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Choosing Shade Evergreens: Learn More About Evergreens For Shade

Choosing Shade Evergreens: Learn More About Evergreens For Shade


By: Heather Rhoades

Evergreen shrubs for shade may seem like an impossibility, but the fact is that there are many shade loving evergreen shrubs for the shade garden. Evergreens for shade can add structure and winter interest to a garden, turning a drab area to one filled with lushness and beauty. Keep reading to learn more about shade evergreens for your yard.

Evergreen Shrubs for Shade

To find the right shade loving evergreen shrub for your yard, you should give some consideration to the size and shape of the shrubs you are looking for. Some evergreens for shade include:

  • Aucuba
  • Boxwood
  • Hemlock (Canada and Carolina varieties)
  • Leucothoe (Coast and Drooping species)
  • Dwarf Bamboo
  • Dwarf Chinese Holly
  • Dwarf Nandina
  • Arborvitae (Emerald, Globe, and Techny varieties)
  • Fetterbush
  • Yew (Hicks, Japanese, and Taunton types)
  • Indian Hawthorn
  • Leather-leaf Mahonia
  • Mountain Laurel

Shade evergreens can help add some life to your shady spot. Mix your shade evergreens with flowers and foliage plants that are also suited to shade. You will quickly find that the shady parts of your yard offer a wide variety of options in terms of landscaping. When you add evergreen shrubs for shade to your shade garden plans, you can make a garden that is truly amazing.

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Evergreen Shrubs for Shade

Different plants tolerate shade to varying degrees so you want to avoid planting sun loving plants in sheltered cold spots as they will not thrive, can become stretched, elongated and limp and even die as they struggle to find light.

Those that tolerate shade are often from woodland environments so often require moist soil especially in summer where shallow ground can dry out leaving shallow roots to struggle to find enough water.

Shady garden areas can also be dry as they are close to walls or under the canopy of larger deeper rooted shrubs and trees.


The Best Evergreen Shrubs

Some of the best evergreen shrubs for your front or backyard are:

  • Boxwood—Evergreen ornamental shrubs with small oval glossy evergreen leaves – these shrubs grow to medium size.
  • Mahonia—Beautiful evergreen flowering shrubs that thrive in full sun or shade and produce stunning blossoms every year.
  • Cherry laurel—The upright and fast growth habit of the evergreen cherry laurel bushes make these perfect for flowering hedges or specimen bushes.
  • Anglo-Japanese yew—Evergreen perennial shrub with dense foliage that is ideal for low- or medium-height natural hedges or growing as an ornamental front yard bush.
  • Azaleas—Evergreen flowering shrubs with beautiful foliage, and round growing habit make them spectacular shrubs for a garden landscape.
  • Dwarf Norway spruce—This small-growing evergreen shrub has a low-spreading growth habit that is perfect as a specimen plant.
  • Laurustinus – Ornamental evergreen bush that is great for front or back yard.
  • Firethorn shrubs – Thorny evergreen plants with dense foliage and prickly stems that make an excellent privacy hedge.
  • Oregon Grape – Ornamental shrub with blue fruits.

Plant evergreen shrubs in the front of house to increase the curb appeal or as a decorative element in your backyard.

How does a shrub differ from a small tree? Shrubs generally have multiple woody stems that grow from the ground, whereas trees typically have a single trunk. Although some types of trees are short, shrubs are usually small- to medium-sized bushy perennial plants.


Alder-Leaved Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)

Alder-leaved serviceberries feature spikes of creamy white flowers that appear in April and May. Also known as Saskatoon serviceberry, they produce purple-blue pomes that are edible and a popular wildlife food. Varieties generally offer superb fall color that lasts a long time. This understory shrub is prone to forming suckers or shoots which should be removed to retain shape. Some cultivars will thrive in warmer climates but native plants are found in zones 5 to 9.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
  • Height: 12 feet or greater depending on cultivar
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained, dry or moist


Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Tambako the Jaguar / Getty Images

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Tambako the Jaguar / Getty Images

A broadleaf evergreen shrub native to the Eastern United States, mountain laurel is also referred to as calico bush or spoonwood, and grows to be between 10 feet and 30 feet in height. Found growing in mountainous forests and on rocky slopes, these shrubs thrive in acidic soil and can form dense thickets in low, wet areas. Wood from the plant is strong but brittle, and is used to make wreaths and other crafts.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade. Prefers shade.
  • Soil Needs: Rich, acidic, moist, well-draining.

Florida Yew (Taxus floridana)

United States Botanic Garden

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United States Botanic Garden

This evergreen coniferous shrub or small tree is typically under 5 feet tall, but can grow to be much taller in ideal conditions. These shrubs are currently endangered, and endemic to only a small part of northern Florida near the Apalachicola River, and have thin, scaly purple-brown, bark and irregularly placed branches.


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