Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Hardy Dwarf Evergreen Shrubs

By Sharon Sweeny ; Updated September 21, 2017
Dwarf varieties of juniper make excellent additions to rock gardens.
wet juniper sprout image by Jack Kunnen from Fotolia.com

Evergreens are widely used as foundation plantings because their foliage is attractive all year long. Unfortunately, many foundation plantings of evergreens were planted by homeowners who did not realize how large they are once they reach maturity. To keep your foundation plantings in scale with your house, particularly if you have a modern one-story house, plant dwarf evergreens. Their smaller size at maturity will not outgrow their planting site. Dwarf evergreens are also excellent additions to rock gardens.

Dwarf Blue Japanese Stone Pine

Hardy through USDA zone 5, the dwarf blue Japanese pine (Pinus pumila 'Dwarf Blue') is a low-growing, prostrate version of the more common Japanese stone pine. Its size is highly variable at maturity, topping out between 1 and 9 feet. It is slow-growing and makes an excellent specimen for a rock garden or foundation planting in a small area. Plant them in full sun in soil that is well-drained. Dwarf Japanese stone pine is native to alpine regions and is tolerant of harsh winter winds.

Dwarf Japanese Garden Juniper

A spreading ground cover that forms a mat up to 5 feet across, dwarf Japanese garden juniper (Juniperus procumbens 'Nana') is reliably hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8. It tolerates dry soil and prefers full sun, although it will also grow in partial shade. Dwarf Japanese juniper grows from 6 to 12 inches high. Its intertwining branches form a dense mat, and it can be planted near the top of a retaining wall to hang over the edge. The leaves of dwarf Japanese juniper are bright bluish-green and take on a slight purple color in winter. Although it can be pruned to maintain its size and shape to fit into the landscape, dwarf Japanese juniper are best left unsheared.


Several varieties of inkberry (Ilex glabra spp.) form low-growing shrubs. Inkberries are a type of holly that is hardy through USDA zone 5. The variety 'Compacta' is a dwarf female inkberry holly that grows only 3 to 4 feet tall. The variety 'Shamrock,' another dwarf female inkberry holly, grows only 3 feet tall. A male dwarf variety (necessary for pollination in order for the females to produce berries) called 'Nordic' is a rounded inkberry holly that grows 3 to 4 feet tall. One male planted for every three to five female inkberries is sufficient to produce berries on the females. Plant them in full sun to partial shade in moist soil that is on the acid side of the pH scale. Although inkberry is evergreen, it can sometimes lose its leaves during extreme winter cold if not planted in protected areas, such as an urban yard or as a foundation planting.


About the Author


Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a professional writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.