How to Plant and Grow Boxwood

This evergreen shrub is so versatile in the landscape.

What makes boxwood so appealing is this plant's ability to be shaped into different formal structures. It's difficult for most plants (that are constantly growing) to be constrained in such a formal matter, but not with boxwood. Typically, boxwood, hardy in Zones 4-8, has one major flush of growth in the spring but usually won't outgrow its shape because of its dense branching. Their glossy green leaves are a good addition to almost any garden space.

Boxwood Overview

Genus Name Buxus
Common Name Boxwood
Plant Type Shrub
Light Part Sun, Shade, Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 2 to 8 feet
Flower Color Green
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Winter Interest
Special Features Good for Containers
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Propagation Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Good For Privacy, Groundcover

Where to Plant Boxwood

Always assess the planned site for your boxwood before choosing a plant variety. There is a surprisingly large amount of boxwood varieties on the market, and each of these varieties has a specific growth habit and site requirement.

It's best to avoid planting most boxwood in southwestern exposures. Protect these plants from high winds.

How and When to Plant Boxwood

The particular variety dictates what shape the plant will be best for, so check the growth habit of your specific type before sculpting. For example, some boxwood are naturally rounded, some are low and spreading, some are more conical, and some are upright. The growth rate is also important to consider. Many dwarf varieties are slow-growing, so if you plan on making a hedge, you'll need to plan to space accordingly. Others may be fast-growing, and if you plan on making intricate-shaped topiaries, they may outgrow their shape too quickly and require additional maintenance.

Plant boxwood in spring or summer to give it time to get established during the cool winter months.

Boxwood Care Tips

In general, boxwood are fairly forgiving plants.


Many varieties are very versatile in their sunlight needs and can take full sun to full shade, while others thrive in more shade and suffer burning and bronzing in too much sun. Consult your plant's information tag before you purchase and plant to ensure you're siting it correctly.

Soil and Water

Boxwoods like good drainage and don't appreciate standing water. Make sure to plant them slightly above soil level and mound extra soil just to the base so water will not pool right at the crown. Once established, boxwood can handle drought very well (but they enjoy a little water now and then to help prevent long-term problems).

It's also essential that boxwood are well-watered as winter approaches. Watering them before a hard freeze helps fill any air space around the roots and acts as insulation.

Temperature and Humidity

Boxwoods will thrive best in Zones 6 to 8. Hot weather requires extra water and shade. In colder weather, stem tips will die back.


Use an all-purpose fertilizer once each spring, following manufacturer's directions.


Regular annual trimming allows you to maintain a shaped plant with little fuss. Trimming is best done during late winter or early spring, just before the big annual flush of new growth. This prevents too much tender growth in the fall that may burn come winter and promotes good branching of the new growth for a nice, full shrub.

Potting and Repotting Boxwood

Plant boxwood in a container that's as wide as the plant is high. When it's ready for transplanting, choose a new container that's one size larger. If your plant is having problems, your soil may need a boost. Amend it as needed.

Pests and Problems

Bronzing is the most common problem seen in boxwood and is generally due to too much sun and wind exposure during winter months. There are varieties more resistant to bronzing, so by choosing the correct variety from the beginning, you can prevent many potential boxwood problems.

Leaf spot and root rot are the results of poor drainage. Treat pests like leafminer, boxwood mite, and boxwood psyllid with horticultural oil.

How to Propagate Boxwood

Propagate boxwood from stem cuttings, about 4 inches long, taken during midsummer and placed in a mix for propagating inside a plastic bag. After rooting happens, move to a potting mix, where it can continue to develop until spring planting.

Boxwood can also be propagated from seed indoors, though it takes a long time for a sprout to develop that's ready for transplant.

Types of Boxwood

'Greenmound' Boxwood

Boxwood shrubs
Peter Krumhardt

Buxus 'Greenmound' retains its bright green color through the darkest winter days. It's compact (to 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide), slow-growing, and extra cold hardy. Zones 4-8

'Morris Midget' Boxwood

'Morris Midget' Boxwood
Denny Schrock

Buxus 'Morris Midget' is a truly tiny cultivar and only grows about half an inch a year. This variety may bronze in full sun during the winter but will typically grow out of it. Zones 6-8

'Northern Beauty' English Boxwood

'Northern Beauty' English Boxwood
Carol Freeman

Buxus sempervirens 'Northern Beauty' is one of the hardiest English boxwood varieties. It grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-8

Garden Plans for Boxwood

Front-Yard Rose Garden Plan

Front-Yard Rose Garden Plan
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Dress up your front yard—and front door—with this garden plan full of beautiful roses.

Summer Cottage Garden Plan

Summer Cottage Garden Plan
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Stately delphiniums are the backbone of this colorful cottage garden plan.

Dooryard Garden Plan

Walk to front door garden 
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

First impressions are important! This entry garden greets your guests with beauty in all four seasons.

Foundation Garden Plan

Foundation Garden
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

A colorful alternative to the standard all-green landscape, this foundation planting mixes broad-leafed evergreen shrubs and a sculptural tree with flowering perennials and groundcovers.

Fence-Obscuring Garden Plan

Garden Plan to Soften a Fence
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

The exciting plants included in this design will provide long-lasting color, fragrance, and texture that will leave you saying, "What fence?"

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do boxwood shrubs grow well indoors?

    Dwarf boxwoods are able to be shaped and kept smaller, so they make good indoor plants, as long as they're given the right sunlight and water.

  • What is boxwood used for?

    Boxwood is a strong and dense type of wood. Historically, it's been used to make chess pieces, woodblock prints, and musical instruments, among other items.

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