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Boxwood Buxus sempervirens

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

American boxwood, or common box, is a broadly rounded, multi-branched, evergreen shrub or small tree in the Buxaceae (boxwood) family. It is native to western and southern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. The species-specific epithet sempervirens means always green.  

Boxwood is considered a low-maintenance plant. It is shallow rooted and adapts to a wide range of light and soil conditions. Although it can grow slowly up to 15 to 20 feet tall at maturity, it can be kept much shorter through pruning.  While it grows a bit faster and is less troubled by insects than B. microphylla,  it is not quite as heat tolerant.

It is best not to plant too deeply and prefers well-drained soil. A few inches of mulch will 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, as they can cause dehydration and bronzing. Remove any accumulated snow to protect the branches. Thinning plants annually will assist with light and air circulation. 

The young stems of this plant are square in cross section and this feature may have contributed to its common name. The dense foliage has leaves that are a glossy dark green on top with a yellow green underside, and some find it to be malodorous. 

Boxwood may be used as a vertical accent plant, in mixed beds, as topiary, or to form a narrow hedge. Being evergreen, it provides winter interest in the garden.

Quick ID Hints:

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

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  The plant is susceptible to boxwood blight and leaf spot diseases. Insect pests include leafminer, boxwood mite, and boxwood psyllid.

 

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 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#winter interest#rabbit resistant#topiary#hedges#cpp#deer resistant#fantz#malodorous#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#winter interest#rabbit resistant#topiary#hedges#cpp#deer resistant#fantz#malodorous#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
    Malodorous
    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