Evergreen shrubs come in a myriad of forms and appearances, but homeowners particularly love them because they are low maintenance, attractive and are very functional. Dwarf evergreen shrubs are particularly sought-after because they can be used as ornamental plants, ground cover, and for showy flowers for visual display.
If you are looking for some of the best dwarf evergreen shrubs that would fit well in your location, and in terms of growth requirements, here is a roundup of dwarf evergreen shrubs in various growing categories.
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Shrubs sizes range from large (15′ +/-) to dwarf (1′ +/-), and can be described as rounded, oval, upright, pyramidal, columnar, vase shaped, or weeping. They also have texture, determined by their leaf structure – leaves can be large and stiff, narrow and willowy, small and soft, or a combination. Leaf color and gloss also have parts to play in determining texture.
Broadly, there are two types of shrubs: those that loose their leaves in the winter (deciduous), and those that keep their leaves year-round (evergreen). Of the evergreens, there are broad leaf types and needle leaf (coniferous) varieties. All can be used in various ways to enhance a home garden.
In his book Professional Planting Design – An Architectural and Horticultural Approach for Creating Mixed Bed Plantings, (2007, John Wiley & Sons), landscape architect Scott C. Scarfone lists 4 subtypes of the above:
- Structural Shrubs
- Foliage Shrubs
- Flowering Shrubs
- Dwarf Shrubs
Think of structural plants as the “bones” of the garden. Along with small trees, they provide broad shape creation and spatial definition. Use structural shrubs as backdrops for seasonal bloomers, mass them together to frame planting bays, or use them to separate planting beds or zones.
Structural shrubs can be either evergreen or deciduous. Evergreen structural shrubs can also be used functionally, as screening, wind breaks or sound buffers. Masses of large evergreen shrubs can be the perfect foil for a vibrant specimen plant.
These plants are generally planted for the texture, shape, size and color of their leaves, and can vary widely, from the broad waxen leaves of viburnums to the fine needle-like leaves of the yews to the vibrant fall colors of many deciduous shrubs. Even evergreen shrubs can have variegated leaves, or different hues from summer to winter.
Use foliage shrubs in groups as background plantings for perennials or other flowering plants, or as individual accents, showcasing their own finest features.
Landscape plants that flower strut their stuff during their season of interest and can put on outstanding displays either as mass plantings or individual plants.
Flowering shrubs like Encore azaleas or Knock Out roses are perfect for use in mixed beds, but gardeners should try to avoid letting one flowering plant up-stage another. Take into account the shrub’s bloom period. Ideally, flowering times of all varieties should overlap seamlessly, from early spring to mid-summer to early fall.
Group plantings can provide bold color statements, but beware – too much of a good thing can overwhelm a small garden or planting bed. Smaller plantings may best be served with just 3 to 5 plants of the same variety grouped together.
If an individual specimen has especially ornamental characteristics it can make a perfect accent. Put it on display, in a bed of ground cover or against a wall, where it’s assets can be appreciated.
And don’t fixate just on color – a flowering plant’s form can add a new dimension to the planting.
Dwarf evergreen shrubs for full sun
If you are looking for dwarf evergreen shrubs that would not mind being left out to thrive under full sun, here are some of the most notable ones to check out.
1. Thuja occidentalis ‘Mr Bowling Ball‘ (American Arborvitae)
This one is a round shape evergreen shrub that only reaches a maximum height of 3ft. It retains its vibrant green color year-round and comes with distinct leathery leaves that are very dense. It loves a lot of sunlight and requires regular watering and well-draining soil.
2. Sunkist Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Sunkist’)
True to its name, it loves plenty of sunlight and could tolerate extended dry weathers. In maturity, it produces a compact, pyramid shape. It grows tall at 10ft and 6ft wide. It gets its name from its golden green leaves, full deep green center, and golden yellow tips.
3. Spruce Bird Nest (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’)
It is named as such because of its flat-top growth habit that resembles a bird’s nest at maturity. It grows at about 1.5ft in height and 4.5ft in width. It has layered branches and dense, deep green foliage. All the maintenance it takes is not to overwater and remove all dead branches and leaves.
Dwarf evergreen shrubs for shade
If you are in a location where there is more shade than sun, you would need dwarf evergreen shrubs that could tolerate much shade. If you do not know where to begin, these dwarf evergreen shrubs for shade could be helpful for a head start.
4. Aucuba japonica Gold Dust
This one is a fruit bearing evergreen shrub with attractive glossy, pointed leaves with gold fleck and arching stems. As an ornamental evergreen shrub, it is planted as hedges, used as a landscape focal point, and planted in containers when young. It could grow to up to 8ft.
5. Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida)
In the wild, this evergreen shrub can be found in bogs and swamps. It is known for its thick and leathery, deep green leaves and equally flashy, drooping pink flowers.
They can grow to up to 5ft tall and young specimen fetterbush can be grown in containers under shade and partial sunlight. Be wary of the leaves though, as it is known to be toxic for humans and animals.
6. Yew (Taxus baccata)
This one is functional in lining walkways and in hedges. It could grow to up to 10ft when properly maintained. It has dark green needles and bears berries that resemble small cherries. It needs filtered shade for it to grow but overall, it is drought tolerant. It is said that its berries and leaves are toxic to animals and humans so you need to be cautious about this.
Dwarf evergreen shrubs for containers
If you have a compact garden or just into container plants, these dwarf evergreen shrubs are the ones you should look out for. Aside from being good container plants, they also have interesting foliage growth and flower blooms.
7. Little Giant arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Little Giant’)
This round, green ball is a perfect container shrub that does not need trimming. It steadily grows spherical at a height of 2ft and 4ft in width.
It is climate hardy too, so you would not have to worry about bronzing leaves year-round. It loves moist soils and requires full sun and partial shade to grow.
8. Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpet)
This evergreen shrub is known for its trumpet shaped leaves that bloom during spring. It offers a visual display and is exceptionally hardy as it could tolerate heavy winters when planted in containers. Brugmansia flowers are very fragrant at night, attracting night pollinators.
9. Ilex crenata ‘Brass Buckle’ (Japanese Holly)
This Japanese Holly cultivar is known for its yellow, glossy foliage with a golden glow that remains in color year-round. Its leaves are burn-resistant making it perfect for container growing, to be lined in walkways, hedges, or as an accent plant for rocky gardens.
Low maintenance dwarf evergreen shrubs
Having low maintenance dwarf evergreen shrubs that still deliver when it comes to landscape function and in giving a visual display year-round through their flowers are everything you need if you do not have the time for regular pruning and other maintenance steps.
10. Spiraea japonica Magic Carpet ‘Walbuma’ (Japanese Spirea)
This one does not need regular trimming, loves full sun, tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, as well as disease and deer resistant. It is unique for its bright red leaves during spring, golden yellow leaves in the summer, and rusty red during fall. Its branch tips bloom small, pink flowers which makes it perfect as a border and container plant.
11. Picea abies ‘Tompa‘ (Norway Spruce)
This one has that unique spruce cone shape growing habit and dense, dark green needles. It can grow up to 3ft in height and 2ft wide. It thrives well in full sun, slightly acidic and well-drained soils. It is grown in cooler temperatures. It does not need pruning, it is tolerant to air pollution and is generally low-maintenance.
12. Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ (Wintercreeper)
This one is a low-growing evergreen shrub with a creeping growth habit. It is a perfect low-maintenance, ground cover, complete with dense, elliptic, deep green leaves with golden borders in the summer and turns pink during winter and fall. It is also functional for soil erosion control and is good as a foundation plant for sloped terrains.
Dwarf evergreen shrubs for zone 3
The average temperature for this hardiness zone is in between -30F to -40F. Aside from these dwarf evergreen shrubs listed here, it is also the perfect zone for asters, blue-eyed susan, apples and bee balm.
13. Seaside Serenade Bar Harbor Hydrangea
This is one that is a hardy and would withstand even the strongest winds and heavy rain. It grows to up to 4ft and requires partial sun to grow. It is one to look out for all through summer when its large, white, and creamy flowerheads appear. It is perfect as container shrubs, as a border plant and fresh flower cuts.
14. Kelsey’s Dwarf Red-Osier Dogwood
This one is beautiful and flashy. It grows to up to 2.5ft, with thin, red stems during the winter and a lush green color during the summer and spring. If you want to enhance the base of larger shrubs, this makes a good choice. It is also a perfect foundation plant or for mass planting to function as ground cover.
15. Wintergold Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo ‘Carsten’s Wintergold‘)
This one sports a very interesting profile. It grows to up to 2ft tall with full sun and regular watering. In the summer, the conical shape dwarf evergreen shrub is deep green (almost minty) in color, and then turns into golden yellow in fall and winter. It will fare well in both compact and large landscapes functioning as a hedge, and as a border plant.
Dwarf evergreen shrubs for zone 4
This hardiness zone means that you are in a location where summer days are at 70F and where winters get super cold at -10 to -20F. It is where most hardy vegetables are grown best.
16. Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
This one is the state plant of Connecticut and is very visible in New England during June. It is considered as a broadleaf evergreen, reaching a height and spread of just 3ft.
Aside from being a compact shrub that you can use for garden borders or in walkways, it is also commendable for its attractive blooms of reddish-purple. To keep it dense, lightly prune after the bloom time.
17. Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ (Flaky Juniper)
This one is a Himalayas native and is considered as the dwarf version of the mighty blue spruce. The blue star juniper only grows at a height of 3ft with a 4ft spread. It has distinct blue-green needles which you can put in between shrubs with gold or yellow green leaves. It can be planted in containers, but it would work best as ground cover.
18. Wintercreeper ‘Moonshadow’ (Euonymus fortunei)
This is another cultivar of Euonymus fortunei. In contrast with the Emerald ‘N Gold, this one has leaves that are gold in the center, surrounded by green borders and green spots. In the spring, the gold centers turn into an off-white tone.
It is a dense shrub and as such, requires pruning before spring. It grows to up to 3ft in full sun, partial shade and well-draining soils.
Dwarf evergreen shrubs for zone 5
A zone 5 means that you can grow plants that are able to withstand winter temperatures of not lower than -20F. In the US, zone 5 states include Nebraska, Ohio, Utah, Wyoming, and Virginia, among others.
19. Erica carnea ‘December Red’ (Winter Heath)
This one is well-loved not only for its beautiful clusters of tiny, pink, white and lavender blooms but also its bloom time which is during winter or even relentless for half a year if maintained well.
It is an attractive ground cover for rocky gardens and sloped terrains. It only grows at 1.5ft but its spread could be up to 4ft.
20. Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’
In contrast to the Emerald ‘N Gold, this one’s foliage is a combination of green leaves with white flecks and borders. It could grow and spread to up to 5ft and its bright color is enough to cheer up any landscape. It is quite versatile as it could also be conditioned to grow as a vine, making it functional for trellises.
21. Yucca filamentosa (Adam’s Needle)
This one is a yucca cultivar known for its bright green foliage and white, creamy flowers, blooming through mid to late spring. When mature, it could grow to up to 6ft. It is functional as ground cover in very dry areas in the garden where most plants cannot thrive.
Dwarf evergreen shrubs for zone 6
This zone has an average temperature of 0F to -10F. It is found in Kentucky, Iowa, and Montana.
22. Dwarf English Boxwood
It has the classic green color of common evergreen shrubs, but it is outstanding in its own right. It grows to only 3ft but its classic look makes it a good foreground or background landscape specimen plant. It needs regular pruning though, to keep its conical shape. Mulching is also required to keep the moisture that it needs.
23. Haaga Rhododendron (Rhododendron ‘Haaga’)
This one is a compact evergreen shrub that only grows at 3ft tall. It is perfect as a container plant in damp and cool climates. It comes with pale green foliage and clusters of baby pink flowers blooming during spring.
It is attractive as a centerpiece in a landscape but also perfect for low hedges. It thrives in partial sun and requires regular watering for it to thrive.
24. Crimson Kisses Weigela (Weigela florida ‘Slingco 1’)
If you need a good foreground plant for larger shrubs, this dwarf evergreen is a good choice. It has a height and spread of 3ft and thrives in full sun and regular watering. It is round in shape, and displays bright, crimson red flowers with white and yellow centers. It also features a light green, dense foliage.
Dwarf evergreen shrubs for zone 7
This zone has an average temperature of 0F to 10F. It is the zone for marigolds, sunflowers, geraniums, and petunias.
25. Lil Flirt Spirea
If you are looking for a versatile evergreen shrub which fares well even in poor soil conditions like compacted clay, this one would bloom in beauty. It grows at 3ft tall with delicate pink flowers that blooms throughout spring and summer. It is perfect for urban, high-traffic landscapes. It is low maintenance, heat resistant and drought tolerant.
26. Tiny Tower Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ‘MonRon’)
The conical shape of this dwarf evergreen shrub gives structure to your compact garden. It grows to just 0.5ft and works as a good foreground plant. It would also work well as formal topiary. has a dense foliage that are deep green year-round that turns grayish-green when it matures.
27. Impish Elf Lily of the Valley Shrub
This one thrives well in partial sun and grows to up to 5ft. It provides a beautiful winter display with its dark pink and purple buds. These flowers bloom into pink bell-shaped flowers in the spring, adorned with deep green, glossy foliage, and deep red stems. It is a good foundation plant that is ideal for mass plantings.
Dwarf evergreen shrubs for zone 8
This zone is a bit warmer with an average temperature of 10F to 20F. This is the hardiness zone for all of Pacific Northwest as well as Texas and Florida.
28. Crape Myrtle ‘Petite Pinkie’
This one grows to up to 5ft with a spread of 4ft. It is popular for its profuse blooming of crepe-like, clear pink flowers during summer and once again in winter. Its green-brown bark has a smooth texture. It can be good for mass plantings, for hedges and large landscapes, but could also fare well as an individual shrub.
29. Cape Cod Hydrangea
This dwarf evergreen shrub makes a beautiful container plant. It thrives well in partial shade to partial sun and could grow to up to 4ft. It repeatedly blooms baby blue and white flowers throughout the year.
Its dark green leaves emerge in mounds, making it a perfect ground cover or hedge plant too. It also produces beautiful stem cuts for your homemade floral arrangements.
30. Scallywag Holly
This one has one of the most beautiful foliage colors. It has a glossy, deep green foliage year-round and then turns bicolored (purple and burgundy) once the temperature drops. It has a rounded shape, and its dense foliage makes a good hedge plant. It grows to up to 4ft tall and 3ft wide. It is low maintenance and is disease and pest resistant.
Dwarf evergreen shrubs for zone 9
This one is really a warm zone with an average temperature of 20F to 30F. You would find this hardiness zone in California, New Mexico, and Arizona.
31. Ballerina Indian Hawthorn
This one is a very hardy dwarf evergreen shrub. It grows to 2.5ft and a spread of 4ft which thrives in full sun. It produces dark red berries before spring and blooms into clusters of small, rose pink flowers that truly provides a showy visual display during late winter to early spring.
Once it is established, it is heat and drought tolerant, with very durable pale green foliage that does not need pruning. It is pollution, wind, and heavy rain resistant. It survives in poor condition soils.
32. Cream de Mint Dwarf Mock Orange
This low maintenance dwarf evergreen shrub thrives in full sun and grows to 2.5ft in height and 3ft in spread. As the name suggests, it has mint green leaves that are dense, glossy, with white borders and white flecks. New leaves during spring are green gold in color. It is perfect for low hedges and as a border plant.
33. Little Ollie Dwarf Olive
This one literally sparkles under the sun. It thrives under full sun and grows up to 4ft tall. It has a multibranch growing habit with dense, deep green foliage with silver undersides. It is perfect as a container plant or for low hedges on coastal landscapes because it is heat, drought and salt tolerant.
Colorful Dwarf evergreen shrubs
If you are in for centerpiece dwarf evergreen shrubs, you should check out these colorful dwarf evergreen shrubs.
34. Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica)
For a colorful display year-round, this is a dwarf evergreen shrub to watch out for. In most months, its foliage remains deep green. During spring, the leaves could turn to glossy red, creamy white, and even salmon pink (depending on the cultivar).
In winter, it turns into crimson red, with some pink flecks. It also produces light pink blossoms in spring with a subtle fragrance.
35. Rhododendron Maximum ‘Compacta‘
It is the mini version of the famous rhododendron. It has broad leaves and during spring, its blooms are indeed showstoppers. It blooms clusters of pink and lavender flowers. It makes a good foundation plant and a border shrub. It is low maintenance as it does not need pruning. It is also cold-hardy as it could tolerate up to -40C.
36. Dwarf Azalea
Also called coastal azalea, this evergreen shrub blooms white, funnel shaped flowers during late spring before its glossy, leathery leaves emerge. It emits a musky scent, making it a good choice for walkways, garden borders, and as container plants. It is low maintenance and could grow to up to 3ft tall. Be cautious on its leaves and stems though because they are known to have toxic contents.
Deer resistant dwarf evergreen shrubs
Aside from being low maintenance, having deer resistant plants saves you a lot of landscaping repair and enhancement. Here are some dwarf evergreen shrubs to check out.
37. Boxwood Baby Gem
This deer resistant evergreen shrub is perfect for hedging and in lining your walkway. It takes a round, mound-like shape at maturity and grows to 3ft. It is low-maintenance and easy to prune. Its glossy, dense foliage is the center of attraction because they are small and distinctly oval in shape.
38. Cypress King’s Gold (Chamaecyparis pisifera filifera aurea)
This one is unique for its scaly foliage that remains golden green all year. In the summer, the foliage attains a golden glow that cannot be missed. It can grow up to 6ft tall. It is a slow grower and is very low maintenance. Aside from being deer resistant, this one is also heat and humidity resistant.
39. Juniperus horizontalis ‘Golden Carpet’ (Creeping Juniper)
The Golden Creeping is not just deer resistant but also disease and drought resistant. It is very functional for sloped banks and in erosion control when used as ground cover. It has attractive golden yellow foliage all year and turns into hints of mauve during the winter.
Dwarf evergreen shrubs are, indeed, gifts of nature. Wherever you are and no matter how limited your knowledge is when it comes to these plants, you can still grow them because they are almost all low-maintenance and easy to grow.
There is a reason why dwarf evergreen shrubs are sought-after. We hope that this roundup gave you a head start of what to look for when it comes to dwarf evergreen shrubs.