Evergreens, or plants that keep their foliage year-round, grow in a variety of sizes. Evergreen groundcovers can grow to just a few inches tall, while huge coniferous trees can reach to heights more than 300 feet. Though most of the tallest species of evergreens aren't feasible choices of ornamental plants, as many have protected status or are simply just too big to fit in most home landscapes, other shorter evergreens add texture, color and fragrance to the home grounds.
The tallest trees in the world are evergreens. The coast or California redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) commonly grows up to 328 feet tall. As of 2011, the tallest living specimen stood 379 feet tall. These giant trees grow quickly, up to 3 feet per year, and are native to the southwestern Oregon and northwestern California coasts, where they are considered a vulnerable species. Coast redwoods can live for more than 2,000 years.
The giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) grows to 295 feet tall and is native to California's Sierra Nevada foothills, though it has been cultivated across regions of Europe. This evergreen can live for more than 3,200 years. All native groves of giant sequoia have protected status.
Several evergreen trees reach heights to 200 feet or more. The Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) grows throughout the Pacific Northwest and commonly reaches heights of 250 feet, though the tallest recorded specimen was 330 feet tall. This fast-growing tree needs full sun and prefers rich soil. The tallest Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) on record reached 280 feet tall, but generally they grow to 200 feet. They naturally range along the coast from Alaska to northern California. Sitka spruce trees tolerate some shade and prefer fertile, moist, well-aerated soils.
Some evergreen shrubs and groundcovers grow to less than 3 feet tall. These include the broadleaved dwarf aucuba (Aucuba japonica "Nana") which grows to 1 or 2 feet tall with a 3-foot spread. This slow-growing shrub has 3- to 8-inch-long, leathery foliage and produces long-lasting, bright-red berries on stalks. Dwarf aucubas grow best in partial shade and fertile, moist soil.
The shore juniper (Juniperus conferta) grows from 1 to 2 feet tall with a 5-foot spread. This low-growing evergreen has narrow-leaved, awl-shaped foliage that grows in threes. It prefers full sun and light, well-drained, sandy soil.
A few evergreens grow to only a few inches tall. These include the Icee Blue creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis "Icee Blue"), which grows from 2 to 4 inches high and has needlelike, silvery-blue foliage that attains a purple hue in winter. It grows best in full sun.
The goldmoss sedum (Sedum acre), a broadleaved evergreen, has bright-green foliage and blooms with yellow flowers in early summer. It grows from 2 to 4 inches tall and thrives in dry soils. Woolly thyme (Thymus praecox "Pseudolanuginosus") only grows from 1 to 2 inches tall. This needleleaf evergreen blooms with pink flowers in spring and early summer. It has aromatic gray foliage.
The Turkish veronica (Veronica liwanensis) also grows from 1 to 2 inches tall. This broadleaved evergreen has dark green foliage and blooms with blue flowers from late spring through early summer. It prefers full sun and well-drained to dry soil.