Buxus is the name of a genus in the Buxaceae family. It includes up to 70 species of plants. The most common of these is the boxwood, Buxus sempervirens and the Little-leaf boxwood, Buxus microphylla.
The boxwood is often used as hedges and as topiaries. Boxwood grows best in zones 5-9. It reaches a height of 15-20’high by 15-25’wide. Common boxwood has neat evergreen leaves that are yellowish on the underside. They have a dense rounded form of a medium fine texture.
Boxwood hedges are a staple of formal gardens. The plants are slow growing. They respond well to heavy pruning, and hold their foliage all the way to the ground. Flowers are barely noticeable, but have a distinctive aroma that irritates some people. Buxus varieties also make excellent bonsai specimens and are also used in container plantings.
Boxwood grows best in warm, moist climates without extremes of heat or cold. Plant them in well-drained soil amended with organic matter. It prefers slightly alkaline soil. Shade them from hot summer sun the first year.
Protect plants from drying winds and provide partial shade in hot climates. Avoid cultivating the soil around these shallow-rooted plants, instead, deter weeds with an organic mulch.
*Plants respond well to shearing and make good hedges.
Care of Buxus species
Water throughout the growing season and until the ground freezes. Apply organic mulch to help maintain even moisture. Feed every spring with plant food. Do not feed in summer; the succulent new growth is easily winter killed. Some dieback of stem tips is common in severe winters.
Remove inner dead twigs and fallen leaves in branch crotches to prevent twig canker. Avoid pruning late in the season; this encourages new growth susceptible to winter kill. To avoid browning of leaves during the winter, spray foliage with an antidessicant in fall. There are steps to take to care for shrubs in winter.
Propagation includes taking softwood cuttings in summer. If planting seeds, they may take 2 years to sprout. The only serious problem with boxwood may be that of root rot if the soil is poorly drained.
Related Species include: Little-leaf boxwood (b. Micropylla) which grows to 3-5’ and is slightly hardier than common boxwood. Korean boxwood (B. Micropylla var.koreana) is the hardiest variety but is not as ornamental. It can be grown in Zone 4 in protected sites but suffers some tip dieback in most winters.