Top ten evergreen shrubs

Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' from T&M

Many evergreen shrubs have interesting, colourful foliage
Image: Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' from Thompson & Morgan

Filling your garden with evergreen shrubs ensures your outside space retains maximum interest for every season. Think vibrant foliage, beautiful flower displays, and even fragrance during the harsh winter months when little else is growing. When summer comes, these plants continue to delight while providing the perfect foil for summer perennials. 

There are so many wonderful evergreen shrubs that selecting just 10 has proved very difficult. We got there in the end - here’s our pick of the best:

  1. Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'
  2. Taxus baccata
  3. Fatsia japonica
  4. Lavender angustifolia 'Arctic Snow'
  5. Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia'
  6. Camellia '1001 Summer Nights' Jasmine
  7. Euonymus fortunei 'Blonde Beauty'
  8. Mahonia aquifolium 'Apollo'
  9. Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin'
  10. Holly Ilex aquifolium

Read on to find out why each of these evergreens won a place in our coveted top ten, or browse our full range of shrubs including climbing, container, scented and winter-flowering varieties, for even more choice.

1. Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' from T&M

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' has gorgeous scented flowers from January to April
Image: Marianne Majerus Garden Images

Daphne plants are well loved for their small but incredibly fragrant flowers which appear in winter and early spring when little else is growing. Choose from plain-leaved varieties for a block of colour amid the gloom of winter, or opt for a variegated variety like Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata', which has a rounded compact habit and attractive glossy, yellow-edged leaves. 

Perfect for growing in patio containers and borders, Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' is a superb small evergreen shrub for the garden. Grow it in sunny or partially-shaded mixed borders, woodland gardens and rock gardens.

2. Taxus baccata

Green topiary hedging

Taxus baccata is one of the most useful evergreen shrubs in the garden
Image: Taxus baccata from Thompson & Morgan

One of the most useful plants available to gardeners, taxus baccata, or English yew, is all about low-maintenance structure. Its dense leaves make it great for screening and, with regular clipping, you can shape it to provide the sort of formal topiary you’ll find at the Palace of Versaille! Alternatively, give it a looser shape and it’ll fit nicely into your cottage garden. Yew does it all, and if you cut the growing tips of the leading stems, you can prevent it from running away from you like some evergreen hedging.

Holding an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS, male plants produce yellow cones in spring and female plants produce red berry-like fruits in autumn. They tolerate dry soils and make a good choice for any style of garden.

3. Fatsia japonica

Fatsia japonica from T&M

Fatsia japonica is a great solution for shady parts of the garden
Image: The Garden Collection

For an architectural shrub that’s surprisingly hardy, and copes well with coastal conditions and shady areas of the garden, Fatsias are a great option. This versatile shrub features large, glossy hand-shaped leaves borne on stout, upright stems. Fatsia plants are also available with variegated or silvery-coloured leaves, making an eye-catching feature in borders or large patio containers.

Also called the Castor Oil Plant, Fatsia japonica is fast growing and robust, making it ideal for filling gaps in your borders. Low-maintenance and long-lasting, this plant produces attractive white globular flowers during the summer, changing to black seed pods by the autumn.

4. Lavender angustifolia 'Arctic Snow'

Lavender angustifolia 'Arctic Snow' from T&M

Lavender 'Arctic Snow' features grey-green foliage and dazzling white flower spikes
Image: Lavender angustifolia 'Arctic Snow' from Thompson & Morgan

Any list of the best evergreen shrubs would be incomplete without gorgeous lavender. With scented silver-green foliage and lovely flowers in shades of purple, lilac and pink, this well-loved hardy shrub is attractive, versatile, deeply fragrant and acts as a magnet for bees and other pollinators. From edging to hedging and borders to patio containers, every garden should have some. 

Thanks to their Mediterranean origins, lavender plants have good drought tolerance, and are particularly well suited to light, sandy soils. For something a little different, we’ve chosen Lavender angustifolia 'Arctic Snow' for our top ten. A rounded variety of English lavender, its bright white flowers and wonderfully contrasting silver-green foliage look really stunning.

5. Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia'

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' from T&M

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' has glossy leaves that are flecked with gold
Image: Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' from Thompson & Morgan

If you’re looking for a tough shrub, this Aucuba makes an excellent choice. A popular evergreen shrub renowned for its ability to tolerate full shade, dry soil, pollution, and salty coastal conditions, choose from plain-leaved varieties or a speckled yellow cultivars like Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' which give rise to this plant’s popular name, ‘Spotted Laurel’.

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' has large, leathery, glossy leaves and, provided you grow a male plant nearby, female plants produce bright red berries in autumn. An excellent choice to help you achieve an exotic, subtropical look, grow Aucuba as specimen plants, hedges, or in difficult heavily-shaded corners of the garden where it provides colour and interest.

6. Camellia '1001 Summer Nights' Jasmine

Camellia '1001 Summer Nights' Jasmine from T&M

This camellia blooms for a full five months, from June through to October
Image: Camellia '1001 Summer Nights' Jasmine from Thompson & Morgan

A classic spring-flowering shrub originating from the woodlands of Asia, camellias are popular for their glossy deep green foliage and abundance of large, showy flowers early in the year. Their flowers can be single or double and come in a range of colours from pink to red, through to yellow or white. Although naturally large shrubs, dwarf varieties are available. 

We recommend Camellia '1001 Summer Nights' Jasmine. New in 2021, this camellia is the world’s first to produce its spectacular flower display during the summer months. Bred in China by a team of world-renowned experts, you can expect ruffled, rosette blooms continuously from mid June to October. A neat and compact plant, this is a superb option for patio containers.

7. Euonymus fortunei 'Blonde Beauty'

Euonymus fortunei 'Blonde Beauty' from T&M

Euonymus fortunei 'Blonde Beauty' tolerates clay soil and shade
Image: Visions BV, Netherlands

Looking for a versatile evergreen shrub that’s particularly well adapted for heavy clay soils? Try cultivars of Euonymus fortunei. These multipurpose plants are great at tolerating poor soils, coastal conditions and shade. What’s more, they can be grown as evergreen ground cover or trained to climb, even thriving on north-facing walls. They also grow as hedges or free-standing shrubs in garden borders and containers. 

With a variety of foliage colours to choose from, we love Euonymus fortunei 'Blonde Beauty' which, with its creamy-yellow leaves edged with green, is fantastic for adding winter colour to your garden. A dense, compact shrub, this plant is ideal for borders, patio containers, low hedging and ground cover.

8. Mahonia aquifolium 'Apollo'

Mahonia aquifolium 'Apollo' from T&M

Mahonia aquifolium 'Apollo' reaches a mature height of about 100cm
Image: Mahonia aquifolium 'Apollo' from Thompson & Morgan

Mahonia plants have an architectural form and glossy, spiny leaves similar to holly. They’re valued for their late winter and spring flowers which are bright yellow and highly fragrant. Mahonia flowers are borne on long, elegant racemes or in clusters at the tips of branches, creating a distinctive and striking display when much of the garden is still dormant.

Coping well with coastal conditions, clay soils and heavy shade, Mahonia makes an unbeatable, low-maintenance addition to shrub borders and woodland gardens. Try Mahonia aquifolium 'Apollo' which is ideal for planting at the back of a border or even as groundcover in a woodland garden.

9. Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin'

Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' hedging from T&M

Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' is a good choice for a colourful, evergreen hedge
Image: Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' from Thompson & Morgan

For a blaze of wonderful red colour in the spring, Photinia is a tough, versatile shrub that’s hard to beat. The glossy leaves are bright scarlet when young, gradually changing to bronze-green through to deep green, giving the whole plant a two-tone effect. Grow this evergreen plant in sunny borders, as a specimen shrub in a large patio container, or as hedging.

Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ is the most popular variety of Photinia and looks stunning when grown in woodland areas and shrubberies or as a low-maintenance specimen plant.

10. Holly Ilex aquifolium

Holly Ilex aquifolium from T&M

Holly makes a wonderful specimen plant or hedge
Image: Holly Ilex aquifolium from Thompson & Morgan

Hardy, often spikey, colourful and providing a dense evergreen shelter and food source for lots of garden birds, Holly makes a wonderful addition to your garden. Best known for its classic dark green leaves and red berries at Christmas, there are many variegated forms of holly which make outstanding specimen plants in the garden or as part of a mixed border. 

Holly also makes a fantastic dense hedge, for which Holly Ilex aquifolium is a good variety to use. Its spring flowers are highly attractive to bees and are followed by red or yellow berries on female plants, if a male pollination partner is planted nearby. Tolerant of harsh conditions, this tough shrub deserves a place in every garden.

We hope our list of ten excellent evergreen shrubs gives you plenty of inspiration when you come to plan your own garden. For specific shrub growing information and advice, head over to our comprehensive hub page. For more inspiration, here's the our 'Top 10 Easy To Grow Evergreen Shrubs' infographic in full - if you'd like to share it or use it on your own site, check out the details underneath.

top ten evergreen shrubs infographic from thompson & morgan

To publish this infographic on your own site, please use the following embed code, or share on Twitter by pressing the blue button:

Sue Sanderson T&M horticulturalist

Text by Sue Sanderson

Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.

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