Shrubs: evergreen by size

Evergreen shrubs form the backbone to a garden and, whether large or small, there is usually one to suit the space. They provide structure, all year interest, and being very easy to look after, are labour saving. Not only are there green leaved shrubs, but also silver, gold and variegated shrubs, which offer numerous decorative possibilities.

Evergreen shrubs RHS / Neil Hepworth
Evergreen shrubs RHS / Neil Hepworth


When planning a garden or filling gaps in borders, picking the right sized shrub is important. This helps reduce the need for unnecessary moving or pruning to restrict size.

The evergreens below are ordered by size. It excludes conifers but many great selections of these can be found on the RHS Find a Plant.

Practical considerations

Before choosing a shrub it is important to understand your garden. Here are a few points to consider before making your choice;

A suitable soil test (RHS Soil Analysis Service) will help identify the soil texture and acidity or alkalinity which will influence the range of suitable plants.  Acid-loving or ericaceous shrubs grow best in a pH range of 4-6, and ideally pH 5-5.5.

  • Note the number of hours of sunshine the position receives as the seasons change
  • Consider the ultimate height and spread of the shrub as well as rate of growth
  • Assess the microclimate of your garden and choose suitable plants

Suitable plants

This selection of evergreen shrubs consists of widely available hardy plants that are grouped by their ultimate size (which they may attain in 10-20 years). Plants with attractive foliage or acid loving are marked.


(v) = variegated

1. Ultimate height usually less than 45cm (18in)

Andromeda polifolia – acid
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi – acid soil
Berberis × stenophylla ‘Corallina Compacta’ AGM
Calluna vulgaris – acid soil
Cistus salviifolius 'May Snow', C. × obtusifolius 'Thrive'
Cotoneaster dammeri AGM, C. salicifolius 'Gnom' AGM, C. procumbens 'Queen of Carpets' AGM
Daboecia cantabrica – acid soil
Erica carnea, E. cinerea, E. vagans – acid soil (tolerant of mildly alkaline soil)
Gaultheria procumbens AGM, G. cuneata, G. × wisleyensis 'Pink Pixie' – acid soil
× Halimiocistus sahucii AGM

Halimium 'Susan' AGM
Hebe 'Baby Marie', H. ‘Youngii’ (syn. H. ‘Carl Teschner’), H. 'Emerald Gem' AGM, H. pimeloides 'Quicksilver' AGM, H. pinguifolia ‘Pagei’ AGM
Helianthemum 'Wisley Primrose' AGM
Pachysandra terminalis AGM
Santolina chamaecyparissus var. nana AGM – attractive aromatic foliage
Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis – fragrant flowers
Vinca major 'Variegata' AGM (v), V. minor 'Ralph Shugert' AGM (v) – attractive foliage

2. Ultimate height usually 45-100cm (18in-3ft)

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ AGM - aromatic foliage 
Brachyglottis (Dunedin Group) ‘Sunshine’ AGM, B.monroiB. [Walburton's Silver Dormouse] = 'Walbrach' AGM – attractive foliage
Cistus dansereaui 'Decumbens' AGM, C. × pulverulentus ‘Sunset’, C. × purpureus 'Alan Fradd'
Convolvulus cneorum AGM
Cotoneaster conspicuus ‘Decorus’ AGM, C. microphyllus
Danae racemosa AGM
Daphne tangutica AGM, D. × transatlantica [Eternal Fragrance] = 'Blafra' AGM, D. pontica – fragrant flowers 
Erica × darleyensis – acid soil (alkaline soils tolerated)
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ AGM, E. fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ AGM, E. fortunei ‘Silver Queen’ AGM
Gaultheria mucronata (syn. Pernettya mucronata) (male and female plants are needed to ensure females produce berries) – acid soil
Halimium ocymoides AGM, H. lasianthum
Hebe (many, including H. ‘Autumn Glory’, H. 'Heatbreaker' (v), H. 'Mrs Winder' AGM, H .'Pascal' AGM, H. 'Purple Shamrock' (v), H. topiaria)
Helichrysum italicum 'Korma' – attractive aromatic foliage
Hypericum lancasteri
Lavandula (including L. angustifolia 'Hicote' AGM, L. × chaytoriae 'Sawyers' AGM, L. 'Regal Splendour' and L. stoechas subsp. stoechas 'Provencal' – aromatic flowers and foliage  
Leptospermum scoparium (Nanum Group) ‘Kiwi’ AGM
Lonicera pileata
Mahonia aquifolium – attractive foliage
Nandina domestica 'Firepower' – attractive foliage
Phlomis fruticosa AGM – attractive foliage
Pieris 'Little Heath' (v)
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Golf Ball', P. tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb' AGM
Prostanthera cuneata AGM – aromatic foliage
Rhododendron (many) – acid soil
Ruscus aculeatus
Santolina pinnata
subsp. neapolitana AGM – attractive aromatic foliage
Teucrium fruticans 'Azureum' AGM
Viburnum davidii AGM
Yucca filamentosa AGM, Y. flaccida ‘Ivory’ AGM

3. Ultimate height usually 1-2m (3-6ft)

Berberis verruculosa AGM
Bupleurum fruticosum
Callistemon citrinus
'Splendens' AGM, C. viminalis 'Captain Cook'
Ceanothus 'Dark Star' AGM
Choisya × dewitteana 'Aztec Pearl' AGM, C. ternata [Sundance] = 'Lich' AGM
Cistus agularii 'Maculatus' AGM, C. × cyprius var. ellipticus 'Elma' AGM
Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca 'Variegata' AGM (v) - fragrant flowers
Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' AGM (v), D. odora [Rebecca] = 'Hewreb' AGM (v)
Desfontainia spinosa AGM
Euonymus japonicus 'Bravo' (v)
Grevillea 'Olympic Flame' 
Hebe ‘Midsummer Beauty’ AGM, H. 'Great Orme' AGM
Leucothoe [Scarletta] = 'Zeblid' AGM - attractive foliage 
Ligustrum japonicum 'Rotundifolium'
Lonicera nitida 'Baggesen's Gold' AGM
Luma apiculata 'Glanleam Gold' (v)
Mahonia × wagneri ‘Undulata’ AGM – attractive foliage
Nandina domestica – attractive foliage 
Olearia × haastii, O. phlogopappa 'Comber's Pink'
Pieris japonica ‘Variegata’ (v) – acid soil
Prunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’ AGM
Rhaphiolepis umbellata
Sarcococca confusa AGM, S. hookeriana var. digyna AGM - fragrant flowers
Skimmia × confusa 'Kew Green' AGM, S. japonica (male and female plants are needed to ensure females produce berries)
Vaccinium glaucoalbum AGM, V. macrocarpum – acid soil
Vestia foetida

4. Ultimate height usually in region of 2-4m (6-12ft)

Argrocytisus battandieri – fragrant flowers
Aucuba japonica
Berberis darwinii
AGM, B. julianae, B. trigona ‘Orange King’,
B. × lologensis 'Apricot Queen' AGM
Camellia japonica, C. × williamsii – acid soil
Ceanothus 'Concha' AGM, C. 'Puget Blue' AGM
Choisya ternata AGM
Cotoneaster lacteus AGM, C. frigidus ‘Cornubia’ AGM (semi-evergreen)
Daphne bholua (including D. bholua 'Jaqueline Postill' AGM, D. bholua 'Limpsfield', D. bholua 'Peter Smithers') - fragrant flowers 
Elaeagnus × submacrophylla AGM, E. × submacrophylla 'Gilt Edge' AGM (v)E. pungens ‘Maculata’ AGM (v) - fragrant flowers
Erica arborea, E. arborea var. alpina AGM, E. lusitanica AGM – acid soil (though some tolerance of alkaline soils)
Eucryphia milliganii

Fatsia japonica AGM – attractive foliage
Fremontodendron 'California Glory' AGM
Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ (m) AGM, G. × issaquahensis 'Glasnevin Wine' (m) AGM
Grevillea 'Canberra Gem' AGM
Hebe brachysiphon, H.salicifolia
AGM, I. crenata Fastigiata Group 'Fastigiata' (f) AGM
Itea ilicifolia AGM - fragrant flowers
Jasminum humile 'Revolutum' AGM
Kalmia latifolia AGM – acid soil
Leptospermum grandiflorum
Ligustrum japonicum, L. '
Mahonia bealei, M. japonica AGM, M. × media ‘Charity’ AGM - fragrant flowers
Myrtus communis AGM
Osmanthus × burkwoodii AGM, O. delavayi AGM – fragrant flowers
Phillyrea angustifolia
Pieris formosa var. forrestii ‘Wakehurst’ AGM, P. japonica – acid soil, attractive foliage
Pyracantha coccinea 'Red Column', P. ‘Mohave’, P. rogersiana ‘Flava’ AGM, 
P. [Saphyr Rouge] = 'Cadrou' AGM, P. ‘Teton’
Rhododendron (many) – acid soil
Viburnum × burkwoodii, V. × hilleri 'Winton' AGM, V. rhytidophylloides 'Willowood', V. tinus – fragrant flowers

5. Ultimately exceeding 4m (12ft) under most conditions

Arbutus × andrachnoides AGM, A. unedo AGM
Azara microphylla AGM
Callistemon salignus AGM
Daphniphyllum macropodum
Griselinia littoralis AGM
Ilex × altaclerensis, I. aquifolium AGM, I × meserveae
Laurus nobilis
Magnolia grandiflora 'Kay Parris' AGM – acid soil (tolerates alkaline soil)
Olea europaea (olive)
Olearia macrodonta AGM
Phillyrea latifolia
Photinia × fraseri ‘Red Robin’ AGM – attractive foliage
Prunus laurocerasus, P. lusitanica AGM
Viburnum cinnamomifolium, V. rhytidophyllum

Note: This list not exhaustive and new cultivars are regularly introduced. There are numerous other evergreen shrubs of varying degrees of hardiness and garden value. Residents in milder coastal areas, milder counties and owners of warm, sheltered sunny walls might add considerably to these lists with the more tender Mediterranean and southern hemisphere plants


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