Boxwoods have been used for centuries in European gardens and are now commonly planted in American landscapes coast to coast. Grown as traditional hedges or edging between garden areas, trimmed into topiary forms or potted, boxwood shrubs serve many functions in the landscape and rank among the most popular plants sold at garden centers.
Evergreen with small, tidy-looking foliage and a dense, broadly rounded, multi-branched habit, boxwood grows well in full sun and tolerates a fair amount of shade as well. Protect plants from winter winds and extreme summer sun to avoid foliage stress or sunburn. Most varieties are slow growing, and all do well with any type of pruning; early June is the ideal time for pruning (avoid pruning in winter). A general, all-purpose fertilizer or one with a little more nitrogen should be applied to newly planted boxwoods and young plants in late winter or early spring; mature plantings may only need occasional feeding over the years.
Boxwood is deer and rabbit resistant. However, it does have some unique issues to be aware of—boxwood blight is a fatal disease caused by a fungus. It was found to have spread to the Portland area in 2014 and is mostly in isolated pockets that are being monitored and suppressed as much as possible. The fungus infects all members of the boxwood family (Buxaceae), including Pachysandra and Sarcococca, and quickly causes the plant to drop all of its leaves and die. Oregon State University provides some useful information about boxwood blight if you have concerns or want to learn more.
There are many different cultivars of boxwood currently available on the market. Cultivars may differ in mature size or shape, leaf size or color, disease resistance, or some other variation.
- Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ (True Dwarf English Boxwood): slow growth rate to about 2-3 feet tall and wide; best for low edging or small hedging
- Buxus ‘Green Mountain’: slightly upright habit; faster growing to 4-5 feet tall by 2-3 feet wide
- Buxux ‘Green Tower’: upright habit; great for narrow spaces; moderate grower to 9 feet tall by about 2 feet wide
- Buxus microphylla ‘Winter Gem’ (Small-Leaved Boxwood): slightly smaller, pointed leaves than English Boxwood; more tolerant of boxwood blight; moderate growing to 4-6 feet tall and wide
If you are considering planting boxwood, stop in to see our selection, ask questions, and get expert help in choosing the best one for you! If you like the look of a boxwood, but want a comparable alternative, check out Box Leaf Honeysuckle, Japanese Holly, or Hebe.