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Similar but less problematic plants:
Distylium Distylium
Viburnum obovatum 'Raulston Hardy' Viburnum obovatum 'Raulston Hardy'
Buxus microphylla is often confused with:
Ilex crenata Ilex crenata
Native alternative(s) for Buxus microphylla:
Ilex glabra Leaves
Ilex vomitoria Ilex vomitoria
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa' Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa'
Buxus sempervirens 'Vardar Valley'
Buxus 'Green Mountain' Green Mountain

Buxus microphylla

Phonetic Spelling
BUK-sus my-kro-FIL-uh
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Littleleaf boxwood is an evergreen shrub in the Buxaceae (boxwood) family and 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. 

Like other boxwoods, littleleaf boxwood prefers moist, cool, well-drained soil and is adaptable to various soil types. Since the roots are shallow, mulch heavily to help retain moisture. Once established this plant is typically quite drought tolerant. Plant in full sun to light shade but provide some protection from wind and winter weather, as foliage tends to turn an orangish-brown with extremes on some varieties. It prunes exceptionally well, but do not prune until after the possibility of a late spring frost to prevent damage to new growth.  Propagate by stem cuttings, which root easily. This plant is resistant to damage by rabbits and deer.

Littleleaf boxwood is a versatile slow-growing broadleaf evergreen shrub that provides landscape interest in all four seasons. It has the smallest leaves of all the boxwoods creating a densely packed surface that is easily shaped into a medium-size hedge, topiary, or bonsai. Small non-showy flowers arrive in the spring and provide a nice fragrance for a short time.

Grow it in a container, along a border, or as an edging or hedge. It also is appropriate as an accent, specimen, placed in small groups, mass planted, or used along a foundation.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Susceptible to boxwood leaf miner and boxwood mites. Some susceptibility to leaf spot and boxwood blight which causes premature defoliation and dieback. Poorly drained soils may cause root rot. Foliar injury during harsh winters.

 

For suitable alternatives, see this video created by Charlotte Glen as part of the Plants, Pests, and Pathogens series.

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

More information on Buxus.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Compacta'
    Best variety for a low hedge; smallest; use for bonsai
  • 'Curly Locks'
    Twisted branches with narrow, yellow green, curled leaves
  • 'Green Borders'
    Fine textured, dark green foliage, horizontal branching habit, 2-3' tall
  • 'Green Pillow'
    Dwarf, low-mound, dense, small green leaves, 2-3' tall
  • 'Sunnyside'
    Large leaves good cold hardiness, yellow bronze fall color
  • var. japonica Buxus microphylla var. japonica
    Loose, deep green foliage, round evergreen shrub to 6.5' tall
  • var. koreana
    Most hardy of varieties, foliage bronze-colored in winter
  • 'Winter Beauty'
    Mounded form, attractive bronze fall/winter color
  • 'Winter Gem'
    Winter hardy; 4'-6' tall; lighter green foliage; prunes well
  • 'Wintergreen'
    Winter hardy; compact 2'-4' tall; good pest resistance; bright green small leaves, keeps green in winter
'Compacta', 'Curly Locks', 'Green Borders', 'Green Pillow', 'Sunnyside', var. japonica, var. koreana, 'Winter Beauty', 'Winter Gem', 'Wintergreen'
Tags:
#evergreen#drought tolerant#specimen#slow growing#bonsai#winter interest#accent plant#rabbit resistant#topiary#hedges#edging#transplant#deer resistant#dense#foundation planting#formal gardens#leathery leaves#small group plantings#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#shrub borders
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Compacta'
    Best variety for a low hedge; smallest; use for bonsai
  • 'Curly Locks'
    Twisted branches with narrow, yellow green, curled leaves
  • 'Green Borders'
    Fine textured, dark green foliage, horizontal branching habit, 2-3' tall
  • 'Green Pillow'
    Dwarf, low-mound, dense, small green leaves, 2-3' tall
  • 'Sunnyside'
    Large leaves good cold hardiness, yellow bronze fall color
  • var. japonica Buxus microphylla var. japonica
    Loose, deep green foliage, round evergreen shrub to 6.5' tall
  • var. koreana
    Most hardy of varieties, foliage bronze-colored in winter
  • 'Winter Beauty'
    Mounded form, attractive bronze fall/winter color
  • 'Winter Gem'
    Winter hardy; 4'-6' tall; lighter green foliage; prunes well
  • 'Wintergreen'
    Winter hardy; compact 2'-4' tall; good pest resistance; bright green small leaves, keeps green in winter
'Compacta', 'Curly Locks', 'Green Borders', 'Green Pillow', 'Sunnyside', var. japonica, var. koreana, 'Winter Beauty', 'Winter Gem', 'Wintergreen'
Tags:
#evergreen#drought tolerant#specimen#slow growing#bonsai#winter interest#accent plant#rabbit resistant#topiary#hedges#edging#transplant#deer resistant#dense#foundation planting#formal gardens#leathery leaves#small group plantings#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#shrub borders
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Buxus
    Species:
    microphylla
    Family:
    Buxaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Japan
    Wildlife Value:
    Flowers are attractive to bees.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 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:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    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
    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:
    A dehiscent 3-celled capsule that matures to brown
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Non-showy, male and female flowers. Fragrant an attracts bees.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Insignificant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Medium green .3"-1" long, 1/4" wide, broadest in the middle, apex notched. Unattractive yellow-green or soft orange-brown fall color. Foliage has a distinct odor.
  • 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
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Barrier
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Rabbits
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Skin irritation minor or lasting only for a few minutes. If ingested, can cause nausea, diarrhea, dizziness and vomiting. Dogs and cats: vomiting, diarrhea; Horses: colic, diarrhea, respiratory failure, seizures
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Steroidal alkaloids
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Leaves