Buxus / Boxwood
Synonymous with formal hedges, this iconic shrub has graced American gardens since 1653
The genus Buxus contains broadleaf evergreen shrubs and small trees, commonly called boxwoods for their square stems or “boxy wood.” Boxwood shrubs have been used as ornamentals since 4000 BC Egypt and were introduced to America in 1653, with the first planting on Long Island in New York. Renowned for their attractive habits and dense vibrant green foliage, these iconic shrubs lend year-round structure and verdant color to landscape designs. They are indispensable favorites with a wide range of uses and are a cornerstone of many formal gardens.
Buxus is a genus that comprises about 97 species and approximately 217 registered cultivars, which are highly diverse in size, shape, leaf characteristics, growth rates, and hardiness. B. sempervirens (American boxwood) and B. sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ (English or dwarf boxwood) are the most commonly grown species in home gardens; but B. harlandii (Harland boxwood), B. microphylla (littleleaf boxwood), B. microphylla var. japonica (Japanese boxwood), and B. sinica var. insularis (Korean boxwood) are also popular choices.
Boxwoods can grow quite large, depending on species and growing conditions. Most boxwoods used in landscapes today are smaller varieties that grow around 2 to 4 feet tall. However, boxwoods can be pruned to maintain a desired size and shape, but leaving boxwoods shaggier with looser pruning helps reduce disease. Large varieties create perfect hedges for privacy; medium shrubs make excellent edges, borders, and topiary; and dwarf species are adorable accent, container, and bonsai plants.
Easy to grow and fuss free, boxwoods grow best in locations with dappled shade or filtered afternoon sun but are adaptable to a variety of climates and soil types. Pruning up a bit underneath the plants encourages air movement and, along with regular mulching, also helps prevent disease. Deer and rabbit resistant.