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What are Evergreen Trees?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Evergreen trees are trees which retain their foliage year-round, rather than losing their leaves annually like deciduous trees do. There are a number of different types of evergreens, and some distinct advantages to being evergreen as opposed to deciduous. Many tropical trees are evergreens, and evergreens are also very common in temperate climates. In colder regions of the world, evergreens are more rare, but still present.

From the tree's perspective, being evergreen requires less work. Deciduous trees require a lot of energy and nutrients in the spring, when they put out new leaves. Evergreen trees, on the other hand, conserve energy and nutrients by slowly growing new foliage year-round, which can be an advantage in regions where nutrients are tight, as an evergreen can endure a rough season, while a deciduous tree might fail. The leaves also provide insulation for the tree, preventing sun and frost damage on the branches and trunk. Evergreens also fertilize themselves, thanks to their nutrient-rich leaf litter, which also acts as mulch to protect the roots.

Evergreen trees keep their foliage year-round.
Evergreen trees keep their foliage year-round.

Some evergreen trees grow new foliage constantly, with older foliage dropping off as it is displaced. Others have slower rates of growth, losing leaves only periodically. In all cases, the foliage remains green and crisp year-round, with paler growth being newer. In spring, for example, new growth can appear almost yellow next to the more mature foliage. Most evergreens have needle-shaped leaves, to conserve water, and many evergreens have slightly waxy foliage, which also helps to prevent evaporation through the leaves.

Conifers such as cypress, pine, and fir trees are all evergreens, as are hollies, some oaks, eucalyptus, and rhododendrons, among others. As you can see from these diverse examples, evergreen trees come in an assortment of shapes and sizes. They can be found all over the world, from the harsh outback of Australia to the lush forests of South America.

Evergreen trees are popular as ornamentals because they retain their foliage year-round, rather than dropping their leaves in the fall and creating an unsightly mess. Deciduous trees can also create a very stark landscape in the winter when they lose their leaves. Evergreen trees keep the garden looking green and alive, even in snowy climates.

Many cultures also include evergreens in their folklore. These trees are associated with constancy, faithfulness, and other enduring traits, thanks to their persistent foliage. The practice of cutting evergreen boughs to use as decorations in the winter is also very common, especially in Northern climates, where the sight of green foliage is rare in the winter.

Frequently Asked Questions

What defines an evergreen tree?

An evergreen tree is characterized by its ability to retain its leaves throughout the year. Unlike deciduous trees, which lose their foliage during autumn and winter, evergreens maintain their leaves or needles, ensuring a constant display of greenery. This trait allows them to photosynthesize whenever conditions are favorable, providing a year-round advantage for growth and survival.

Why do evergreen trees keep their leaves all year?

Evergreen trees keep their leaves year-round primarily as a survival strategy. Their leaves or needles are adapted to withstand various environmental stresses, such as cold temperatures and drought. By retaining foliage, evergreens can continue photosynthesis whenever conditions permit, giving them a competitive edge over deciduous trees, especially in challenging climates.

Are all conifers evergreen?

While most conifers are evergreen, not all conform to this rule. For instance, the larch and bald cypress are conifers that shed their needles annually. These deciduous conifers are exceptions to the typical evergreen conifer profile, demonstrating the diversity within the coniferous family.

How do evergreen trees benefit the ecosystem?

Evergreen trees offer substantial ecological benefits. They provide year-round habitat and food sources for wildlife. Their continuous foliage cover helps prevent soil erosion and maintains soil health by reducing nutrient leaching during the off-season. Additionally, evergreens contribute to carbon sequestration, playing a vital role in mitigating climate change.

Can evergreen trees grow in cold climates?

Evergreen trees are particularly well-suited to cold climates. Their needle-like leaves with a waxy coating reduce water loss and protect against freezing temperatures. Species like the Norway spruce and balsam fir thrive in cold environments, showcasing the group's adaptability to harsh winter conditions.

What are some common uses for evergreen trees?

Evergreen trees have a multitude of uses. They are widely used in landscaping for year-round aesthetic appeal and as windbreaks or privacy screens. Wood from evergreens like pines and firs is valuable in construction and paper production. Additionally, certain evergreens, such as spruces and firs, are popular as Christmas trees during the holiday season.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

Discussion Comments


This is a good website to teach people about trees.


If you live in a more temperate climate, it can be nice to make a nice combination of shade trees and evergreens.

I really like this particular combination, since the shade trees look so nice in the spring and summer, but can look very bare and spiky once they drop their leaves. That's when the evergreens get their chance to shine after sort of being in the background for a few months.

It can also be really nice to include some trees with a lot of color in them, like a flowering tree, or one with bright leaves, like a Japanese maple tree. Since the evergreen trees don't drop their leaves or change color, it can look a little bit boring if you just rely on them for all of your landscaping.

That's why it's nice to get a combination of brighter trees to spice things up a little bit, and keep your yard from looking so serious.

I'm not a professional landscaper or anything, but these are just some things that I've noticed when working with my own yard -- so you might want to just keep them in the back of your mind the next time you find some trees for sale.


I recently bought my first house, and I want to use some evergreen trees for landscaping, but I'm really not sure how I should go about doing it, or what kind of evergreen tree I should get.

I've only ever really worked with fruit trees before (I'm from Florida), so I'm not really very sure on how to start landscaping with evergreen trees.

I would love to include some shrubs as well, because I think that they would look really nice in the summer, and they could set off the austerity of the evergreen trees, just in case they start to look to serious.

So do any green thumbs reading this have any tips on evergreen tree and shrub landscaping? I am a total first-timer at this, so I'll take all the help I can get!


I've always been such a fan of evergreen trees for landscaping. I think that evergreen trees are so wonderful for keeping your yard looking nice when it comes to winter, when all of the other flowering trees drop their leaves.

And since so many evergreen trees look like Christmas trees, it can be so cheerful when it gets to that time of year, almost like you've put up Christmas decorations (except that they're already there, you don't have to put them up!)

So if your yard is like mine, and starts to get a little bare come winter time, then you might should consider getting some evergreen landscaping trees. They're really easy to take care of, and can lend such a nice feel to virtually any yard.

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    • Evergreen trees keep their foliage year-round.
      By: Sergey Belov
      Evergreen trees keep their foliage year-round.