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American Boxwood Buxus sempervirens

Phonetic Spelling
BUK-sus sem-per-VEE-renz
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

The species specific epithet means always green. The American Boxwood is a broadly rounded, multi-branched evergreen shrub or small tree that can grow up to 15'-20' tall at maturity though it can be kept much shorter through pruning.  The dense foliage has leaves that are a glossy dark green on top with a yellow green underside.

The American Boxwood is considered a low maintenance plant.  It is shallow-rooted and adapts to a wide range of light and soil conditions.  Avoid planting too deeply or in soils that are not well-drained.  Add a few inches of mulch to protect the shallow roots from getting dry and hot.  Protect from winds and full winter sun by placing in a location where these conditions are limited. Winter winds and full sun can cause dehydration and bronzing. Remove any accumulated snow to protect the branches. Thinning plants annually will assist with light and air circulation. 

Quick ID Hints:

  • Leaves opposite, apex acute to obtuse
  • Stems square/ winged with decurrent petioles
  • Leaves with white pubescence along midrib below
  • Leaves about 1" long and half as wide

Foliage green, malodorous; Grows a bit faster and less troubled by insects than B. microphylla but not quite as heat tolerant; can be used for topiary. 

CULTURE: Slow growth; pH adaptable; Prefers well-drained soils; Takes heavy pruning; sometimes has yellowish-green leaves; pest problems. 

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 landscapes:
Susanna Wesley Garden, Lake Junaluska Lake Wall Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Angustifolia', 'Arborescens', 'Aureovariegata', 'Dee Runk', 'Elegantissima', 'Fastigiata', 'Highlander', 'Suffruticosa', 'Vardar Valley'
Tags:
#evergreen#drought tolerant#perennials#shrub#slow growing#woody#rabbit resistant#topiary#hedges#cpp#deer resistant#fantz#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Angustifolia', 'Arborescens', 'Aureovariegata', 'Dee Runk', 'Elegantissima', 'Fastigiata', 'Highlander', 'Suffruticosa', 'Vardar Valley'
Tags:
#evergreen#drought tolerant#perennials#shrub#slow growing#woody#rabbit resistant#topiary#hedges#cpp#deer resistant#fantz#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Buxus
    Species:
    sempervirens
    Family:
    Buxaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Europe to N. Iran, N. Africa
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Drought
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 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
    Multi-stemmed
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • 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
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Globose, 1/3 inch dehiscent capsule that matures to brown.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Non-showy, creamy yellow flowers in spring; fragrant. Apetalous (no petals).
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Orange
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Opposite, simple, lustrous, light blue to blue-gray leaves; 0.5-1.5 in. long; light green to yellowish-green below; may develop an orange-green cast in winter. Salt spray in winter worsens foliage discoloration. Typically elliptic or ovate to oblong and twice as broad as long, rounded or notched apex; petiole fused to stem (decurrent) with white cottony midrib below.
  • 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:
    Container
    Lawn
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Mass Planting
    Screen/Privacy
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Rabbits
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, convulsions, respiratory failure; contact with cell sap may cause skin irritation
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Steroidal alkaloids
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Leaves