Thursday, January 20, 2011

Question: can you recommend an evergreen shrub that will flower all year long and will survive in full sun that I don't have to water?

When I used to work in local nurseries, I got this question surprisingly often! With no offense meant, I usually told folks that it was silk flowers that they would be looking for. I don't presume to know where in the world you live, since I have readers from around the world on here. If you live in tropical zones, perhaps there are technical evergreens that flower quite often or that like the sun. Looking for an evergreen shrub that flowers all the time in full sun without needing water is like looking for a Ferrari that waxes itself and doesn't need gasoline! You'll be hard pressed to find one. Perhaps this is solely based on the area I live in and studied plants in, and would love to hear others' opinions on the matter.

Quickly, I will go over why this usually doesn't add up. Most of the flowering evergreens that I know of have very delicate blooms, which is why most flowering evergreens require partial to full shade. When these shrubs are grown in too much sun, the blooms usually develop burn spots.

With anything flowering, usually flowers can only occur when a plant is very healthy or very sick. When the plant is very healthy, the plant is able to devote extra energy to reproductive features (I.e., flowers). When the plant is not so happy, when it reaches a point where it feels like it may die, it goes into a sort of "panic mode" and flowers as a last ditch effort to keep it's species alive. Either way you look at it, flowering with a plant just isn't something that can be done forever. It takes so much energy from the plant, that you would need to constantly feed it nutrients and water for it stay alive while flowering.

Which brings me to the next point, of watering. No plant (or very few should I say) can survive without water. In the chemical equation for photosynthesis (how plants create energy), water is one of the fundamental ingredients! The best thing I can recommend if you don't want to water your plants is to naturalize them. With a new plant, when it is first planted in the ground it must be babied a bit, but as it becomes accustomed to it's new environment, you can begin to wean it from your care and have it become used to natural waterings from the rain.

Of course, all of this information is a general statement on plants, not to be taken literally for each and every plant out there; Azaleas and hollies respond better to naturalization than annual plants and such. Overall reader, I believe you are going to have to sacrifice something to have a beautiful, healthy plant:

1. No water + full sun = unhappy (unless you're interested in cacti)

2. Water + shade = happy evergreen flowering plant

To those in other areas, I would love to hear whether your flowering evergreens are any different, or if you have any advice on the matter as well!


- Posted from my iPad


  1. Hmm... I am certainly no expert, but I am thinking of the bottlebrush here in Australia that thrive in the heat and are fine to be left alone to rainwater once established. Every time we have a drought here the bottlebrush are one shrub/tree that still look good. There are lots of different kinds, though I'm not sure exactly when they flower, certainly in summer but perhaps only then.

  2. Thanks Ali! Yeah, around here, bottlebrushes are deciduous trees. Glad to hear other views on the matter!

  3. Gardening here along the shores of Lake Michigan is a little different than that for you, however I do enjoy learning from your blog. Here everything is white. In fact this morning it was minus 7F with a windchill of minus 25-30F. If you want to check out some of the photos of the garden please do. You can see not only the summer beauty here, but really, the beauty of the Winter. I have to say that to keep my sanity! You can find me using google search engine: I will check in on you again. Jack

  4. Good to hear gardens. I will check you out. If I may inquire, what is different about the gardening in Michigan? Would love to get your view on gardening from your coast! Do you have any flowering evergreens that fit the questioner's criteria?

  5. When you find one (either plant or Ferrari) that fits the requirements, please let me know. ;-)