
Viburnum tinus
, V. rhytidophyllum

Drier shade

Aucuba japonica
Berberis candidula
, B. verruculosa AGM
Buxus sempervirens
Cotoneaster conspicuus
‘Decorus’ AGM, C. dammeri AGM, C. salicifolius ‘Gnom’, C. × suecicus ‘Skogholm’
Euonymus fortunei
Hypericum calycinum
Ilex
(hollies)
Lonicera pileata
Mahonia aquifolium
, M. pinnata, M. × wagneri ‘Undulata’ AGM
Osmanthus heterophyllus
Pachysandra terminalis
AGM
Prunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’ AGM
Rubus pentalobus (syn. R. calycinoides), R. tricolor
Ruscus aculeatus
Skimmia japonica

Moist shade

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi – lime hating
Aucuba japonica
Camellia japonica
, C. × williamsii – lime hating
Danaë racemosa AGM
Daphne laureola
Elaeagnus
 × ebbingei, E. pungens
Fatsia japonica AGM
Gaultheria mucronata (syn. Pernettya mucronata), G. procumbens AGM
Hypericum calycinum
Leucothoë walteri
AGM (syn. L. fontanesiana )
Osmanthus decorus
Pachysandra terminalis
AGM
Prunus laurocerasus 'Otto Luyken' AGM'
Sarcococca confusa AGM, S. hookeriana AGM, S. hookeriana var. humilis
Skimmia japonica
Vaccinium vitis-idaea
– lime hating
Viburnum davidi AGM, V. rhytidophyllum
Vinca major, V. minor

Dry sites in full sun

Arbutus unedo AGM
Artemisia abrotanum
Berberis darwinii
AGM, B. × stenophylla AGM, B. verruculosa AGM
Buxus sempervirens
Callistemon citrinus
‘Splendens’ AGM (wall-side)
Cistus × cyprius AGM, C. × dansereaui ‘Decumbens’ AGM, C. × hybridus AGM (syn. C. × corbariensis)
Convolvulus cneorum AGM
Corokia cotoneaster
Elaeagnus × ebbingei, E. pungens ‘Maculata’ (v) AGM
Euonymus japonica, E. fortunei
Fremontodendron (wall-side)
Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ AGM
Hypericum calycinum
Lavandula
Mahonia aquifolium
Nandina domestica
AGM
Phlomis fruticosa AGM
Photinia × fraseri ‘Red Robin’ AGM, P. villosa AGM
Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ AGM, P. ‘Watereri’ AGM
Rhamnus alaternus
Rosmarinus officinalis
Salvia officinalis
Santolina
Teucrium fruticans
(wall side)
Yucca

Exposed coastal sites

Arbutus unedo AGM
Berberis
Calluna vulgaris – lime hating
Choisya ternata AGM
Elaeagnus
Erica vagans – lime hating
Escallonia
Euonymus fortune
, E. japonicus
Griselinia littoralis AGM
Hebe
Laurus nobilis AGM
Olearia × haastii, O. macrodonta AGM
Phlomis fruticosa AGM
Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ AGM, P. rogersiana AGM, P. ‘Watereri’ AGM
Rhamnus alaternus
Rosmarinus officinalis
Senecio cineraria
Ulex europaeus
Yucca

Note: Residents in milder coastal areas, milder counties and owners of warm, sheltered sunny walls might add considerably to these lists, e.g., Ceanothus, Myrtus, Helichrysum, Convolvulus cneorum AGM, Olearia etc.

Ground cover

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi – lime hating
Calluna vulgaris – lime hating
Cotoneaster dammeri AGM, C. salicifolius ‘Gnom’, C. × suecicus ‘Skogholm’
Erica carnea, E. vagans – lime hating
Euonymus fortune ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ (v) AGM, E. fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ (v) AGM
Gaultheria procumbens AGM – lime hating
Hebe pinguifolia ‘Pagei’ AGM
Helianthemum
Hypericum calycinum
Lonicera pileata
Mahonia aquifolium
Pachysandra terminalis
AGM

Prunus laurocerasus ‘Zabeliana’
Rubus pentalobus (syn. R. calycinoides), R. tricolor
Teucrium chamaedrys
Viburnum davidii
AGM
Vinca major, V. minor

Links

RHS Plant Selector
Selection of hardy, evergreen plants with an AGM
Selection of hardy, evergreen shrubs for hedges and screens
Selection of evergreen shrubs for slopes and banks

Advertise here

We love free entry to our local RHS garden

Lucy, mum, part-time lectureer & RHS member

Become a member

Discuss this

for the site or to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.