How to Identify Evergreen Shrubs & Bushes

Written by jacob j. wright
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Plants that retain their leaves throughout winter are a welcome addition to the garden landscape. There is a tremendous variety of evergreen shrubs encountered outdoors, including needle-leaved conifers as well as broadleaved plants that have thicker, leathery or glossy leaves. Several resources exist that allow you to investigate plants through visual comparison or by asking more knowledgeable plant enthusiasts for their identification skills.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Digital camera

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  1. 1

    Ask a "green-thumbed" neighbour, family member or hired landscape worker if he knows the name of the mystery evergreen plants in your yard. If you have a photo of the plant, show it or e-mail it.

  2. 2

    Focus on describing the foliage, shape and size of the shrubs you wish to identify. As you converse with people, being able to describe the size, length, shape and texture of leaves, flower buds, stems and other characteristics makes it easier to narrow down the possible identities of the plant. It also trains your eye to discriminate among the different plants that are evergreens and will sharpen your skills.

  3. 3

    Look through plant or gardening reference book tables of contents and indexes. Investigate books with titles or chapters like "evergreen shrubs" or "broadleaved evergreens" or simply "shrubs" to see if there is a broad selection of full-colour photographs to examine. See if you spot your evergreen plants in any photos. Note their names.

  4. 4

    Visit a local garden centre, shrub nursery or botanical garden. Often looking at plants results in visual recognition of evergreen plants you already have on your property. Look for plant labels or ask a staff member for help learning a name; write down any information gleaned.

  5. 5

    Take a digital photograph of the evergreens you wish to identity and post it to a photo-hosting website. Plant-identification and regional gardening forums online allow you to ask people worldwide to identify the plant in a photo and ask relevant questions. Check back regularly to the website where you posted your image and request and monitor responses and investigate leads other plant enthusiasts provide.

  6. 6

    Research with the local university, community college or botanical garden if they offer workshops or tours regarding plant identification. Enrol and attend a class, and network with other plant enthusiasts to become more comfortable in your techniques and strategies for learning new plants.

Tips and warnings

  • When you research your evergreen, it would be helpful if you could describe the plant type to better narrow down your search. For example, if you think your plant is a juniper, holly, rhododendron or a vine, it can make researching and posing questions easier.
  • Search online plant databases. More accessible than research books, they usually have photographs for quick visual comparisons.
  • Be careful around evergreen foliage that is prickly, like that of holly or spruce.

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