Evergreen shrubs are a great choice for any garden, as they provide year-round color, structure, and interest. They can also attract wildlife, create privacy, and enhance curb appeal. However, not all evergreen shrubs are suitable for small spaces. Some can grow too large, too fast, or too unruly for a compact garden.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 10 small evergreen shrubs that are perfect for small gardens. These shrubs are all under 5 feet tall and wide, and they offer a variety of shapes, textures, colors, and flowers. Whether you’re looking for a low-maintenance ground cover, a fragrant border, or a showy specimen, you’ll find something to suit your taste and style in this list.
1. Pieris japonica, ‘Little Heath’
Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’ is a dwarf variety of the Japanese Andromeda, a popular evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves and clusters of bell-shaped flowers. ‘Little Heath’ has variegated foliage with pink new growth and creamy-white flowers in spring. It grows to about 2 feet tall and wide and prefers acidic soil and partial shade. It’s a great choice for a woodland garden, a container, or a mixed border.
2. Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis
Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, also known as sweet box or Christmas box, is a small evergreen shrub with dark green leaves and tiny white flowers that have a sweet, honey-like fragrance. The flowers appear in winter and early spring, and are followed by black berries that attract birds. This shrub grows to about 3 feet tall and wide, and tolerates shade, dry soil, and urban pollution. It’s ideal for a shady spot near a doorway or a window, where you can enjoy its scent.
3. Dwarf rhododendrons
Rhododendrons are well-known for their spectacular spring blooms, but many of them can grow too large for a small garden. Fortunately, there are dwarf varieties that stay compact and neat, while still producing colorful flowers. Dwarf rhododendrons have small, evergreen leaves and come in a range of colors, from white to pink to purple. They grow to about 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, and need acidic soil and partial shade. They make excellent container plants, or can be planted in groups for a stunning display.
4. Nandina domestica, ‘Fire Power’
Nandina domestica ‘Fire Power’, also known as heavenly bamboo, is a small evergreen shrub with bamboo-like stems and lacy foliage. ‘Fire Power’ is a cultivar that has bright green leaves that turn fiery red in autumn and winter, creating a striking contrast with the snow. It grows to about 2 to 3 feet tall and wide and tolerates sun or shade, drought or moisture, and heat or cold. It’s a versatile plant that can be used as a ground cover, a border, or a specimen.
5. Euonymus fortunei, ‘Emerald Gaiety’
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ is a small evergreen shrub with variegated leaves that have a white margin and a green center. The leaves turn pink in cold weather, adding some winter interest. It grows to about 2 to 4 feet tall and wide, and can be trained as a climber, a ground cover, or a bush. It tolerates sun or shade, dry or moist soil, and urban conditions. It’s a good choice for a hedge, a foundation planting, or a container.
6. Buxus ‘Green Velvet’
Buxus ‘Green Velvet’ is a hybrid boxwood that has small, glossy, dark green leaves that retain their color throughout the year. It grows to about 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, and has a dense, rounded habit that can be pruned into any shape. It’s a low-maintenance shrub that tolerates sun or shade, drought or wetness, and deer or rabbits. It’s perfect for a formal garden, a topiary, or a border.
7. Daphne odora, ‘Aureomarginata’
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is a small evergreen shrub with variegated leaves that have a yellow margin and a green center. It produces clusters of pink, fragrant flowers in late winter and early spring, filling the air with a delightful perfume. It grows to about 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, and prefers well-drained soil and partial shade. It’s a lovely plant for a rock garden, a woodland garden, or a container.
8. Mahonia aquifolium, ‘Apollo’
Mahonia aquifolium ‘Apollo’, also known as Oregon grape, is a small evergreen shrub with spiny, holly-like leaves that turn red in autumn and winter. It bears bright yellow flowers in spring, followed by blue-black berries that attract birds. It grows to about 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, and tolerates shade, dry soil, and poor soil. It’s a tough plant that can be used as a ground cover, a border, or a wildlife garden.
9. Lavender angustifolia, ‘Arctic Snow’
Lavender angustifolia ‘Arctic Snow’ is a small evergreen shrub with gray-green, aromatic leaves and spikes of white flowers that bloom in summer. The flowers have a soothing scent and can be used for culinary or medicinal purposes. It grows to about 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, and needs well-drained soil and full sun. It’s a drought-tolerant plant that can be used as an herb garden, a rock garden, or a container.
Leucothoe is a genus of small evergreen shrubs that have glossy, lance-shaped leaves that change color with the seasons. Some varieties have green leaves that turn bronze, purple, or red in autumn and winter, while others have variegated leaves that have white, pink, or yellow markings. They produce clusters of white or pink flowers in spring, adding some charm to the garden. They grow to about 2 to 4 feet tall and wide and prefer acidic soil and partial shade. They are suitable for a woodland garden, a mixed border, or a container.