Small evergreen shrubs can make a big impact on your landscape all year long. If you want carefree greenery and instant curb appeal, consider these killer dwarf evergreen shrubs under three feet tall.
We’ll explore options for full, partial, and dappled shades with different growth habits, color, and hardiness needs. Whether you’re looking to fill in a border, cover a slope, or highlight an entryway, the small but mighty shrubs on this list will bring lush character to your garden without taking over, so find the perfect small evergreen shrub to suit your space and style!
JUMP TO TOPIC
- Small Evergreen Shrub Choices To Fill Up Your Garden
- 1. Dwarf Mugo Pine
- 2. Compact Oregon Holly
- 3. Gem Box Inkberry
- 4. Japanese Holly
- 5. Blue Star Juniper
- 6. Dwarf False Cypress
- 7. Compact Japanese Andromeda
- 8. Compact American Holly
- 9. Golden Mop Cypress
- 10. Blue Spire Juniper
- 11. Meyer Dwarf Lilac
- 12. Dwarf Chinese Holly
- 13. ‘Blue Pacific’ Juniper
- 14. Lilyturf
- 15. Boxwood
- 16. Maidenhair Fern
- 17. Wintercreeper
- 18. Emerald Gaiety Euonymus
- 19. Dwarf Harbor Dwarf Korean Lilac
- 20. Shade Master Holly
- 21. Rhedd Grape Holly
- 22. Compact Nandina
- 23. Dwarf Idaho Elm
- 24. Dwarf Burning Bush
- 25. Baby Gem Boxwood
Small Evergreen Shrub Choices To Fill Up Your Garden
1. Dwarf Mugo Pine
Dwarf mugo pine is a popular small evergreen shrub for borders and foundations. The dark green needles on dense, rounded mounds make this dwarf pine a good choice for covering ground or spilling over rock walls. Mugo pine grows slowly at around 6 to 12 inches annually, reaching one to three feet tall and wide depending on conditions.
The needles remain on the branches for years, giving this maintenance evergreen shrub a textured, weathered look. For instant curb appeal, nothing beats dwarf mugo pine’s dense growth habit and versatility in landscape designs.
2. Compact Oregon Holly
Compact Oregon holly has small, dense foliage that emerges bronze in spring and then turns glossy dark green for the growing season. This deer-resistant evergreen shrub grows slowly at about 9 to 12 inches annually, maturing at one to three feet tall and wide.
The holly-like spiny leaves with tiny white flowers make this an attractive addition to the small landscape. The red berries that form in fall and winter offer wildlife forage value. With a rounded, dense shape and ability to thrive in average garden conditions, the compact Oregon holly is a low-maintenance choice for filling in small garden spaces.
3. Gem Box Inkberry
Growing only one to two feet tall and wide, gem box inkberry is one of the most popular dwarf inkberry holly cultivars. The dark green, shiny leaves emerge reddish purple in spring and persist year-round to cover the dense, twiggy branches. In fall and winter, tiny white flowers are followed by masses of glossy black berries that provide winter interest and forage for birds.
A slow grower at only six to eight inches per year, gem box inkberry makes an excellent groundcover or hedge for shady or part-shade areas. Its dense, formal shape and low maintenance needs make this inkberry holly a go-to choice for small gardens.
4. Japanese Holly
Japanese holly or ilex crenata is a favorite evergreen shrub with leathery, spiny leaves that emerge bronze and turn dark green. The golden glossy leaves have a distinct holly shape with toothed edges. This deer-resistant, cold hardy shrub grows slowly at 6 to 24 inches per year, eventually reaching 3 to 10 feet tall and wide, depending on the cultivar.
Small white flowers appear in spring, followed by red berries that attract wildlife. With its dense, oval shape and ability to thrive in average soil, Japanese holly makes an adaptable option for small landscapes. Japanese holly is an asset to foundations, borders, and hedges for its dark color and fine texture.
5. Blue Star Juniper
Blue star juniper grows slowly into a dense, globe-shaped dwarf conifer with blue-green foliage and a striking blue tinge that appears brighter in winter. Compact and mounding to only two to three feet tall and wide, this evergreen shrub thrives in full sun and average, dry soil. The needle-like blue-green leaves form upright branches in tight whorls along the ascending tips that give the shrub a star-like appearance.
Evergreen all year, blue star juniper also features exfoliating bark that peels to reveal a stunning yellow coloration underneath. Known for its small stature, rounded form, and blue color, this juniper is well-suited to container growing, screening, and edging walkways or beds. Its striking blue star shape and simple care needs make it a versatile addition to small evergreen gardens.
6. Dwarf False Cypress
Dwarf false cypress are slow-growing, elegant shrubs that mature into compact, pyramidal evergreens under three feet. Several cultivars have differing characteristics, but all boast a dense, upright form and fine-textured, scalelike green foliage. False cypress grows only 6 to 12 inches yearly, eventually reaching one to three feet tall and wide, depending on the cultivar.
The bronze new growth matures to dark green, staying on branches for 7 to 10 years, giving these maintenance evergreen shrubs a weathered appearance. Famous for their pyramidal shape and small stature, dwarf false cypress thrive in full sun and average, dry soil. These low-maintenance evergreens fit perfectly into foundation plantings, narrow beds, containers, and hedges.
7. Compact Japanese Andromeda
Compact Japanese Andromeda grows slowly into a rounded, dense shrub with shiny, leathery evergreen foliage. Mounding to only three feet tall and wide with a spreading habit, this maintenance evergreen shrub is perfect for small gardens and borders. The glossy green leaves emerge bronze in spring and hold their color year-round.
In early spring, clusters of small white flowers cover the branching stems before fading to red. The four-petaled blossoms attract pollinators and provide nectar for hummingbirds. Japanese Andromeda thrives when kept evenly moist in woodland conditions with partial shade and acidic soil.
Tolerant of both heat and cold, this low-maintenance evergreen shrub is inherently pest-resistant due to its leaf’s thick, waxy coating. The compact Japanese Andromeda is a standout addition to shady evergreen gardens for its striking foliage, bright flowers, and dense, rounded shape.
8. Compact American Holly
Compact American holly grows into a tidy rounded shrub perfect for smaller landscapes. Reaching only three to six feet tall and wide at a growth rate of 6 to 12 inches yearly, this dwarf, evergreen shrub boasts lustrous dark green foliage year-round. The holly-like, spiny leaves emerge coppery purple in spring, then turn glossy dark green with lighter margins.
In fall and winter, tiny white flowers yield clusters of bright red berries that persist for winter visual interest and provide forage for birds. Compact American holly thrives in average soil with regular water and partial shade.
Known for its small stature, rounded shape, and distinguished spiny leaves, this adaptable evergreen shrub handles heat, cold, wind, and salt spray, making it perfect for foundation plantings, hedges, and borders in small gardens.
9. Golden Mop Cypress
Golden Mop Cypress is an elegant conifer known for its dark green foliage that transforms to golden yellow in winter. This medium-evergreen shrub grows at a moderate rate of 12 to 15 inches annually, eventually forming a compact, oval shape three to five feet tall and wide. The dense foliage consists of linear-shaped, aromatic needles that emerge dark green and age to olive green.
The golden coloration appears when the day length gets shorter and intensifies when temperatures drop. Golden Mop Cypress thrives with full sun, average garden soil, and infrequent watering once established. This low-maintenance shrub shines early and late in the seasons with its golden appearance, then reverts to a fresh dark green for spring and summer.
Also tolerant of coastal climates, wind, and salt spray, Golden Mop Cypress offers year-round color, structure, and foliage interest for small to medium-sized gardens.
10. Blue Spire Juniper
Blue spire juniper forms a narrow, columnar shrub of evergreen blue-green foliage. This dense, finely textured evergreen grows slowly at 6 to 12 inches per year to reach 8 to 10 feet tall and only two to three feet wide. When mature, the needlelike leaves are steel blue, with new growth emerging lighter green before darkening with age and cold weather.
Blue spire juniper thrives in full sun with average, dry soil and little supplemental water once established. Its drought tolerance, compact size, and blue-gray color make this juniper a popular choice to frame entrances, line pathways, and highlight narrow vertical spaces in small gardens.
The upright, pyramidal shape of the blue spire juniper creates a focal point within landscapes where few other shrubs will fit. Though tall, this narrow conifer takes up little horizontal space. Prone to freeze damage when exposed to harsh winter winds, blue spire juniper is best used where its pyramidal shape can be accentuated against a backdrop or wall for wind protection.
11. Meyer Dwarf Lilac
Meyer dwarf lilac grows slowly into a dense, rounded deciduous shrub of just three to four feet tall and wide. Dark green leaves emerge in spring and persist into fall when they turn yellow before dropping. In early summer, numerous fragrant white, tubular blossoms smother the branches and fill the air with their sweet perfume.
Meyer lilac tolerates heat, cold and poor soil, thriving with little water once established. Resistant to most pests and diseases, these low-maintenance shrubs require almost no pruning. Meyer lilac adapts well to small spaces while still providing abundant spring flowers. The ever-blooming habit and dense, rounded shape of Meyer lilac provide visual texture year-round for borders, foundations, and mixed shrub beds.
In particularly hot climates, Meyer dwarf lilac may drop some leaves during summer heat yet rapidly re-folate in fall when temperatures cool. Its compact size and resilience make this lilac a rock-solid addition to small evergreen and deciduous gardens.
12. Dwarf Chinese Holly
Dwarf Chinese holly grows slowly into a dense, rounded evergreen shrub reaching only three to four feet tall and wide at maturity. The glossy dark green leaves emerge coppery bronze in spring and then develop their holly shape with spiny margins and toothed edges. In fall and winter, tiny white flowers yield clusters of bright red berries that persist for visual interest and as forage for wildlife.
Chinese holly thrives in partial shade to full sun with regular water and acid soil. This durable evergreen shrub handles heat, cold, wind, and salt spray, making it a tough choice for small garden foundation plantings, borders, and hedges. The small stature, dense form, and textured leaves of dwarf Chinese holly add year-round beauty while requiring simple care and little maintenance.
Though Chinese holly can sucker aggressively, plants spaced further apart will maintain a neater shape while providing all the charm of this durable evergreen shrub for small garden settings.
13. ‘Blue Pacific’ Juniper
‘Blue Pacific’ juniper grows into a mounding evergreen shrub three to four feet tall and wide with distinctly silver-blue foliage. The needle-like leaves emerge steel blue, then age to bluish gray with silver overtones, creating an attractive frosted appearance. The fine texture and blue color combine for an ornamental effect that fits perfectly in small gardens.
This drought-tolerant juniper thrives in full sun with minimal supplemental water once established. Though slow-growing at 6 to 12 inches annually, the ‘Blue Pacific’ juniper develops a dense, rounded shape that works well as ground cover in hedges and edging gardens. The steel-blue color remains consistent on this cold-hardy evergreen, creating noticeable contrast against other shrubs and plants while blending into surrounding architecture and walls.
‘Blue Pacific’ juniper grows well in pots, holding its rounded, dense form and blue-gray color in containers. Its small, neat shape and striking blue foliage make this maintenance-free shrub especially well-suited for urban and coastal landscapes.
Lilyturf is a low-growing, clump-forming evergreen perennial valued for its deep green, needle-like foliage. Reaching just 6 to 12 inches tall, lilyturf spreads slowly by underground rhizomes to form dense mats of aromatic blue-green leaves. The narrow lance-shaped foliage emerges bluish, then turns deeper green with age. Lilyturf thrives in shady areas with consistently moist, acidic soil rich in organic matter.
The cascading mounds of lilyturf look attractive when spilling over walls, edging paths, or filling in under shrubs and trees. Though slugs can damage the new growth occasionally, lilyturf is generally pest-free and requires no pruning or fertilizing. In USDA zones three to eight, lilyturf can remain evergreen year-round when protected from excess heat and cold.
For its ground-hugging form, beautiful foliage, and simple care needs, lilyturf is ideal for shady borders, foundation plantings, and containers in small evergreen gardens.
Boxwood is a classic evergreen shrub valued for its dense oval shape, fine-textured foliage, and ability to sculpt into distinct forms. Reaching 3 to 15 feet depending on the cultivar, Boxwood maintains a broad-mounded shape when left to its own devices.
The lustrous dark green oval leaves cover the angular stems throughout the year, aging to a slightly bronzy hue. With proper care, Boxwood grows slowly at 6 to 12 inches per year, forming a sturdy, twiggy framework that sheers cleanly into formal shapes. In spring, tiny yellow or green flowers emit a honey-like fragrance.
Boxwood thrives in average, moist soil with regular watering and protection from extreme temperatures. Prone to pests and diseases, this evergreen shrub benefits from preventative sprays. Well-suited for hedges, borders, and foundations, Boxwood’s dwarf cultivars also work well in containers and topiaries for small gardens.
16. Maidenhair Fern
Maidenhair fern makes an elegant, airy addition to shady borders and woodland gardens. Reaching 12 to 18 inches tall, this evergreen fern spreads slowly by underground rhizomes to form loose, arching clumps. The delicate, twice-pinnate fronds resemble a maiden’s thin, wispy hairs, giving rise to the common name.
Maidenhair fern requires areas of filtered or dappled shade with consistently moist, well-draining soil rich in organic matter. This fern thrives when misted regularly or grown in a gravel tray to boost humidity. For its fine-textured fronds, airy habit, and miniature stature, maidenhair fern adds a sense of delicate whimsy to shady nooks and crannies in small gardens.
Though slugs and mites can be problematic, manual removal and regular misting help keep populations under control. Propagate by dividing mature clumps in spring. In zones 6 to 11, maidenhair fern remains evergreen year-round when sheltered from extreme temperatures.
Wintercreeper is versatile climbing evergreen valued for its dense, vining habit and varied foliage. Reaching lengths up to 30 feet, wintercreeper adheres easily to walls, trellises, tree trunks, and fences. The glossy, rounded leaves emerge green in spring, then darken to a deep, lustrous green before developing purple-red hues in winter. Wintercreeper grows best in partial shade with moist, well-drained, acidic soil.
The dense, twining stems and matte foliage provide year-round screening and coverage for vertical surfaces. Though prone to pests like spider mites and scale, wintercreeper is generally trouble-free with preventative spraying. Hardy from USDA zones 4 to 9, this evergreen climber suffers Winterburn in colder zones and benefits from winter protection.
Due to its vigorous growth, wintercreeper can invade garden beds and other plantings without proper pruning and containment. For its dense, evergreen habit and versatility on trellises or walls, wintercreeper offers dependable foliage year-round for small gardens and landscapes.
18. Emerald Gaiety Euonymus
The Emerald Gaiety Euonymus is a great small evergreen shrub for curb appeal. The table shows that it has vibrant evergreen foliage that turns emerald green in warmer months. The oval aromatic leaves with toothed edges keep their color throughout the year, popping against sidewalks and walkways in spring, summer, and fall.
This euonymus variety thrives in part shade and needs well-drained soil to prevent root rot. Homeowners should monitor for common mites and Japanese beetles that may chew on the foliage. For the best curbside curb appeal, place Emerald Gaiety Euonymus as a foundation plant near your porch or driveway where you can enjoy the eye-catching year-round color.
19. Dwarf Harbor Dwarf Korean Lilac
The Dwarf Harbor Dwarf Korean lilac is a compact evergreen shrub with fragrant purple flowers. As the table shows, this lilac variety thrives in full sun and needs well-drained soil to prevent root rot. The glossy oval leaves remain on the arching branches throughout the year. Segments of fragrant pale purple flowers cover the bush in spring and summer, attracting pollinators to the landscape.
At three feet tall and wide, the Dwarf Harbor forms a perfect mounded shape that provides year-round interest and beauty. Place this compact lilac as a focal point near your home’s entrance for maximum curbside curb appeal.
20. Shade Master Holly
The Shade Master Holly is a versatile evergreen shrub for shady areas. The table shows that it thrives in partial to full shade and needs evenly moist, acidic soil to do well. The glossy oval leaves shine all year, providing winter interest when other plants have dropped their foliage. In spring and summer, small white flowers cover the Shade Master Holly, followed by red berries that attract birds.
Maintaining a compact rounded shape up to three feet tall and wide, the Shade Master Holly is a superb choice for planting under trees or along north-facing foundations. Regular pruning will keep this holly bush dense and full. Use Shade Master Hollies as a group for maximum curbside appeal in shady spots.
21. Rhedd Grape Holly
The Rhedd Grape Holly is an ornamental broadleaf evergreen shrub prized for its colorful berries. The table shows that it thrives in partial shade and acid soil with even moisture. The glossy oval leaves provide year-round greenery, while in summer, the Rhedd Grape Hollies produce abundant red fruit that lasts into winter.
The bushy rounded habit reaches only two to three feet high and wide, making this holly variety perfect for compact landscapes. Its ornamental berries in shades of red, pink, and orange provide unmatched curbside appeal from summer through winter. Place Rhedd Grape Hollies at the front of a border for maximum visual impact or as a low hedge to attract birds to the garden with their fruit display.
22. Compact Nandina
The Compact Nandina is a lovely small evergreen shrub that offers four seasons of interest and color. As the table shows, it grows best in partial shade and acidic, well-draining soil with even moisture. The fan-shaped leaves emerge burgundy red in spring, maturing to green in summer. In fall and winter, the foliage takes on beautiful shades of red and purple that last through the cold months.
This nandina variety stays compact, reaching only two to three feet tall and wide at maturity. Clusters of tiny white flowers appear in spring, followed by blue-black berries in summer. The Compact Nandina is an excellent choice for adding year-round color near foundations, patios, and walkways for maximum curb appeal. Prune after flowering to maintain denser growth.
23. Dwarf Idaho Elm
The Dwarf Idaho Elm is an attractive slow-growing small evergreen shrub known for its picturesque bluish-gray bark. The table shows that it grows best in full sun with well-draining soil and is fairly drought-tolerant once established. The ovate leaves with serrated edges emerge blue-green in spring, providing summer shade beneath the arching branches.
The colorful bark comes into its own in fall and winter, with vivid blue, gray, white, and orange patches. The rounded Dwarf Idaho Elm grows three to five feet tall and wide at maturity. This compact elm tree shrub boasts excellent curbside curb appeal all year long thanks to its colorful bark and graceful branching habit. Prune only to remove dead or diseased wood.
24. Dwarf Burning Bush
The Dwarf Burning Bush is a compact selection of the popular burning bush shrub valued for its colorful foliage. As the table shows, it thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. In spring and summer, the elliptical green leaves provide lush foliage. But come fall, the Dwarf Burning Bush comes into its own, transforming into a blaze of crimson and scarlet color that can last into early winter.
Growing slowly to only three to four feet tall and wide at maturity, the compact size of the Dwarf Burning Bush makes it ideal for small landscapes. The rounded shrubby habit lends well to foundation plantings and incorporation into tight border plantings. Prune as needed in early spring to maintain the dense mounded shape and maximize the brilliant fall foliage color. Place a group of Dwarf Burning Bushes together for eye-catching curbside appeal in autumn.
25. Baby Gem Boxwood
The Baby Gem Boxwood is perfect for small hedges and foundation plantings needing year-round greenery. As the table shows, this boxwood variety tolerates full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. The elliptic to oval evergreen leaves persist throughout the year, providing a dense rounded shape up to two feet tall and wide at maturity.
The compact size and slow growth rate of the Baby Gem Boxwood make it ideal for close plantings and tight spaces. Shear as needed in late winter to maintain a full, bushy form. With glossy foliage that requires little upkeep, the Baby Gem Boxwood offers reliable curbside appeal year after year. Consider planting in groups of three or five for a fuller, more visually interesting display.
Homeowners have many options for adding small evergreen shrubs under three feet tall to their landscapes for instant curb appeal:
- Meyer dwarf lilac grows slowly into a dense, rounded deciduous shrub of just three to four feet tall and wide.
- Japanese holly or ilex crenata is a favorite evergreen shrub with leathery, spiny leaves that emerge bronze and turn dark green.
- Compact Oregon holly has small, dense foliage that emerges bronze in spring and then turns glossy dark green for the growing season.
While small evergreen shrubs require little upkeep once established, they provide year-round beauty that catches the eye of neighbors and passersby. Filling your landscape with various smaller shrubs is an easy way to boost your curb appeal immediately.