Plant Type
Sunlight Amount
White arch covered in flowers in front of house
Credit: Ernie Braun
White arch covered in flowers in front of house

The poster child for traditional formal gardens, boxwood has seen its ups and downs in popularity over the years, but it always seems to bounce back. Because boxwoods are easy to manipulate and maintain into so many different shapes and sizes, they can always find a home in formal settings. And with their timeless glossy green leaves, they easily add elegance to any garden space.

genus name
  • Buxus
  • Part Sun
  • Shade
  • Sun
plant type
  • Shrub
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • 3 to 8 feet
  • 8 to 20 feet
  • 2 feet to 8 feet, depending on variety
flower color
foliage color
season features
problem solvers
special features
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8

Living Statues

What brings people back to these tried-and-true plants is their ability to be shaped into different formal structures. It is difficult for most plants (that are constantly growing) to be constrained in such a formal matter, but not with boxwood.

Typically, boxwood has one major flush of growth in the spring, but usually won't outgrow its shape because of its dense branching. With regular annual trimming, you can maintain a shaped plant with very little fuss. One important thing to note is that 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. See more plants for hedges.

Boxwood Care Must-Knows

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. Many varieties are very versatile in their sunlight needs and are able to take full sun to full shade, while others thrive in more shade and suffer burning and bronzing in too much sun. Bronzing is the most common problem seen in boxwood and is generally due to too much sun and wind exposure during winter months. It is best to avoid planting most boxwood in southwestern exposures. There are varieties more resistant to bronzing, so by choosing the correct variety from the beginning, you can prevent many potential boxwood problems.

The particular variety also tends to dictate what shape the plant will be best for, so check the growth habit of your specific variety before sculpting. Some boxwood are naturally rounded, some are low and spreading, some are more conical, and some 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 spacing 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. Try landscaping boxwood with roses.

In general, boxwood are fairly forgiving plants. The most important thing to consider is that they like good drainage and do not appreciate standing water. When you plant your boxwood shrubs, make sure to plant them slightly above soil level and mound extra soil up just to the base so that water will not pool right at the crown. Once established, boxwood can handle drought very well (but they do enjoy a little water every now and then to help prevent long-term problems). It is also important 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.

More Varieties of Boxwood

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Boxwood shrubs
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

'Greenmound' Boxwood

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
Credit: Denny Schrock

'Morris Midget' Boxwood

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
Credit: Carol Freeman

'Northern Beauty' English Boxwood

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

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