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Small Evergreen Shrubs: a Colorful List

7 Types of Compact Bushes For When Bigger Isn't Better


When you think of small evergreen shrubs, do you have an image in your mind of short, rather uninteresting lumps of green dotting a landscape? Well, you shouldn't. There are plenty of compact bushes out there that are quite colorful characters. It's just a matter of knowing about them. Thus the purpose of the list that follows: namely, to introduce you to some types of bushes that take up little room but give you ample color.

1. Winter Heaths: Flowering Stalwarts

My picture shows how gorgeous heather is when in flower.
David Beaulieu

I'm quite impressed with these small evergreen shrubs, and I pass along growing information on them to you in the article linked to here in hopes that you, too may be able to enjoy their prodigious blooming period. Winter heaths live up to their name, putting out flowers in that most unlikely of seasons: wintertime. If the climate and conditions are right for them, they may end up flowering for about half the year for you. Now you know why I've located them at the top of my list.

2. Minuet Laurel: Small Evergreen Shrub With a Big Impact

Minuet laurel photo.
David Beaulieu

Mountain laurel is a broadleaf evergreen with which I'm very familiar from my jaunts through the woods in New England. In fact, it is the state flower of Connecticut.

The laurel bushes one finds in the forest can become quite large, but the 'Minuet' cultivar, true to its name (think "minute," as in "short") is a dwarf. That's a plus for urban or suburban landscapes where growers may not have much room to spare. This compact bush offers another advantage over its wild relatives, too: the flowers are more colorful, as you can see from the picture.

3. Blue Star Juniper

Blue Star juniper picture. An evergreen shrub, Blue Star juniper is a compact plant.
David Beaulieu
The first two entries, while they do bear evergreen foliage, are grown mainly because they are standout bloomers. Not so with this third entry on my list. Blue Star juniper is strictly a foliage plant. If you like the look of, for example, blue spruce trees but lack the room for something so big, simply scale down and grow a Blue Star juniper. With their short blue needles, they look especially good when planted next to shrubs with golden foliage.

4. Emerald 'N' Gold Euonymus

Emerald 'n Gold euonymus is variegated, bearing green and gold leaves, as this photo shows.
David Beaulieu
The next three compact bushes on my list are all types of euonymus. The three have something else in common, too: each of these evergreen bushes exhibits some sort of variegation in its leaves. The name of the first entry describes its bi-colored leaves pretty well: they are, indeed, emerald (at the center) and gold (at the margin). As with all the listings here, just click the link above the photo to access growing tips for this plant.

5. Emerald Gaiety Euonymus

As the picture shows, the variegation on Emerald Gaiety is white and green.
David Beaulieu
Although another bi-colored euonymus, 'Emerald Gaiety' offers a different color combination from that of 'Emerald 'N' Gold' (and from that of the euonymus that occupies the next spot on my list): green and white, instead of green and gold. The admixture of white in the leaves gives this small evergreen shrub an overall bright appearance, which may help account for its name (i.e., "gaiety" meaning "cheerfulness").

6. Moonshadow Euonymus

Picture of Moonshadow euonymus shrub. Like Emerald Gaiety, Moonshadow euonymus is a variegated shrub
David Beaulieu

With 'Moonshadow' euonymus we come back to a green-and-gold variegation. But if you study my picture carefully, you'll see that Moonshadow's colors are reversed (when compared to their placement on 'Emerald 'N' Gold').

You may also notice that, on some of the leaves, the gold color is replaced by an off-white, instead. This happens as the growing season wears on; the spring foliage displays a shiny gold in the center. Both Moonshadow and 'Emerald 'N' Gold' are, in fact, at their best in spring.

Of the three euonymus bushes presented here, my favorite as a ground cover for a small space is Moonshadow. Its foliage grows densely, it's colorful, and it remains a short, compact bush with just a little pruning. Furthermore, my own plant, at least, has shown very little inclination to revert back to an all-green state (as euonymus is wont to to).

7. Dwarf English Boxwood

Boxwood photo. Use guide lines to shear boxwood straight if seeking a formal hedge.
David Beaulieu

Boxwood isn't as colorful as the other small evergreen shrubs in this list, but its classic foliage is attractive in its own right and it makes for a good foreground or background for other plants.

Here's one idea to consider in this context. Set off a border of red salvia, under-planted with white sweet alyssum flowers, with a hedge of dwarf boxwood. The rich green backdrop of the latter will enhance the viewer's appreciation of the red and white flowers.

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