Boxwood evergreen shrubs

Evergreen Shrubs: Pros and Cons – Gardening Tips

Boxwood evergreen shrubs

Evergreen shrubs have traditionally been a homeowner’s staple landscape plant. If you are considering planting shrubs or removing them, there are pros and cons to having this standard outdoor decoration.

Some homeowners consider evergreen shrubs an eyesore. They become overgrown, cover the fronts of houses, block out windows, and can be very hard to shape or remove.

However, taking them out can also have the effect of making your house or property look bare, or leaving you with an ugly stump to stare at or work around.

If you are wondering whether to take out your shrubs or try to make the best of them, here are a few good things to know about evergreen shrubs.

Evergreen Shrubs Come in Several Popular Types

Yew evergreen shrub

Yew evergreen shrub

The bushes you have out front are probably yew. If they have longish, soft needles, and spiky overgrowth that needs to be pruned, the safe bet is that they are yew shrubs.

Ditto for if you’ve inherited them and don’t know exactly what they are. They are probably some variety of yew. They have the advantage of being uniform, of a nice color and texture, somewhat slow-growing and able to be pruned.

The yew is able to grow in any number of conditions and has such a strong, tough wood that hedges around the world grown from yew grow to enormous heights and can withstand hurricane-force winds. It makes them especially hard to remove from your front garden, however.

And yes, they can start to put roots into any little crack in your foundation.

Additional Popular Varieties

There are a few other popular varieties, such as juniper, boxwood, holly, arborvitae, and cypress.

Juniper is more sprawling and low-growing than the yew and has blue-green needle foliage. Most people are familiar with holly because its female plants carry the red berries so popular at Christmas. Arborvitaes are enormous, upright shrubs that grow both tall and wide, as are many varieties of cypress.

Both arborvitae and cypress are often planted where a privacy hedge is wanted. They can grow up to 40 feet high and 20 feet wide – or bigger in the case of some arborvitae. It is not recommended that you plant the bigger varieties of these evergreen shrubs unless you truly do want a privacy hedge, as they will grow 3-4 feet per year.

Here are a few other types of shrubs to consider.

Euonymus

Euonymuses have waxy, dark green foliage all year and white flowers in the summer followed by orange-pink berries in the fall. This shrub can make a privacy hedge or an ornamental planting look great.

Photinia

This unusual plant has red tips and can be planted as a hedge as well. Its red spring foliage becomes deep green with red tips later in the year and its red berries turn black.

Firethorn

Like boxwood, firethorn has small green leaves. Unlike boxwood, it produces bright berries. It can make a great cover, as it is low-growing.

Gardenia

Gardenia shrubs are more popular in the south where they can thrive year round, with leathery dark leaves and white, fragrant blooms in summer.

Camellia

Another flowering shrub, camellia has glossy, pointed leaves like the gardenia and beautiful flowers. It, like the gardenia, loves the shade.

What Do I Do With My Shrubs?

It depends on what you want for your yard. Just because a shrub is there doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. There is a reason shrubs are getting torn out right and left.

If you have a yew or two that is driving you up a wall – literally – it’s time to take it out. Especially if you also have a dated home exterior that you need to revamp and the shrubs are going to be in the way.

However, if you have some shrubs you think you might like but you’re not sure, you can always prune them and wait for a season or two to see if you like them.

Evergreen Shrubs Pros:

  • Evergreen shrubs can create a better, and more lasting, privacy barrier than any fence you will ever buy. In addition, they can grow relatively quickly at that.
  • Evergreen shrubs are hearty, needing almost no maintenance other than the yearly pruning.
  • Many shrubs are very attractive. They can add visual definition to the front of your house or a spot in your yard. Many varieties produce berries or flowers.
  • Shrubs – especially privacy hedges – can double as homes for birds and little creatures. Of course, this is a double-edged sword. However, if you take care to plant correctly and far enough away from your house, it can be an added bonus.

Evergreen Shrubs Cons:

  • Some varieties grow very quickly and can get out of control before you know it
  • Older shrubs are often the hardest to remove, the most overgrown, and the most dated.
  • Some varieties can get into the foundation of your house as they tend to have been planted close to the walls.
  • They do need some pruning or their growth will get out of control or untidy looking.

How to Remove a Shrub

If you have come to the point where you would like to remove your evergreen shrub and replace it with landscaping of your own choosing, you may consider doing it yourself. You will need:

  • A chainsaw
  • Protective gear: ear muffs, eye and face protection, protective chaps for your legs, long sleeves and heavy-duty gloves
  • A sharp spade
  • A pruning saw
  • A hatchet

Start by using the chainsaw to remove small sections a little bit at a time. Stack them in the same direction so they can be easily fed into a wood chipper. You can dismantle the shrub small pieces at a time until you have a stump left.

If you are removing an evergreen shrub, once it’s down to the stump, it will never grow back. However, decomposing roots can potentially attract termites or other insects. There are human and animal-safe products available to discourage insects from congregating at the decomposing stump.  

  • One method is to cover the stump with a tarp and wait for a year before digging it out.
  • Another method is to cut the stump as close to the ground as possible and plant around it while it slowly decomposes.
  • The chain and pickup truck method is not advisable: the chain might snap and whip someone, the truck may make divots in your yard, and the roots may have gotten into the foundation, in which case you don’t want to suddenly tear them out.
  • Or you can dig with a sharp spade around the stump and cut the biggest roots with a sharp pruning saw. Rock the stump back and forth until the root ball comes loose. For this method, you will need to leave a foot or two of the stump at the end to hold onto.

Takeaway

Whatever you choose to do with your shrubs, it’s your yard. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. You can always consult family and friends or a landscape designer to find out if removing your shrub will make the area look worse rather than better.

In addition, if you are planting new shrubs, it is important that they receive the proper amount of nutrients and water. Root Starter Sticks are cylinder aeration tubes to allow water, nutrients, and air to penetrate deep into the root zone for optimal growth.

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