The Q&A Archives: Evergreen

Question: Hello expert,

I live in zone 5 and we have had an ugly long winter. I am hoping you could list a variety of evergreen type perennials and shrubs as I would love to develop a garden area that still shows life and interest during the long winter months. Can you help me with plant suggestions? Thank you.

Answer: There are many different shrubs you could use ranging from Pieris japonica (a broad leafed evergreen and spring bloomer) to low growing junipers and specimen dwarf conifers such as dwarf Alberta spruce. As far as evergreen perennnials, unfortunately these tend to look very bedraggled by spring in a cold winter climate such as yours. You might try yucca, for instance, but I would suggest you take a look at one in spring before you plant it to be sure you like the way it looks. You might consider ornamental grasses. These go through seasonal change and turn color in the fall, but can be left in place until spring. (They need to be cut back annually in either late fall or very early spring.) To maximize the winter display, you might use perennials such as purple coneflower, sedums, baptisia, and black eyed Susan which hold their seedheads into the winter -- for this effect, do not deadhead them or cut them back in the fall, wait and trim them back in the spring. You could also look at some of the deciduous shrubs with special winter interest such as Ilex verticillata and Aronia (great berries) and the twig dogwoods with colorful bark. I hope this gives you some ideas. Your local professionally trained nursery staff should be able to make more detailed suggestions based on a more detailed understanding of the growing conditions where you want to plant -- how sunny it is and at what time of day, if it is sheltered or windy, what type of soil and drainage conditions, overall size of the area to be planted, etc. Enjoy your all season garden!

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