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20 Plants that will Create a Strong Foliage Foundation

Unsung heroes of the garden, these evergreens are the sturdy yeomen upon which many a garden scene is built. Their contributions are often quite subtle, providing much-needed but easy-to-overlook year-round structure and an all-important frame for other, often more engaging, plant partners that come to the fore during the growing season, with a flurry of color and blooms.

It’s not uncommon for plants of this type to be dismissed as ho-hum or pedestrian, but they’re not all “Steady as she goes!” No, these plants are so much more: for example, many have additional merits, such as showy foliage, decorative berries, or blooms that are a magnet for hummingbirds. And when paired with perfect partners, these seemingly everyday plants shine with unexpected virtue, proving once again that a planting vignette’s success rests on the combined effect of the selected individuals, making them stronger together than each alone.

To add a bit of verve to your garden beds, explore the eGardenGo site, where you'll find creative planting combination ideas that incorporate these fabulous foliage shrubs. Shown below is a small, representative sample from the myriad of possibilities. To discover even more options, search our database for "evergreen" + "shrub" + "structure", narrowing the choices even further by inputting your USDA growing zone and any appropriate tags to describe the cultural conditions of your site. Then click through on any resulting plant and get ideas of what to plant with it.

Aucuba japonica 'Rozannie'

Rozanne Japanese Aucuba

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Buxus sempervirens 'Aureovariegata'

Variegated Boxwood

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa'

Edging Boxwood
Dwarf Boxwood

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8

view plant

Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Duke Gardens'

Duke Gardens Japanese Plum Yew

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Fastigiata'

Upright Japanese Plum Yew

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Part Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Gracilis'

Gracilis Slender Hinoki Cypress

Type: Conifer, Tree
Exposure: Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade
Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Choisya x 'Gold Fingers'

Gold Fingers Mexican Orange
Choisya x dewitteana 'Limo'
CHOISYA ARIZONICA X TERNATA 'LIMO'

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Afternoon Sun, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 8, 9, 10

view plant

Cryptomeria japonica 'Black Dragon'

Black Dragon Japanese Cedar

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Juniperus scopulorum 'Blue Arrow'

Blue Arrow Juniper

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Afternoon Sun, Reflected Heat
Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Nandina domestica 'Gulf Stream'

Compact Heavenly Bamboo

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Filtered Sun, Morning Sun, Open Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Pieris japonica 'Little Heath'

Little Heath Lily of the Valley

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Pittosporum tobira 'Tall and Tough'

Japanese mock-orange

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Afternoon Sun, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Podocarpus lawrencei 'Blue Gem'

Blue Mountain Plum-Pine

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9

view plant

Polystichum munitum

Western Sword Fern

Type: Fern, Groundcover
Exposure: Part Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

view plant

Prunus laurocerasus 'Mount Vernon'

Dwarf English Laurel

Type: Groundcover, Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Rhamnus alaternus 'Argentovariegata'

Variegated Italian Buckthorn

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Afternoon Sun, Morning Sun
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Thuja occidentalis 'Degroot's Spire'

Compact Columnar Arborvitae

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

view plant

Tsuga canadensis 'Bennett'

Bennett Canadian Hemlock

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

view plant

Tsuga canadensis 'MonKinn'

Golden Duchess Eastern Hemlock

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7

view plant

Viburnum davidii

David's Viburnum

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9

view plant

Published November 30, 2019


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