Planting evergreen shrubs is one of the easiest ways to achieve a low maintenance garden that looks great all year round.
Whether you need a compact hedge, low fillers or an accent plant for pride of place, there’s no shortage of compact evergreen shrubs to accommodate today’s smaller gardens.
Here are 25 of the best. They all have something special about them and are well worth a ‘Google’ to find out if they’re right for your garden.
Foliage & form
Fine bright green leaves densely packed onto a tidy weeping frame makes this a favourite foliage shrub and a winning container plant. It’s highly tactile and looks beautiful combined with large leaf plants.
Chamaecyparis obtusa nana
This miniature conifer forms a neat dome shape, texture-rich with layers of tufty bright green branchlets. Dwarf conifers offer strong topiary-like silhouettes without the need for constant trimming, although their natural shapes can be enhanced with trimming.
This classy foliage shrub looks great all year round and is practically maintenance-free. A slow grower, it rarely needs trimming. The twisty tightly packed leaves are very distinctive; leathery, shiny dark green and twisty.
Chinese fringe flower has a horizontal weeping habit with graceful bright lime foliage and cascades of creamy white flowers in spring. If you prefer a contrasting colour, plant one of the excellent coppery-red foliage, pink flowered cultivars, such as Loropetalum ‘China Pink’.
Pittosporum Golf Ball
Dwarf ‘Golfball’ pittosporums grow naturally as dense rounded globes that keep their compact shape with only an occasional trim. Good for sun or part shade.
A touch of silver
With bright silver foliage and masses of shiny white flowers with yellow centres, this hardy little shrub is great for banks or borders and thrives in hot dry places. It makes a superb contrast against dark green foliage.
Corokia ‘Geenty’s Ghost’
Ideal for trimming with fine silvery grey foliage and a very compact habit. A good substitute for English box hedging, corokias come in a range of attractive colours, including bright olive ‘Geenty’s Green’ and bronze toned ‘Little Prince’.
A beautiful groundcover shrub with fine grey foliage and masses of white flowers. It responds well to shaping but still keeps its tidy shape without trimming. Tough and hardy, it is ideal for hot dry gardens.
Coprosma ‘ Lobster’
This hardy little native forms a distinctive ball of wiry tangling branches and tiny leaves. Bronze-red all year round it looks great as a contrast to green plants and lends itself to clipping. This is one among many excellent Coprosma cultivars - a go-to group of colourful easy-care evergreens.
Escallonia ‘Gold Brian’
This is a superb shrub for year round colour contrast. Its glossy gold-green foliage green foliage turns greener in colder months. It will grow up to two metres tall and wide, but is kept smaller with an annual trim. Ideal for part shade. Avoid hot afternoon sun.
Nandina domestica ‘Firepower’
A stunning shrub for winter colour and loved for picking, this bullet-proof little number has lime green summer foliage that turns to bright red in the colder months.
Pseudowintera 'Red Leopard'
This beautiful native shrub is a dwarf form of the native Horopito (Pepper tree), one of the best for year round colour. It has dense green-gold leaves with red mottling that intensifies in winter
Seasonal flower show
Much loved as manicured specimens in Japanese gardens, azaleas are mini rhododendrons. They come in many forms, both evergreen and deciduous. The Kurume azaleas have the smallest leaves and a smothering of colourful spring flowers. Salmon pink Azalea kurume ‘Kirin’ is the most well known.
Callistemon ‘Little John’
A stunning dwarf bottlebrush with beautiful weeping foliage it forms a compact dome covered in bright red brush flowers. Birds love it.
Ceanothus ‘Blue Sapphire’
This tidy compact ‘Californian lilac’ produces masses of bright blue flowers on rich dark evergreen foliage that takes on chocolate tones in winter. It’s a low mounding shrub that tolerates temperature extremes as well as poor dry soil.
Escallonia 'Pink Elle'
Escallonias are best known as an old-fashioned hedge plants, but there are a number of dwarf forms that make delightful small shrubs (or mini hedges) with glossy green leaves. Soft pink 'Pink Elle' looks great as a garden filler or in a pot, and the word is she also attracts monarch butterflies.
Grevillea ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’
This neat little shrub puts on a showy mass of red and gold flowers all summer long. Sun-loving grevilleas are a great choice for hot dry areas. There are many excellent varieties offering a wide range of shapes and sizes; tall, dwarf or low and spreading.
Tidy mounding foliage in tones of olive green and silver is adorned with showy red and white buds that burst into scarlet pohutukawa flowers mainly during autumn, winter and spring. This compact Pacific Island cousin of our pohutukawa is beautiful all year round.
Rhododendron ‘Saxon Blush’
The vireya rhododendrons are loved for their bright tropical trumpet flowers, but few produce the tight bushy growth and mass of bloom that makes ‘Saxon Blush’ a standout. Masses of salmon coloured flowers flush a number of times throughout the year. Protect from frost.
Sophora ‘Dragon’s Gold’
This superb compact kowhai rarely exceeds 1.5m tall and will have its first flowering at just a year old. It is also the first kowhai to come into bloom each year, with masses of golden-yellow flowers hang in clusters during winter and spring. A feast for native birds.
Hebe 'Pretty in Pink'
This attractive groundcover shrub has dark green foliage with burgundy tips. During cooler months the foliage takes on deep aubergine tones. Pink flowers are a stunning feature throughout winter.
A lovely low spreading camellia has pink buds opening to single white flowers. Flowering in in late winter and spring, it is lightly fragrant and a good choice for a large pot.
A first choice for late winter perfume, daphne loves part shade and moist well drained soil. Lovely for picking it comes in pink or white.
Hymenosporum ‘Gold Nugget’
An excellent dwarf form of the Australian frangipani tree, ‘Gold Nugget’ is just a metre tall, but with a mass of fragrant yellow flowers and lush tropical looking foliage. One for frost-free climates, its bushy shiny good looks are easily maintained with a trim after flowering.
Viburnum tinus ‘Gwenllian’
This compact evergreen has thick glossy green leaves and masses of scented pink flowers from early spring, followed by blue-black berries. Good in sun or light shade and tolerant of poor soil, it responds well to pruning.
Vireya Saxon Blush
Shaggy Acacia Limelight with Pittosporum Golfball
Escallonia Gold Brian
Hebe Pretty in Pink