Boxwood Growing Guide
Buxus sempervirens (Common boxwood, American boxwood), Buxus sempervirens suffruticosa (English boxwood), Buxus microphylla (littleleaf boxwood, small-leaf box), Buxus microphylla japonica (Japanese boxwood, littleleaf boxwood), Buxus sinica (Korean boxwood)
Crop Rotation Group
Moist, well-drained soil enriched with plenty of compost or other organic matter, with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.
Full sun to part shade.
Cold tolerance varies with cultivar, with some hardy to -15°F (-26°C). Japanese boxwood is less cold hardy but better adapted to hot summer climates.
Topdress the root zone with a balanced organic fertilizer in spring, and keep plants mulched year round to protect the plants’ shallow roots.
Single Plants: 3' 3" (1.00m) each way (minimum)
Rows: 3' 3" (1.00m) with 3' 3" (1.00m) row gap (minimum)
Sow and Plant
Set out purchased plants from spring through early summer. Water regularly, and cover the root zone with an organic mulch to keep the soil moist at all times. Spacing varies with the type grown, because boxwoods vary in size from 12 inches (30 cm) to 16 feet 4 inches (5m) tall. Allow at least 3 feet 3 inches (1m) between plants of most boxwood species, unless grown as a hedge, when they can be planted as close as 12 inches (30cm) apart. Check plant tags for a plant’s mature width. Only very dwarf butterfly bushes can be grown in containers.
Our Garden Planner can produce a personalized calendar of when to sow, plant and harvest for your area.
Visit local nurseries to learn about the best boxwoods for your area. Well-grown plants are costly, but they will instantly add structure and winter interest to any landscape. Dwarf cultivars can be counted upon to stay at a certain size with minimal pruning, while larger selections are meant to be pruned. Take your time making choices, because boxwoods are long-lived shrubs that will be with you for many years. Large boxwoods give off an acrid scent that some people find disagreeable, but this is not an issue with small dwarf boxwoods. Boxwoods produce tiny blossoms in late spring that are often visited by pollinators. Boxwoods can be left unpruned, but many gardeners enjoy trimming them into tight shapes. Prune anytime from late spring until early fall. Pruning late in the season can push out tender new growth that is easily injured by cold winter weather. In cold winter climates, plants are sometimes wrapped with burlap to prevent bronzing or loss of leaves due to low temperatures.
In Europe, boxwoods are subject to damage from caterpillars of box tree moth, which can quickly devastate a box hedge. In the US, leaf miners often make tiny tunnels in boxwood leaves. In the US and Europe, a fungal disease called boxwood blight has spread rapidly in the last 30 years. When bringing new plants into the landscape, inspect them closely for signs of disease, evidenced by dry or browning leaves with lighter undersides.
Planting and Harvesting Calendar
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Pests which Affect Boxwood