Ugly and Worthless Evergreen Trees

Almost? Any tree or shrub looks “right” in some landscape or other, but almost? Any tree or shrub looks wrong in some landscape or other.

Only a few look wrong (to me) in almost any context.  This may be a matter of taste or prejudice; if so, I am glad my personal yuck-list is small.

Late-coloring Liquidambar—Nobody needs an ugly purple clinger-on to fall foliage in January and February among the fresh, clean, new burgeonings of green grass and flowering trees and daffodils and (even) acacias

Dodonaea viscosa—Drab purple thing looks ugly any time, any place.  

Also, most purple-leaf mutants like Raywood sh, flowering plums, Prunus cerasifera ‘Krauter Vesuvius’ (but P. blireana has green leaves and is o.k.).  And of course most variegated mutants as well as chlorotic-looking trees (Cinnamomum?). 

The following might look o.k. in a collection of winter-hardy evergreens, for people in cold-winter climates who can’t get a tropical effect any other way:

Pittosporum (most species)

Myoporum laetum—not even hardy

Cupaniopsis anacardioides—hardy??

Ilex europaea & I. cornuta (unless loaded with berries)

Rhaphiolepis indica (Indian Hawthorn), and

Photinia fraseri (these are two of my most hated)

Viburnum (some evergreen species e.g. V. rhytidophyllum)

Camellia sp. Cv (those with dirty toilet-paper flowers)—except for collectors

Aucuba japonica

Coprosma repens (Pau d’arco)

Griselinia littoralis

Grevillea robusta

Escallonia spp.

Lagunaria pattersonii

Pyrus kawakami

Acacia baileyana & A. longiflora

Eucalyptus lehmanniana—tender?

Cryptomeria (dense form)

Prunus laurocer. & P. lusit.

Xylosma congestum

Phormium tenax

Nerium oleander

Schinus terebinth.

Podocarpus spp.

Hebe spp.



Azara adentata micro.

Quillaja saponaria

Tristania laurina

Maytenus bo.

Corynocarpus laevigatus

Rhamnus alaternus


Euonymus japon. (like Coprosma etc.)

Australian evergreens (Myrtaceae & Proteaceae) belong together

These plants are ugly evergreen without redeeming features like fruit, fragrance, etc.  The only way they might look good (and “right”) is in a big grove of their own—could be quite striking actually.

On the other hand, with enough room, a “Japanese-style” winter-evergreen garden can look o.k, albeit sterile, and there are numerous such plants that can make themselves worthwhile by virtue of their scent (list on back).  (Interestingly, many of these produce their flowers in winter.)  Go well with baby tears, mossy rocks, certain ferns, certain conifers, bamboo?, and of course all the numerous other broadleaf hardy evergreens that aren't necessarily fragrant.

Hardy fragrant evergreens:

Rhododendron ‘fragrantissimum’

Camellia species and cultivars (some)

Pittosporum tobira and P. undulatum

Sarcococca ruscifolia (red fruit)

S. hookeriana humilis? (black fruit)

Daphne odora

Lonicera japonica/hallii (this is not a glossy green, thick-leaved evergreen)

L. sp (Burmese Honeysuckle)—tender?


Choisya ternata

Trachelospermum jasminum/asiaticum

Hymenosporum flavum

Ligustrum jap/texanum

Michelia figo (and others?)

Osmanthus delavayi

O. fragrans

Gardenia jasminoides