Architectural Plants | Evergreen Nursery

Architectural Plants

If you follow gardening and landscaping news, you’ve probably come across the phrase “architectural plants.” Maybe you haven’t given much thought to the term, or have guessed it must have something to do with size or shape or big buildings.

What is an architectural plant, anyway?

The word ‘architectural’ conjures up images of things like skyscrapers and old museums. In landscaping, the term refers to plants that make a statement in the landscape with distinctive architectural elements like clean lines, bold shapes, or overall growth pattern. Architectural plants are great for adding focal points and creating unity in the garden. They can also be used to create a formal look in your landscape. Here at Evergreen Nursery, we have plenty of plants that can be used to add architectural interest to your yard. Here are some of our favorite examples:

Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

Italian Cypress

The Italian Cypress is a classic example of a graceful architectural plant with its tall, columnar shape. Nearly always seen planted in tidy rows, it serves as a great privacy screen or windbreak as well as a dramatic focal point.

Texas Privet (Ligustrum japonicum ‘Texanum’)

A favorite for hedges and topiaries, Texas Privet’s dense foliage and fast growth rate make it perfect for sculpting into a variety of shapes that can add a whimsical or formal element to your garden. Boxwood (Buxus microphylla) is another example of a hedge plant that’s great for pruning into precise shapes.

Horsetail Reed (Equisteum hyemale)

Horsetail Reed

In the plant world, there’s hardly a better example of a straight line than Horsetail Reed. The slender upright stems draw attention on their own, and they can be planted along a path to create a natural fence, or to lead the eye to other areas of your garden

Agave (Agave species)

Agave Blue Glow

With identical pointy leaves and overall globe shapes, agaves like Blue Glow and Twin-flowered Agave make impressive focal points. When planted in multiples, they’re great for adding repetition and creating unity, as the eye naturally seeks out similar shapes.  

Elephant Ear (Alocasia ‘Portora’)

Elephant Ear Alocasia

Elephant Ear lends a sculptural element to your garden with oversized, waxy heart-shaped leaves on tall stalks. Valued for impressive foliage – with individual leaves that can grow to two feet long - it’s a great choice for adding drama to a garden bed or container.

Star Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)

Star Pine Tiers of evenly spaced, horizontal branches, a straight trunk and distinctive triangle shape make the Star Pine a great choice for a specimen tree. The Star Pine is also popular as living Christmas trees due to its geometric shape as well as suitability for indoor growing when young.

Palm Tree

Palm leaves are formed by leaflets that can be pinnate (featherlike), as on a King Palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana), or palmate (fan-shaped) as on the Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta). Either way, Palm trees offer impressive symmetrical patterns and make distinctive focal points planted alone or in groups.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Snake Plant

Snake Plants are prized as an indoor or outdoor plant for their clean vertical lines and sleek texture. The sturdy, sword-like leaves are impressive as a floor or tabletop display in the home or office.  Grown outdoors in partially shaded areas, Snake Plants makes attractive borders or low hedges.

Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus africanus)


Your eyes can’t help but follow the bouncing balls…the large, globe-shaped flower clusters of Lily of the Nile appear to float above strap-like leaves. Mass plantings provide a geometric design element that wends its way through the garden.

Gold Capella Umbrella Tree (Schefflera ‘Gold Capella’)

The Umbrella Tree is another architectural plant that can be grown either inside as a houseplant or outside in partial shade. Large, glossy leaves are made up of oval leaflets arranged in an umbrella shape. Variegated types like Gold Capella will add color and light as well as a whimsical pattern in your garden.

New Zealand Flax (Phormium)

New Zealand Flax

Tall clumps of stiff, sword like leaves rising above other plants give New Zealand Flax a commanding presence in garden beds and containers. With a variety of colors to choose from, it’s easy to add another level of contrast to your garden.

Cape Aloe (Aloe ferox)

Cape Aloe

The leaves of Cape Aloe form large, pointed blue-gray rosettes edged with reddish teeth. In winter, impressive bright orange flower spikes shoot up above the foliage. Tightly packed, perfectly arranged tubular flowers give the spikes a sculptural effect.

Sunburst Aeonium (Aeonium canariense ‘Sunburst’)

Sunburst Aeonium

The Sunburst Aeonium is another example of a pleasing, symmetrically formed succulent plant. With clumps of dinner-plate sized rosettes and a bright creamy yellow and green variegation, it’s sure to be stand out in mixed beds, rock gardens and containers.

Cardboard Palm (Zamia furfuracea)

Cardbiard Palm Zamia

Not actually a palm but a cycad, the Cardboard Palm has thick, stiff leaves that give it the appearance of a cardboard sculpture. Leaves are made up of leaflets arranged like palm fronds, radiating from a short central trunk to form a circular crown of leaves.

Foxtail Fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myersii’)

Foxtail Fern

The Foxtail Fern has quite a unique form, with fuzzy upright towers made up of needle like leaves. The tentacle-like branches individually resemble fox tails and are a bright chartreuse green. It makes a wonderful specimen plant for a shade garden or container.

Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Golden Barrel Cactus

These impressive, ribbed globes can grow to 4 feet and are lined with neatly arranged golden spikes that appear to light up in sunlight. Golden Barrel Cactus works well as an architectural element either as a single focal point, or planted in groups to create repetition and movement in your landscape.

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