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Buxus microphylla var. japonica

Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
BUK-sus my-kroh-FY-lah vah-RY-eh-tee jah-PON-ih-kah
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Japanese boxwood is a fine-textured, loose, and rounded evergreen shrub in the Buxaceae (boxwood) family that grows to 6.5 feet tall. Native to Japan, Buxus is the Latin name for boxwood or box tree. The common name of boxwood refers to the wood used to make carved decorative boxes. Another etymology is that boxwood describes the square stems of its young plants.  

This boxwood prefers moist, cool soils, so mulch heavily around the roots. Plant it in well-drained soil with slight acidity to slight alkalinity and dappled to partial shade. It can be grown in full shade but will become leggy and sparsely foliated. Full sun may cause foliage to turn a reddish color. This is a slow growing shrub and sensitive to over fertilization. New growth may be injured by frost. Once established, it is very drought tolerant. It is also deer, rabbit, and nematode resistant. Propagate by stem cutting; the plant also will self-seed in optimum growing conditions.  

Japanese boxwood works well as a specimen or accent in the landscape, and it is also useful in shrub borders or foundation plantings. It is commonly used as edging and in formal hedges so it works well in English or cottage gardens.   

Quick ID Hints:

  • Leaves are opposite, apex rounded or notched
  • Stems are square and winged (decurrent petiole)
  • Midrib has white cottony pubescence below
  • Leaves are about 1inch long and often as broad

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: This plant can be challenging to grow.  Boxwood mites and leaf miners can affect stressed plants. Blight and leaf spot can affect plants.  Root rot occurs in poorly drained soil. Foliage burns in hot summer suns or harsh winter winds. 

 VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

More information on Buxus microphylla.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
English Garden Terrace View English Garden Boxwood Parterre Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Borderline'
Tags:
#evergreen#poisonous#specimen#shrub#slow growing#interiorscape#winter interest#cottage garden#accent plant#rabbit resistant#hedges#cpp#deer resistant#foundation planting#self-seeding#english garden#fantz#evergreen shrub#malodorous#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#shearing#tiny leaves#shrub borders
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Borderline'
Tags:
#evergreen#poisonous#specimen#shrub#slow growing#interiorscape#winter interest#cottage garden#accent plant#rabbit resistant#hedges#cpp#deer resistant#foundation planting#self-seeding#english garden#fantz#evergreen shrub#malodorous#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#shearing#tiny leaves#shrub borders
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Buxus
    Species:
    microphylla
    Family:
    Buxaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The extremely hard wood was used to make boxes, hence the common name.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Japan
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Nematodes
    Dimensions:
    Height: 6 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 6 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Perennial
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Inconspicuous and not showy
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Small, green to cream, fragrant, insignificant flowers in axillary clusters, 4-parted. Apetalous (no petals).
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Small ~1", opposite, simple leaves, broadest above the middle. Typically obcordate and just as broad as long, rounded or notched apex; petiole fused to stem (decurrent) with white cottony midrib below. Foliage green, but sometimes has yellowish-green leaves, malodorous.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Square
    Stem Description:
    New stems green, mature to brown, square shape.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Patio
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    English Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Barrier
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Security
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Rabbits
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Malodorous
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Causes low toxicity if eaten. Skin irritation minor or lasting only for a few minutes. Dogs and cats: vomiting, diarrhea; Horses: colic, diarrhea, respiratory failure, seizures
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Steroidal alkaloids
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Leaves