Numerous evergreen shrubs grow lower than 3 feet high, the usual standard for a low-growing shrub; few lists are totally inclusive. Many of these shrubs are obscure hybrid or dwarf varieties of larger plants. It is always better to use scientific names when researching shrubs that might be appropriate for your landscape or garden. Popular names vary by region and country; the same name is sometimes used to describe different plants.
Up to 12 Inches High
Balkan Spike Heath, Bruckenthalia spiculifolia, yields pale flowers on spikes in June and does well in rock gardens. Blue Rug Juniper, Juniperus horizontalis, is considered good for ground cover. Canby Paxistima, Paxtistima canbyi, has foliage that turns bronze in the fall. Rose Daphne, Daphne cneorum, forms a dense mat that produces clusters of bright, fragrant, rosy-pink flowers. Little Boxwood, Buxus microphylla ‘Compacta’ has dense foliage. Heather, Calluna vulgaris, has foliage with different autumn colors; Heather produces white to red flowers in the summer and early fall. Spring Heath, Erica carnea, has evergreen needles and bears crimson, red, pink and white flowers from January to May. Dwarf Japanese Holly, Kingsville hybrid, grows wider than it does tall. Sergeant Juniper, Juniperus chinensis vars. Sargentii, grows in rounded mats and has steel-blue foliage. Shore Juniper, Juniperus conferta, is good for a ground cover in dry, sandy soil.
From 12 to 24 Inches High
Compact Oregon Hollygrape. Mahonia aquifolium ‘Compactum’, yields spikes of bright yellow flowers in the spring and a bluish-black fruit in the summer and fall; its foliage turns bronze in the winter. Dwarf Magellan Barberry, Berberis buxifolia ‘pygmae,’ has reddish-green foliage and thorny twigs. Dwarf Drooping Leucothoe, Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Nana,’ has foliage that turns bronze in the fall. Irish Heath, Daboecia cantabrica, has leaves that are glossy on top with a white fuzz on the bottoms; it produces white to purple flowers in the summer. Japanese and Reeves Skimmia, Skimmia Japanoca and Skimmia reevesiana are low compact evergreens that bear red fruit in the winter. Norway Spruce, Procumbens, is a hybrid dwarf with rich green foliage. Palesleaf Barberry, Berberis candidula,has thorny twigs and produces bright yellow flowers in May and purple berries in the fall. Waukegan Juniper, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Douglasii,’ has steel-blue foliage.
From 24 to 36 Inches High
American Arborvitae, dwarf varieties and cultivars including Thuja occidentalis, have foliage ranging from green to yellow. Birds Nest Spruce, Nidiformis, grows upright with a flat top. Common Edging Boxwood, Buxus sempervirens, grows slowly and is compact with dense foliage. Dwarf Fall Cypresses, Chamaecyparis and C.pisifera, has foliage with various colors. Dwarf Japanese Hollies, Ilex crenati ‘Helleri’ and I.c ‘Stokes’ hybrids, are compact, and dense. Norway Spuce, Clanbrassiliana, a dwarf hybrid is round and spreads wide Small-Leaved Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster microphyllus, has lustrous leaves and produces small white flowers in June and scarlet berries in the fall. Sheep Laurel, Kalmia angustifolia, produces crimson to red flowers in June and does well in wet soils. Dwarf English and Japanese Yew, Taxus spp and other cultivars have attractive, drooping foliage. Russian Cypress, Microbiota decussate, has light green, soft, feathery foliage that turns bronze in the winter. Wall Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys, is often used as a hedge.