A Case for Boxwood

Easily one of the most recognized garden plants, Boxwood (Buxus sp.) have been gracing formal gardens for a thousands of years, and are considered one of the oldest ornamental plants. They are thought to have been in the gardens of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. As slow growing, evergreen shrubs, these plants are a symbol of a gardener’s long-term commitment and investment to a green space.

Boxwood were first brought to the United States in the 1653 from Amsterdam. Although there were many different varieties, early plantings often consisted of just two varieties, Buxus sempervirens the American variety, and Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ the English variety because of their desired shape and growth habits. Boxwood are most commonly used to provided structure as borders and hedges in Colonial and Edwardian style gardens. As they have grown in popularity, many of the Asian and other Buxus sempervirens cultivars have gained popularity. Now there are at least 160 different varieties and cultivars on the market.

With all the options of shape, size and leaf color, these evergreen shrubs are a gardener’s dream. Boxwood require little maintenance, most of it needing to be done in the slower fall and winter months. Most varieties only need to be pruned once a year, in the early spring, and require little fertilizer. They thrive in part shade but have been known to tolerate full shade and full sun as well. Varieties range in hardiness but it is common to find boxwood hardy from zones 4 to 8 in the U.S. They also make great topiaries because of their slow growing habit and tolerance of pruning.

Although boxwood have been under fire lately because of the introduction of boxwood blight in the United States in 2011, boxwood have relatively few pest and disease issues. They can be affected by boxwood leafminer, mites and psyllid, and are susceptible to diseases like Phytophthora and Volutella; however, most boxwood that are properly maintained will not be affected. All varieties are also deer resistant.

Boxwood Blight is a more serious disease which has caused devastation across Europe and parts of the U.S. Significant research into varietal tolerance has found that the American (Buxus sempervirens) and English (Buxus semp. ‘Suffruticosa’) are the most susceptible to the disease, whereas the Asiatic species like Buxus microphylla, insularis, and harlandii show more tolerance. For more information about boxwood blight and varietal tolerance, check out the links below: