Boxwoods aren’t just for hedges anymore. The compact, bushy shape and pretty little leaves of the Japanese boxwood make a handsome, fine textured evergreen shrub that can be used effectively in many parts of the home landscape.
A Japanese boxwood pruned by the thinning method (as opposed to formal shearing – see Perfect Plants’ Basic Pruning for Shrubs and Trees blog) will have a tidy natural look that works almost anywhere. Many homeowners are using boxwoods in containers placed around the patio or pool. Plant them in groups of three under trees or in a corner of the yard. Use shiny leaved boxwoods in mixed informal hedges or as sentry shrubs at strategic corners along pathways and trails. Plant a row of boxwoods in front of taller shrubs in a mixed hedge. Use a border of boxwoods around the perimeter of a porch or deck. Slow growing boxwoods are perfect for foundation plantings – and they do not have to be pruned to formal geometric shapes!
Perfect Plants offers two kinds of boxwoods. The Japanese boxwood (Buxus microphylla var. japonica) can get 5-6 feet high with a similar spread and can be grown in USDA zones 5-9. It has small, inconspicuous flowers that are creamy white.
Wintergreen boxwood (B. microphylla var. koreana ‘Wintergreen’) is a smaller version that normally doesn’t get more than 2-4 feet tall. Wintergreen boxwood is more cold hardy than the Japanese cultivar, and can be grown in Zones 4-9. Wintergreen is better at keeping its dark green color all winter, too. The flowers of wintergreen boxwood are yellowish green, but, like the Korean variety, inconspicuous and of little interest. (Wintergreen boxwood is listed by some authorities as B. sinica var. insularis ‘Wintergreen’.)
Boxwoods do best in dappled shade where they get full sun for a portion of the day. Too much full sun, especially in hot climates, will damage their leaves. Used as foundation plantings around the house, boxwoods would be happiest on the north side, and forced to suffer the most direct sun on the south side.
Boxwoods need a soil that is moist, but still well drained. They may need supplemental watering during long dry spells. One inch of water per week is ideal, so have a source nearby.
See Perfect Plants’ Grow Guide for Boxwoods for more details on how to plant these useful little shrubs.