Broadleaf evergreen shrubs enliven the dreary winter landscape with their lush greenery. Like coniferous evergreens, they create an everlasting framework for seasonal garden plantings. Some varieties produce attractive flowers in the spring and colorful berries in the fall, broadening their year-round appeal. However, most of the shrubs featured here are valued for their resilient foliage and ability to flourish in cold climates, where their display of winter greenery is most welcome.

Photo: Proven Winners.

(Ilex glabra Gem Box®)

Zones: 5-9
Mature size: 24-36 inches
Foliage color: Dark green
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Why we love it: This dwarf evergreen is native to North America and makes a great alternative to boxwood. Inkberry grows in a dense, ball shape with good branching right to the ground so it never looks bare-legged.

Where to plant it: Inkberry loves moist acidic soil, making it an ideal choice for wet sites, such as woodland gardens or locations near streams or ponds. Plant multiple inkberry plants to form a small evergreen hedge or in milder climates use one as a container specimen. Since they are small and naturally mounded, they make good border or edging plants. They are also known to have good shade tolerance.

When to prune: Prune to shape in late winter. Because inkberries are slow growers, they generally need little pruning unless used as a hedge.

Photo: Garden World Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo.

(Rhododendron ‘Girard's Rose’)

Zones: 5-8
Mature size: 2 to 2 ½ feet tall with an equal spread
Foliage color: Dark green

Why we love it: This compact evergreen azalea is laden with clusters of vibrant rose-colored flowers in spring that give way to glossy green foliage. In winter, the foliage acquires attractive tinges of deep red

Where to plant it: Use as a hedge, along a walkway, or in mass plantings. Preferring dappled shade, 'Girard’s Rose' is also at home in woodland and shade gardens. Plant in areas protected from harsh winds.

When to prune: Prune immediately after flowering to control size and shape and to remove diseased and damaged branches.

Photo: Proven Winners.

(Buxus microphylla Sprinter®)

Zones: 5-8
Mature size: 24-48 inches
Foliage color: Green
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Why we love it: Boxwoods are probably the best broadleaf evergreens for shaping and pruning, which is why they are often the gardener’s choice for creating formal hedges, borders, and even topiaries. Sprinter® is a fast grower that will fill in more quickly than other varieties.

Where to plant it: A great shrub for partly shady gardens. Prefers moist, well-drained soil. To prevent winter leaf burn, plant in a sheltered area protected from harsh winter winds.

When to prune: Pruning is seldom needed, but you may trim in summer.

Photo: Graham Prentice / Alamy Stock Photo.

(Kalmia latifolia)

Zones: 4-9
Mature size: 5 to 15 feet tall with an equal spread
Foliage color: Dark green
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Why we love it: This native southern New England evergreen is often grown for its exceptional flowers in spring, but the leathery, glossy evergreen leaves extend its ornamental value in the garden. The striking cup-shaped flowers (the official state flower of Connecticut) range in color from rose to white with purple markings and last from May through June.

Where to plant it: Grow in full sun or partial shade in moist, rich, well-drained soil. A beautiful addition to cottage gardens or woodland gardens beneath tall trees. Nicely complements rhododendrons and azaleas.

When to prune: Mountain laurel grows at a slow rate (less than a foot per year), so pruning is minimal. If desired, prune after the flowers fade in spring to maintain a bushy growth habit.

Photo: Proven Winners.

(Euonymus fortunei Gold Splash®)

Zones: 5-8
Mature size: 18-24 inches
Foliage color: Green and yellow
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Why we love it: Variegated leaves that provide color throughout the year make this one of the most ornamental wintercreeper cultivars. The bright, bold foliage is accented by showy, persistent fruit in the fall. Plus, it is low maintenance and easy to grow.

Where to plant it: This is a multi-functional shrub that can be used in containers or in the garden for mass plantings or borders. It tolerates a wide range of conditions, including light shade, full sun, and most soil types except overly wet ones.

When to prune: The best time for pruning is late fall, but the occasional branch can be cut away at any time.

Photo: © Marjancermelj |

(Erica carnea 'Springwood Pink')

Zones: 5-7
Mature size: Up to a foot tall with a spread of up to 1 ½ feet
Foliage color: Green

Why we love it: This hardy heath, native to the European Alps, is valued for its small needlelike foliage and long-lasting clusters of bell-shaped pink flowers from December through March. It will even bloom under snow in the northern areas of its growing range. The flowers are followed by new spring foliage that turns from bronze to forest green.

Where to plant it: This bushy, low-growing shrub is excellent for use in ground covers, rock gardens, and low borders. Because of its preference for sharp drainage, it also makes a great choice for massing on banks and slopes. Best flowering occurs in full sun, but winter heaths generally prefer some afternoon shade during the summer.

When to prune: Prune or shear after flowering to encourage new growth and keep it compact.

Photo: catus / Shutterstock.

(Mahonia aquifolium)

Zones: 5-8
Mature size: 3 to 6 feet tall with a spread of 2 to 5 feet
Foliage color: Green; bronze red in fall and winter
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Why we love it: This native of western North America will provide color throughout all four seasons, producing cheery yellow flowers in spring, edible grapelike clusters of dark blue berries in late summer, and shiny green leaves that turn bronze red in the fall.

Where to plant it: Preferring partial to full shade and moist well-drained soil, this shrub is a natural choice for a woodland or shade garden. Shelter from winter wind and sun to prevent leaf scorch.

When to prune: Oregon grape needs little pruning unless you want to control its spread or it has grown too large for the space. It can even be cut all the way down to the ground to stimulate new growth from the base. The best time to prune is late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

Photo: © Sigur1 |

(Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Massachusetts')

Zones: 2-7
Mature size: Up to 1 foot tall with a spread of 3 to 6 feet
Foliage color: Dark green with silver-gray backs; burgundy in fall and winter

Why we love it: This tough-as-nails low-growing shrub, often called kinninnick, has small, rounded glossy leaves and produces clusters of small urn-shaped pink-tinged white flowers in spring followed by red berries that last all winter. It is extremely winter hardy and isn’t bothered by wind, salt spray, or sandy soil.

Where to plant it: 'Massachusetts' bearberry is good solution for difficult sites because of its ability to survive punishing conditions. Use as a groundcover to control soil erosion on slopes and hillsides or to naturalize a rock garden. It’s also a good shrub for coastal areas.

When to prune: This low-maintenance shrub does not require much pruning, except when necessary to control its size or to remove dead branches.

Photo: Maria D / Shutterstock.

(Cotoneaster dammeri 'Coral Beauty')

Zones: 5-8
Mature size: Up to 1 foot tall with a spread of 4 to 6 feet
Foliage color: Dark green; reddish-bronze in fall and winter
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Why we love it: This popular cotoneaster cultivar is stunning year-round, especially during fall and winter, when its small, glossy leaves turn a rich bronze red and it bears an abundance of coral red berries. In spring, this showy broadleaf will also reward you with masses of creamy white flowers.

Where to plant it: Use 'Coral Beauty' as an attractive ground cover for sunny areas in the garden, or plant on banks and slopes to help with erosion control. It can also be trained onto an espalier or draped over rocks and retaining walls.

When to prune: Prune as needed to shape and control its spread. The best time to prune is in early spring right after flowering.

Photo: Potters Road Nursery, Tillsonburg, Ontario.

(Ilex xmeserveae Blue Princess)

Zones: 5-9
Mature size: 10 to 15 feet tall and up to 8 feet wide
Foliage color: Blue-green
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Why we love it: This broad, upright holly is sought-after for its glossy blue-green leaves, which contrast beautifully with dark purple stems. Tiny white flowers in spring give way to a profusion of bright red berries that look stunning against a backdrop of snow.

Where to plant it: Use in foundation plantings, hedges, or as a dense privacy screen. Tolerates full sun and part shade. To produce the attractive red berries, plant 'Blue Princess', which is a female plant, along with at least one Blue Prince holly (its male companion).

When to prune: For a tidy, neat appearance, shear annually to shape in early spring.


In cold climates, winter wind and sunshine can parch and wither the foliage of even the toughest broadleaf evergreens because the frozen soil prevents water uptake. In addition, heavy snowfall can bend and break weak branches. Here are a few tips for shielding your shrubs from winter’s worst.

  • Plant delicate broadleaf evergreens, such as azaleas and rhododendrons, in spots protected from harsh north and west winter winds and late afternoon sun, such as on the east side of a building, garden wall, or fence.
  • In the fall, keep your shrubs well-watered before the first hard frost arrives so they receive an ample supply of moisture before going dormant over the winter. Adding a layer of mulch will also help conserve moisture.
  • Shrubs with weak, brittle or floppy branches, or those with leaves that are easily damaged should be wrapped with burlap or shrub covers that are designed specifically for protecting bushes and small trees.
  • In northern climates, consider spraying an anti-desiccant product, such as Wilt-Pruf, on broadleaf evergreens to reduce the amount of water loss through leaves. Be sure to coat the undersides of the leaves as well where the pores, or stomata, that transpire moisture are located.
  • Build a temporary windbreak using stakes and burlap. One large screen can be used to protect several shrubs planted side by side.
  • Bind the branches of upright shrubs, such as boxwoods, with heavy twine before the first snowfall to prevent heavy snow from collecting on the branches. Remove the twine in early spring before new growth begins.

To learn more about shrubs, read Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs.

Related: Best Flowering Shrubs for Season-Long Color

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