Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Jan. 20, 2021

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Gardening With Allen: Shrubs that keep leaves all year


Most of my shrubs lose their leaves in winter. What are some good choices for plants to replace them?

I have often wondered why so many deciduous shrubs are planted in our area when we have lots of evergreens that are well adapted.

Needle-leaved evergreen conifers are one source of shrubs that are green year round. There are also many broadleaf evergreen shrubs that stay green year round.

Rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas are spring flowering evergreen shrubs that are well adapted to our climate. Rhododendrons typically grow 6 feet or taller. Azaleas range in size from 2 to 5 feet. Camellias grow 6 feet or taller and bloom in early spring before rhododendrons and azaleas. All are shade tolerant but can be grown in full sun in our area.

Two of my favorite shrubs for year round green are nandina and pieris. Both grow well in full sun to moderate shade.

Nandina, often called heavenly bamboo, has lightly branched, cane-like stems and delicate, fine-textured foliage. There are several dwarf varieties that grow 3 to 4 feet tall. They have brightly colored new growth as well as winter color. My favorite is Burgundy Wine which has burgundy new growth turning to scarlet in the fall.

Two of my favorite pieris varieties are Mountain Fire and Flaming Silver. Both have white flowers in early spring and bright orange new growth right after bloom. Mountain Fire grows to about 6 feet and Flaming Silver to 5 feet. Pieris Little Heath is a 3-foot shrub with variegated leaves. Prelude is 2 feet tall with solid green leaves. Both have white flowers.

One of my favorite native evergreen shrubs is Oregon holly grape (Mahonia aquifolium). It has holly-like leaves, yellow flowers in the spring, followed by clusters of purple, grape-like fruit in late summer. It can grow up to 5 feet tall, but the variety compacta grows only 2 to 3 feet tall. Mahonia grows in the sun but is also shade tolerant and can be grown under trees. Creeping holly grape (Mahonia repens) is an excellent low shrub or ground cover which typically matures at about 2 feet. It has the same yellow flowers, holly-like leaves and grape-like fruit.

Emerald Euonymus shrubs grow about 2 to 3 feet high. They will grow in full sun to shade. Emerald Gaiety has white edged leaves. Emerald ‘n Gold has yellow-edged leaves.

Several types of heather grow a foot to 2 feet tall. Most popular is the Mediterranean type that blooms in late winter and early spring. Scotch heather blooms in the summer and fall.

Several varieties of holly are well adapted. Ilex crenata (Japanese holly) is a superior substitute for boxwood. Convexa grows 4 to 6 feet tall and compacta grows 3 to 4 feet. Similar to holly is Osmanthus Goshiki with holly-like variegated leaves.

Sarcoccoca and Leucothoa are well adapted to deep shade. Both have varieties in the 2 to 4 feet range.

You can save yourself a lot of maintenance time and expense if you measure the space where shrubs are to be planted and carefully check labels for mature height and width.

These and other evergreen shrubs can be viewed at local full-service nurseries and garden stores.