Evergreen shrubs are a garden staple. Not only do they provide year-round interest, but they can also add a sense of architecture, structure and height to the garden. These versatile garden plants can be used for hedging, borders, screening and even trained and trimmed into decorative topiary shapes.
What is the Best Time to Plant Evergreen Shrubs?
Planting any type of garden plant at the wrong time of year reduces the chances of it remaining healthy and reaching its full potential. The best planting time for evergreen shrubs depends on whether you’re planting them in the ground or as part of a container garden.
Evergreens Planted in the Garden
Spring is the ideal time of year for planting evergreen shrubs. This gives them plenty of time to establish themselves in the ground before the harsh temperatures of winter kick in. Evergreen shrubs can also get planted in autumn, but ensure there is no frost forecast for at least a couple of weeks after planting.
Container Grown Plants
Evergreen shrubs can, in theory, get planted at any time of year. However, for almost guaranteed success it’s best to plant evergreen container shrubs between autumn and early spring, when rainfall is usually plentiful. Avoid planting in mid-summer when the soil dries out too quickly.
The Best Evergreen Shrubs for the Garden
Arguably the most common evergreen shrub grown in the UK, boxwood (or box) has glossy dark green foliage in the form of small rounded leaves. It is a popular choice of evergreen shrub for privacy screening hedges and for creating topiary shapes to flank the front door.
Box is easy to grow and does well in borders and beds as well as pots and containers. One of the reasons boxwood is so popular, is because it is suitable for cold climates and grows in full sun, full shade or anything in between.
Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica)
Also known as the paper plant, this is an attractive spreading shrub with palmate evergreen leaves. Clusters of small white flowers appear in early autumn. Little black berries from late autumn to early winter.
Paper plants are versatile medium-sized shrubs that grow well in most lighting conditions. They prefer a sheltered spot out of strong winds but are hardy to UK winter temperatures.
Bay (Laurus nobilis)
Bay is another versatile evergreen shrub that works well in any style of garden. It can be clipped into formal shapes or left to grow naturally for a more relaxed look. Bay leaves are highly aromatic and are often used in cooking dishes such as soups, stews and curries. Small green-yellow flowers appear on the shrub in spring, followed by shiny black berries in autumn.
Bay thrives in full sun or partial shade and reaches an ultimate size of around 7-8m tall. This evergreen flowering shrub grows well in almost any well-drained soil type and is easy to look after.
Lavender is a wonderful evergreen shrub to grow alongside other plants in the garden. These aromatic plants feature bright flowers, usually in shades of purple, blue or pink, from late spring to late summer. The silvery grey-green foliage is long, narrow, and provides an attractive base for the flower stems.
Lavender works well in borders, herb gardens and container gardens. Choose English lavender for pots and containers, as it is hardy and most likely to survive frosty temperatures. Plant lavender in a sunny spot in well-drained soil.
Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya ternata)
This flowering evergreen shrub boasts a long blooming period with fragrant white flowers alongside the glossy green leaves from late spring into the summer months. This is a low-maintenance, compact bush that is ideal for growing in borders, pots and containers.
Plant this evergreen flowering shrub in spring or autumn when the ground isn’t frozen. Choisya ternata grows best in a sunny, sheltered spot in fertile, moist but well-drained soil.
How to Plant an Evergreen Shrub?
What You’ll Need
It’s always a good idea to have all the tools and materials you need to hand before you begin planting shrubs. Here’s a general list of what you’ll need for planting your new evergreen shrub:
- Gardening gloves
- A digging tool, such as a spade or garden fork
- Fresh compost
- A watering can full of fresh water
Planting the Shrub
Before you do anything else, give the shrub a big drink. Doing this will make it easier to remove the shrub from its pot and helps give the roots a little boost.
Dig a hole a couple of inches deeper than the shrub’s root ball and around 3 times as wide. If necessary, use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the hole to make it easier for the roots to spread.
Take the plant and inspect the roots, ensuring they aren’t too balled up or wrapped around the outside of the soil if the shrub was root-bound in its pot.
Place the shrub in the hole. Stand back to ensure it is straight and upright, then fill in the hole with compost. Take your time and keep an eye on the soil level. Soil shouldn’t come any further up the main stem than it did in the pot.
Firm down the soil to get rid of any air pockets and water well.
Caring For Newly Planted Evergreens
Watering Newly Planted Shrubs
Most established shrubs only need to be watered during particularly dry spells. However, newly planted evergreens need a lot more water to help them flourish.
Freshly planted shrubs aren’t yet drought-tolerant, so keep an eye on the weather and keep the soil moist but well draining. Even if the soil surface is wet, that doesn’t mean the moisture has reached the entirety of the shrub’s roots. Give your shrubs a nice big drink every 2-3 days (unless nature has provided plenty of rainwater!)
Feeding Evergreen Shrubs
As a general rule, feeding isn’t essential for evergreen shrubs as they can usually absorb all the nutrients they need from the soil. However, most shrubs will benefit from an annual application of all-purpose fertiliser. Choose a slow-release feed and apply it to the compost around the roots at the start of the growing season.
Pruning Evergreen Shrubs
Evergreen shrubs only really need to be pruned to remove dead or damaged parts of the plant. However, many gardeners plant evergreens as hedging or topiary and prefer to maintain a neat size and shape.
The best time for pruning evergreen shrubs is mid-spring, just before new growth starts to sprout. Wait until the risk of frost has passed to prevent damage from chilly temperatures. Hold off pruning early-flowering shrubs until after the blooms have faded.
Mulching helps suppress weeds, retains soil moisture and provided additional nutrients to help keep evergreens looking their best all year round. Well-rotted organic matter is a valuable source of nutrition for evergreen shrubs. Shredded bark, wood chips and grass cuttings are ideal materials for mulching evergreens.