Our favourite evergreen plants for a lush garden year-round
Evergreen plants are the backbone of any garden. Whatever the season, they can be guaranteed to provide lush, leafy colour. As a bonus, many of them also offer flowers at different times of the year. There are evergreen trees, shrubs and perennials to enjoy for shelter, hedging or simply to fill garden beds with year-round interest.
Keep evergreen plants in tip-top condition with an application of a complete garden fertiliser in early spring and again in summer, regular water especially when conditions are dry, and perform a light prune both to encourage a flush of new growth and to keep plants compact and leafy. The ideal time to prune is after flowering - click here for a comprehensive guide to pruning your plants.
Flower Power's top 7 evergreen plants
Here is a selection of seven easy-to-grow, low-care evergreen plants that can be grown to create a garden that looks good whatever the season, but particularly in winter when many plants are bare or dormant in the ground.
Rhaphiolepis (Rhaphiolepis indica) is a vigorous shrub with a flush of flowers in spring and spot flowering at other times. It is ideal to grow as a formal, clipped hedge. As well as growing in the ground, it does well in containers and also tolerates exposed sites such as balconies, seaside conditions and dry or inland areas. There are many named varieties and these are the best choices for gardens. ‘Apple Blossom’ has large pink flowers and grows to around 1.5m high x 2m wide. ‘Oriental Pearl’ has white flowers with pink stamens, while ‘Little Bliss’ and ‘Snow Maiden’ have bright white flowers and reddish new growth. All grow around 1m high and wide. Indian hawthorns are classified as weedy in some areas.
Gardenia (Gardenia augusta ‘Florida’ and other varieties) is one of the most popular garden shrubs for temperate climates due to its winning combination of bright green evergreen leaves and fragrant white flowers from late spring to autumn. Grow just one shrub in the ground or large pot, or mass plant as a low hedge under a metre high. Taller varieties such as ‘Magnifica’ can be grown as taller hedges or as standards. Gardenias are cold sensitive so grow best in a warm, sheltered but sunny position.
Camellia (Camellia sasanqua and japonica) in all its forms is a perfect evergreen plant for gardens. The autumn-flowering sasanqua is a reliable shrub for a feature plant, hedge, privacy screen or to select a dwarf form for containers. Some varieties are fragrant. Sasanquas tolerate sun to part shade and have vigorous growth. The slower-growing, winter-flowering japonicas have very dark green glossy leaves and large red, pink or white flowers. They are best suited to part shade. These too can be grown as feature or hedge plants with some varieties suited to containers. Camellias can also be clipped into shapes (prune after flowering). Camellias prefer acidic soils so in areas where soils are alkaline, grow camellias in containers with acid potting mix - Flower Power recommends Supersoil Professional Gardenia, Camella & Azalea Potting & Planting Mix for best results.
Murraya (Murraya paniculata) is a tall-growing evergreen widely grown as a hedge plant. In the warmer months, after rain, it produces flushes of highly fragrant white, orange-blossom-like flowers, which gives it a common name of orange jessamine. Left unpruned murraya can become tree-like reaching several metres high. The compact variety ‘Min-a-Min’ is slow-growing with dense growth and small leaves. It's ideally suited as a low hedge (up to 1m high) or a clipped container plant. Prune all murrayas after flowering to prevent seeding and keep plants compact. Murrayas are classified as weedy in some areas.
Viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum) is a very popular hedge plant especially for street frontages in warm temperate to tropical areas. Although it does have small white flowers, if is widely grown for its large, glossy green leaves and fast growth. It can be used for medium to tall hedges as it grows 2-4m high and around 3m wide. It grows in sun to part shade. Named varieties include ‘Dense Fence’, which has smaller leaves than the widely grown matt-green ‘Emerald Lustre’.
Olive (Olea europaea) is usually considered a fruiting tree, but it is an evergreen that can be grown to bring contrasting foliage colour to any garden due to its small grey green leaves. It also grows in well in a large container. Fruit forms in autumn and ripens in early winter. Some olive varieties are low- or non-fruiting and are grown largely as ornamentals.
Ferns are some of the easiest of evergreen plants to fill shaded spots. Most are trouble free and range in size from tall tree ferns to low-growing bird’s nest ferns. Ferns also grow in pots and hanging baskets with many thriving as indoor plants or on sheltered verandahs.