What trees are evergreen? 10 Great varieties for the UK
With a multitude of evergreen trees to choose from, which should you select? From broadleaf evergreens with dense foliage for creating privacy to short conifers for contemporary gardens, to unique trees from specialist nurseries, there are too many options!
Hopefully, this article will be a welcome sight for anyone seeking the best evergreen trees that are ideal for the growing conditions in the UK. Adept enough to be drought tolerant in a warm climate, yet sturdy enough to stay green through the winter months. The evergreen is a tree you can rely on.
Discover our 10 favourite evergreen trees for the UK at Gardeners Dream below.
Best evergreen trees for year-round interest
While the changing foliage of deciduous trees has its allure, the long-lasting dark green foliage of a beautiful evergreen tree is unbeatable! If you are looking to plant an evergreen in your garden, whether it needs to be 10 feet tall or shrub-like, start with these 10 best evergreen trees.
1. Strawberry Tree
The strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo, is a unique plant that can be grown as a tree or bush-like shrub in your garden. Strawberry trees are native to the Mediterranean area, but despite their unusually tropical appearance, these evergreen trees grow perfectly in well-drained soil types here in the UK. Thriving in full sun rather than shade, it can handle dry conditions and even strong coastal winds – it’s a hardy option!
The strawberry tree may also be the right tree for your outdoor space if you are looking for colour. The year-round dark green foliage is dotted with white flowers in late autumn, extending the flowering time of your garden. As for the fruits, after which the strawberry tree gets its name, these spiky globes take up to 12 months to ripen into a rich strawberry red colour.
You can consume these fruits (if other wildlife don’t get to them first) but they are best made into jam rather than eaten fresh. With all the allure of a deciduous fruit tree but with evergreen foliage, it’s easy to see why Arbutus unedo is the national tree of Italy!
2. Evergreen Magnolia Trees
The magnolia family of trees contains both deciduous and evergreen varieties. One of the most popular evergreen trees in this group is Magnolia grandiflora, also known as southern magnolia. There are numerous varieties of Magnolia grandiflora, but typically these plants are large with glossy green leaves and enormous cup-shaped creamy white flowers.
Some smaller varieties may be suitable for smaller gardens, but the most extravagant evergreen magnolias, like Magnolia grandiflora ‘Galissoniere’, can reach tall heights and widths of 10 metres. The tiered branches often create a pyramidical or sphere-like shape, making them excellent specimen trees for your garden.
While the foliage will remain evergreen, the flowers bloom in the late spring or summer. To keep this variety happy, a full sun or part shade location is best. Any soil type will do and this tree doesn’t mind being exposed to the elements either, as it is fully hardy and can handle any cold winds that the British winter throws its way.
There are numerous trees in the Magnolia grandiflora category, so if the Galissoniere doesn’t meet your needs, try the slimmer Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’ or the spreading semi-evergreen Magnolia Porcelain Dove.
3. Evergreen Oak
You can’t write a list of evergreen trees without mentioning the magnificent evergreen oak. Better known as the Holm Oak Tree, Quercus ilex, this is the right evergreen tree for classic British gardens or anyone looking to create a woodland garden full of native trees. With a height of 12 metres and width of 8 metres, it towers over other trees and is best for large gardens with plenty of space.
As a slow-growing evergreen tree, you’ll get to enjoy the dark green spiky leaves as they grow year-round and the abundance of acorns in the autumn. Despite their slow growth rate, they provide a steady supply of year-round colour and are notoriously hardy. The mighty oak doesn’t require a sheltered spot – it can withstand harsh conditions, even in coastal areas. A full sun location is best and any soil type will do.
At Gardeners Dream, we recommend the Holm Oak as an excellent evergreen windbreaker. While the iconic evergreen leaves aren’t particularly large or sturdy, the timber this variety produces is incredibly strong. The branches won’t come down easily and the trunk cannot be swayed – if you were looking to build a treehouse, the Holm Oak would be a good contender for a base.
4. Olive Trees
Next up is a variety that you probably hadn’t even thought of. The olive tree (yes, that classic Mediterranean species that thrives in hot areas of Spain and Italy) is perfect for small gardens seeking evergreen foliage.
These slow-growing evergreen trees, Olea europea, are mid-sized and can reach heights of 8 metres with a 2.5-metre spread… but it can take up to 50 years to reach this! Starting at less than a few feet tall, the olive tree is great for a small garden or even a garden patio, as it can grow in a pot like many dwarf varieties.
Keep in mind that even in a super sunny site, the UK doesn’t receive enough sun or heat for the glossy leaves. As a result, the olive tree is highly unlikely to produce fruit (unless you try growing it indoors or in a greenhouse with artificial light). Nonetheless, it will keep its leaves into late winter, unlike many other Mediterranean plants, and you may get to enjoy some white blossoms known as panicles in late spring or summer.
So, the olive tree is an excellent ornamental tree variety that adds some Mediterranean vibes to your outdoor space all year. The wiry branches and bark develop as it slowly ages, giving each plant its own personality. Just make sure to keep it in extremely well-draining soil and fertilise it as needed.
5. Bay Tree
Laurus nobilis, more commonly known by the name bay tree, is an evergreen with a classic look. It’s one of our favourite evergreens because it is so versatile. Small patio varieties are great for small gardens, while the shrub-like varieties can reach a spread and height of 26 feet tall (8 metres). One of the big draws of the bay tree is the aromatic leaves that thrive in partial or full sun and can be used in the kitchen. No chicken stock is complete without a bay leaf or two!
The perfect spot for this evergreen in your garden is in the herb garden. Keep it pruned back as a plant, or let it flourish to its full potential. Expect yellow flowers in the spring and black fruits in the autumn, to decorate the evergreen glossy foliage.
Bay tree leaves are oval and leathery, providing great screening too. With some care and attention, you could even grow a row of bay trees as a hedge. Just don’t get Laurus nobilis mixed up with other oval-leaved hedge varieties, like Cherry Laurel or Portuguese Laurel.
6. Cider Gum Tree
The cider gum tree, Eucalyptus gunnii, is an unusual evergreen tree that’s a little different to the other garden plant varieties on our list. The evergreen leaves on this tree are an icy silver blue shade that slowly turns to a grey-blue colour as the plant matures. The foliage retains this gorgeous colour all through winter, and you may even spot some mellow white flowers from July to October (although these are quite rare here in the UK compared to in the cider gum tree’s natural habitat in Tasmania).
Like most evergreen trees on this list, the cider gum tree enjoys the sun, so plant it in a full sun position. However, you should take care to ensure that the soil doesn’t dry out and maintains a neutral or slightly acidic pH. You may need to mulch and shelter this species as it grows, but once fully grown you can be reassured that this variety is fully hardy.
And what a tree it is once fully grown! Eucalyptus gunnii can reach heights of 12 metres and a spread of 5 metres, giving the tree a conical shape. Bear in mind that it can take up to 20 years for the tree to fully mature.
7. Chusan Palm
If you thought the strawberry tree was unusual, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the chusan palm! Palm-type evergreen trees bring tropical vibes to gardens, with sun-loving palm tree fronds and thick fibrous trunks growing to many feet tall.
The chusan palm, Trachycarpus fortunei, is one of the best evergreen trees for narrow garden spaces. You can create height (this tree grows up to 12 metres) without taking up much space at all. Even when fully grown, the spread of this tree’s foliage won’t extend beyond 2.5 metres at the very top, with the trunk being far narrower.
This palm won’t produce abundant flowers, so if you are looking for a floral aspect, scroll back up to the Magnolia grandiflora. However, there will be some small flowers in a yellow shade emerging from this palm as it begins to mature – some palm trees will also produce fruits in the autumn season. They look beautiful against the mid-dark green tropical palm fronds.
To keep this evergreen tree happy, make sure it is in a full sun position in very well-draining soil. If your garden soil is naturally chalky, sandy or loamy, then this palm will feel right at home.
8. Portuguese Laurel Tree
The Portuguese Laurel may have similarly shaped foliage to Laurus nobilis (sweet bay) but make no mistake, they are separate plants. Portuguese Laurel, Prunus lusitanica, is a dense evergreen that makes a wonderful tree or garden hedge. These evergreen trees maintain their lush green screening abilities all year and are fully hardy.
This laurel can survive pretty much all weather conditions experienced in the UK and will maintain those deep green colours all through winter. Gardens that plant the Portuguese Laurel will also be treated to white flowers in April, plus red-black fruits in summer and autumn.
There is also a lot of versatility in the Portuguese Laurel. You can let the red-coloured new shoots grow freely, creating a bushy shape that’s a haven for wildlife, or you can prune it. Portuguese Laurel is even great for topiary too, so it can be pruned back into a specific shape or uniform hedge.
9. Red Robin Tree
The penultimate variety on our list of evergreen trees is Photinia x fraseri, AKA the Red Robin Tree. As the name suggests, the Red Robin Tree has vivid red foliage that slowly turns to a luscious dark green as each leaf matures. It is perfect for year-round colour and will bring a festive feel to your garden in December.
Like many other evergreen plants, establishing this tree in a sunny position is key. You may also find that the foliage colours and ivory white flowers (these bloom in mid-spring) are more abundant when it has full sun but some wind shelter.
As for other adverse weather conditions, the Red Robin Tree will do fine in temperatures as low as -8°C and can handle almost anything so long as it has moist, well-draining and fertile soil at its roots. With a spread and height of 4 metres, you can also use this tree as a screening hedge, just as you would for the Portuguese Laurel.
10. Holly Tree
Finally, we couldn’t write a list of evergreen trees without mentioning the holly tree! Maintaining its spiky green leaves through summer and producing red berries in the winter, holly trees are as iconic in the UK as the Quercus ilex oak.
If you grow Ilex aquifolium holly trees in your garden, you will have the choice of forming the plant into an evergreen shrub or tree. Over the next two decades, the English holly tree will reach a height of 6 metres and spread of 4 metres but can be contained and shaped a little with pruning.
And that’s our full list of evergreen trees for UK gardens! If you need assistance selecting an evergreen, don’t hesitate to reach out to our horticulturalists and explore our full range of evergreen trees today.
What is the most common evergreen tree?
Common evergreen trees in the UK include various pine trees and iconic oak trees. For more unusual garden trees and plant varieties, explore the Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) and the Cider Gum Tree (Eucalyptus gunnii).
What tree keeps its leaves all year?
All plant varieties in gardens that keep their leaves all year are known as evergreens. They aren’t necessarily green, they just retain their foliage whatever the weather through winter!
What tree is evergreen in England?
Evergreen trees in the UK include native garden trees like oak, as well as floral trees like magnolia, and more unusual varieties like Arbutus unedo.