By Keri Byrum
Gardening in the warm Gulf Coast climate offers many opportunities to use low-maintenance evergreen shrubs. Here are some of the options available.
Parson’s juniper (Juniperus davurica 'Parsonii') is a very low-growing, bluish-green shrub with needlelike leaves that requires almost no maintenance. The low height eliminates the need for pruning, and creates a nice background or understory plant with taller shrubs. For transplants from the northern United States, Parson’s juniper feels very familiar to cold-climate conifers.
‘Yewtopia’ plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Yewtopia’) is a new plant cultivar that grows well in the heat of the Gulf Coast. Its upright vase shape works well in a mixed garden or as a hedge. I appreciate that this plant is soft to the touch, and fills the void in my garden for shady plants that have nice shape and structure. The slow growth also means little to no pruning.
A tough native of the southern United States, ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ holly (Ilex vomitoria) grows quickly in a variety of locations, from full sun or shade to seaside or swamps, in sand or clay. The symmetrical, dense, rounded form of this holly (also called Yaupon holly) requires infrequent pruning to maintain its 4- to 6-ft height and spread. Older plants grow taller and can become quite wide as roots produce sprouts, but it also responds well to regular pruning. This plant works well for low, formal hedges.
Aucuba (Aucuba japonica) is an evergreen shrub that brings a tropical look to the landscape. Gold flecks splatter the glossy green leaves for a bright look that stands out in the shade. Aucuba is best grown in part to full shade, and can be easily kept as a shrub or allowed to grow into a small tree. I’ve been surprised to find that this tropical-looking plant is quite cold-tolerant and grows as far north as USDA Zone 7.
This year consider adding one of these low-maintenance shrubs to your yard. You’ll find great evergreen options for every type of garden and gardener.