Dwarf shrubs such as heather may be small, but they still light up the garden with their colorful blossoms.

Dwarf Evergreen Flowering Shrubs

by Linsay Evans

Your garden is a space where the whole family can gather to enjoy themselves, and sometimes large shrubs just get in the way of the fun. When you're choosing shrubs for your garden and don't want to deal with large, overgrown plants, consider flowering dwarf evergreens. Not only do these low-growing shrubs remain small -- thus requiring less pruning -- but they also provide color and, often, fragrance to your yard, adding to your family's enjoyment of the space.

1. Heather

Prized for its racemes of tiny flowers, the Scottish heather (Calluna vulgaris) grows from 4 to 24 inches tall and spreads to 2 feet wide. This slow-growing evergreen has blooms with pink and purple blossoms from summer through autumn. It's hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 to 6 and prefers acidic, moist soil. The "Mair's Variety" cultivar has bright green foliage and blooms with white flowers late in summer. Other varieties include "Spring Torch," which grows to 18 inches tall and wide and blooms with pink flowers from mid through late summer. "Spring Torch" adds color to the winter garden with its bright-red foliage tips.

2. Euonymus

The wintercreeper euonymus (Euonymus fortunei) grows quickly and forms a low, compact mound that blooms with white-green flowers in spring, followed by red-pink fruits in autumn. Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8, this versatile shrub grows well in sun or shade and a variety of soil types. Dwarf cultivars include "Emerald Surprise," a 3-foot-tall variety with green, white and yellow foliage; "Moonshadow," which grows to 2 feet tall and has yellow-margined leaves; and "Sun Spot," a 3-foot-tall cultivar with dark green and yellow foliage. The Japanese euonymus (Euonymus japonicus) also grows rapidly. This evergreen tolerates drought and salty conditions, making it a good choice for coastal gardens or landscapes near winter roads. It's hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9 and blooms in spring with pungent white-green flowers. Dwarf cultivars include "Silver King," a 2-foot-tall shrub with green and white foliage, and "Microphyllus Butterscotch," which has yellow leaves and reaches 3 feet high.

3. Nandina

With their tall panicles of white summer flowers and bright fall berries, nandinas (Nandina domestica) make an attractive addition to the garden. These evergreens are hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9 and grow well in sun or shade and moist, well-draining soil. For small spaces, plant "Moon Bay," a 32-inch-tall cultivar with small, light green leaves that turn red in winter. The "Wood's Dwarf" cultivar also grows to 32 inches tall and has red winter foliage, while the "Harbor Dwarf" grows to 3 feet tall and has red-purple leaves through the winter. All bloom with white blossoms in summer.

4. Other Flowering Shrubs

The gardenia (Gardenia augusta) blooms in summer with fragrant, showy white flowers. Hardy in USDA zones 7b to 10, this evergreen thrives in moist, acidic soil and sun to partial shade. Dwarf cultivars include "White Gem," a 2-foot-tall variety that blooms with single, cream-colored blossoms, and "Radicans," a creeping cultivar that grows to 3 feet tall and spreads to 4 feet. For cooler climates, plant an "Apollo" Oregon grape holly (Mahonia aquifolium "Apollo"). This dark-leaved evergreen grows to 2 feet tall and blooms in early spring with orange-yellow flowers. It's hardy in USDA zones 4 to 7 and grows well in partial shade and moist, acidic soil.

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