Juli often overlooks evergreens in summer when they're more like backdrops. But in winter, with snow clinging to them, they're center stage.
9 Reasons to Plant Evergreen Shrubs
Evergreens are the compelling masters of the winter garden. Comforting backdrops in warm weather, they take center stage in winter. What's more, they serve your garden in many ways all year long. Planted once, your investment of time and money grows too.
Here are nine reasons you should plant more than a few of these easy-to-live-with shrubs in your landscape.
1. They're Green All Year
No matter when you look at them, they are green. Leaves are shed continuously a little at a time throughout the year, and the color does fade somewhat in winter, but the overall effect is always green.
For example, Boxwood almost never looks like it's losing leaves. Trimming is the way to curb its growth. It is a favorite for cutting into different shapes, including topiary. Some plant Boxwood where it grows freely and never trim it. This produces a more flowing and frilly effect. Its bright green leaves fade to yellowish-green in winter.
2. They Provide Shade
Evergreens absorb the sun's heat in summer, casting a cooling shadow.
Arborvitae grows tall and wide. It's a large shade-giver from top to bottom. Planting it away from the house and power lines allows it to grow to its normal and monstrous size.
3. They Block the Wind
The density of many evergreens blocks the wind efficiently. Blocking cold wind or snow-laden wind protects houses, other buildings and plants. Planting in rows is especially effective at reducing wind and snowdrifts.
Consider putting in a row or two of large evergreens on the north or northwest side of the house to protect from the winter wind. This makes a great living barricade against the wind.
Quick Tip for Planting Evergreens as a Wind Barrier
Plant in two rows so that row two covers the gaps of row one (just like two rows of bowling pins). As they become larger, you may also notice a decrease in your heating bill.
4. They Provide Cover and Food for Birds
Birds can hide from predators easily in a leafy shrub. They are also a safe place to build a nest in summer if the shrub has grown tall enough above ground.
Conifers have cones with seeds. Birds help themselves to food while staying under cover. Other evergreens like holly have colorful berries for birds to eat.
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5. They Muffle Noise
Sounds from the street or nearby highways are deadened by the density of shrubs. You can still hear the sounds but not as clearly. They absorb street sounds like carpet absorbs footsteps on a hard floor.
6. They Create Privacy
Evergreens may give you little or no view of the street or your next-door neighbors, as fine as they may be. A row of evergreens along the front edge of your yard signals the beginning of your property and sets it apart from the sidewalk or street.
Surround a patio or pool with evergreens so no one sees you. It's worthwhile to have a little time to yourself as you walk out on the deck made private by an evergreen hedge planted next to it.
7. They Help Clean or Purify the Air
The evergreen's process is to take in carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen, which benefits the plant's growth. In turn, we take in the oxygen from plants and release carbon dioxide, benefiting our growth and health and that of the evergreen. Evergreens and people work together as silent partners.
8. They Smell Good
Flower scents come and go, but some evergreen scents are year-round. Who doesn't love the smell of pine? The scent of an evergreen like pine lets you know you’re in the presence of a "still life." In winter, the scent of conifers is even more noticeable as it doesn't need to compete with other plants which are dormant.
9. They Supply Greenery for Decorations
Add greenery to vases of flowers, wreaths and other floral creations. Cut or snip greenery year-round as you need it.
How to Cut Evergreen Branches for Holiday Decorations
- Make sure you cut it long enough to use in your project.
- Put cut greenery in water until you're ready to use it.
- Just before placing in your arrangement, cut each end at an angle to open the stem to absorb water. This will make it last longer.
There are many varieties. They all have some similarities that make any one of them ideal for your garden:
- Best quality—they keep leaves on their branches all year.
- Growth is generally slow compared to non-evergreens.
- The life span of many conifers is over 100 years.
One possible drawback: they may not last as long in urban environments due to poor soil, poor air quality, and watering problems. Prevent two of the problems by improving the soil yearly with compost and water during dry spells.
The table below shows the difference between the two basic types of evergreens—conifer and broadleaf.
Conifers vs. Broadleaf Evergreens
Needle-like or scale-like foliage
Foliage is wider
Different flowering habits
Seeds produced in cones
Seeds produced in an ovary become fruit
Examples: Arborvitae, Pine, Spruce
Examples: Holly, Boxwood, Rhododendron
Tips for Keeping Evergreen Christmas Trees Healthy
For Cut Trees
The scent of a conifer is almost like having a fragrant flower in the house!
Before you decorate:
- Household heat causes it to dry out. Check the tree stand water every day. Keep your home and family safe by placing the tree away from heat sources especially space heaters.
- Check your lights for frayed wires. Replace them if damaged. Make sure the lights are UL certified (meets safety requirements). The certification is on the package.
After the holiday: Recycle the tree by checking your city or town for organizations that collect and chip trees.
For Live Trees
Having a living plant guest in your house is wonderful. You enjoy the visit with each other knowing it will soon return to the outdoors where it lives.
Before you buy and decorate:
- Plan where the live tree will go once the holiday is over. Dig a hole the right size for the root ball in the ground while it is not frozen. Cover and mark the hole so no one accidentally steps or falls in it.
- Limit the time indoors to a few days before and after Christmas. House heat is hard on it.
- Place it in a cool spot in a bucket that is waterproof. Check daily to see if the root ball is wet. Add enough water so it stays wet but not sitting in water.
- Keep away from heat sources like space heaters. While it may be wet in a bucket, that will not prevent branches from overheating and catching fire.
- Check the condition of your lights which should be UL certified meaning it meets established safety requirements. Replace if damaged.
After the holiday:
- Plant in the hole you dug earlier.
- Use soil mixed with compost. Pack soil in the hole tightly around the root ball. Use your foot to press down on the soil.
- Water it thoroughly.
Many Roles, Many Reasons
Green no matter the season, whether behind the scenes in warm weather or with their beauty revealed in winter, evergreens play many roles in your yard. Add to that a year-round return on your time and money and you have more than enough reasons to plant some evergreens. What's evergreen in your area?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Juli Seyfried