By Susan Albert
Evergreens add structure and year-round interest to your Oklahoma or Texas landscape. These plants create a constant framework you can accentuate with deciduous plants and flowers. The persistent foliage adds privacy, softens the hard edges of your home, and provides cover and food for wildlife.
There are two types of evergreens — broadleaf and narrowleaf (with needles). Broadleaf evergreens include nandina, holly, and boxwood. Narrowleaf evergreens include spruce, arborvitae, juniper, and pine. They can be pyramidal, mounding, spreading, rounded, or vase-shaped.
Many evergreens grow very large, so it’s important to know what you buy. Determine the height and width of the space you want to fill, then look for evergreens to fit that size. Plant tags have the information you need.
Some varieties come in dwarf forms, so there is no reason to buy an evergreen that will someday crowd its surroundings, interfere with utility lines, or require extensive pruning.
Also be sure to maintain evergreens’ soil requirements. Pine trees, for example, must have well-drained soil to thrive. Most evergreens also need full or part sun. A few, such as yew, aucuba, azalea, and mahonia, accept shade.
Here is a sampling of evergreens to choose from:
- Aucuba (Aucuba japonica) — Commonly called gold dust plant, it thrives in deep shade and tolerates moist, clay soils.
- Azalea (Rhododendron spp.) — Azaleas, pictured top, need acidic soil. Most have evergreen foliage, including the Encore azalea. Native azaleas, however, are deciduous. Standard azaleas prefer shade, but Encores require full sun for best blooming.
- Boxwood, common (Buxus sempervirens) — They are excellent specimen plants or hedges, and you can trim them to any shape.
- Camellia (Camellia sasanqua) — Camellias have glossy, dark-green leaves, and showy flowers that bloom in fall or winter.
- Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) — Grown for its shiny, dark-green foliage and sweetly scented white flowers. Prefers moist, acidic soil. Good container plant.
- Glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) — There are many sizes and color variations. Abelias are considered evergreen in Zone 6, but a harsh winter defoliates them. Once spring arrives, the leaves return promptly.
- Holly (Ilex spp.) — There are numerous varieties, shapes, and sizes. All prefer acidic soil. Only the female plants produce berries. Heller’s Japanese holly (I. crenata ‘Helleri’), pictured, is a compact, dense foundation or hedge plant growing about 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide.
- Mahonia (M. aquifolium) — Birds favor mahonia, pictured, for its grapelike clusters of fruit. It’s also called Oregon grape holly.
- Nandina (Nandina domestica) — Use this popular evergreen, growing about 2 feet tall, as an edging plant or groundcover. Several varieties of dwarf nandina, such as ‘Firepower’, offer red foliage.
- Wax myrtle, Southern (Myrica cerifera) — This shrub to small tree produces small clusters of gray fruit. The aromatic, olive-green foliage may defoliate in temperatures below 0°F.
- Arborvitae (Thuja spp.) — Good for hedges and screens, the upright, rounded shrub prefers moist, well-drained soil.
- False cypress (Chamaecyparis spp.) — Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, including dwarf. Some false cypress cultivars bear gold, threadlike foliage like the Sungold threadleaf false cypress (C. pisifera ‘Sungold’), pictured.
Juniper (Juniperus spp.) — Junipers have pointed, scalelike foliage, and female plants produce blue berries. Plant them in well-drained soil in a sunny area. Blue Arrow (Juniperus ‘Blue Arrow’), pictured, has steel-blue foliage and columnar growth.
- Pine (Pinus spp.) — Dwarf mugo pine, pictured, is a popular rounded shrub that makes an excellent specimen plant. It’s slow-growing and drought-tolerant.
- Yew (Taxus spp.) — One of the most popular narrowleaf evergreens for its shade tolerance and variety of forms (upright, spreading, and round). Female plants produce berries.
There are many more evergreen trees and shrubs to choose from; even some vines and perennials stay green through the winter. Consult your Lowe’s garden center for recommended varieties.