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Green Giant Arborvitae, South Asheville

The Best Evergreen Trees and Shrubs for Asheville, NC

We are lucky in the variety of evergreens we can grow up here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. If you go just an hour or two in any direction, it gets a little too hot and humid for many conifers to thrive, especially in full sun. Even here, the heat and humidity of the summer, as well as the up and down temperatures of spring, can be a challenge.

While we can grow most evergreens in this area, many of the fancier varieties are shipped in from Oregon and Washington, where they have milder winters and dryer summers. We love all the fancy varieties and encourage everyone to find a place for one or two in their landscape if they can. Just be certain to give them plenty of sun and air circulation in order to keep pest and disease pressure to a minimum.

It can be overwhelming to decide what to plant. Think of evergreens as the meat of the garden or perhaps the blue jeans. You almost can’t go wrong with going with an evergreen, except perhaps if the area gets too much shade, in which case you want to be a little more careful which variety you choose.

The best family of evergreens for the Asheville area, at least for general landscaping, is Arborvitae. There are both eastern and western arborvitae, with cross-breeding between the two to create hardier, more desirable traits. The western varieties or crosses tend to be a little more hardy and drought-tolerant. Most arborvitae are grown locally by the big wholesalers versus shipped in from out west, which is one of the best signs that they thrive for us in the southeast.

Most people know arborvitae for screening trees like Green Giants or Emerald Greens. Both of those trees are currently some of the best screening trees on the market for Western North Carolina, but arborvitae come in all different shapes and sizes and fit almost anywhere in the garden.

Check out Fire Chief for a colorful dwarf shrub, Polar Gold for a yellow border plant or short screen similar to Emerald Green, or Anna’s Magic Ball for a pop of color in tight spaces. One that we discovered last year was Pancake, a super cool blue-green variety that stays short and sweet.

Another evergreen family that we love for the Asheville area is Chamaecyparis (Cam-ay-sip-arus), a neat, easy-to-grow conifer that is very deer-resistant. Green or Gold Fernspray make excellent and affordable specimen plants or on the corner of the foundation.

Finally, hollies make a nice choice for foundation hedges, perhaps better than arborvitae, though we find them to be a bit less cold-tolerant than the conifers. Nelly R Stevens are excellent border screening plants that give you seasonal color with red berries; Hoogendorn or Soft Touch makes a great hedge, and uprights like the meserveae varieties are beautiful accents.

In conclusion, if you are feeling overwhelmed with options, start with Arborvitae and see if you can find a plant you like that fits the space. Check out the Chamaecyparis family for something a little different, and hollies if you prefer that look. Just be sure to go with hollies that are rated to zone 6 or below, like the few mentioned above.

Hope this helps you find the perfect evergreens for your home. A fantastic year-round landscape can be designed with simply a base of evergreens with a few flowering shrubs sprinkled in to add a pop of color in the growing season.

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