Guide to Buxus sempervirens: How to Plant and Care for 'Common Boxwood' (2023)

Evergreen shrubs are the foundation of every garden. They are most popular in French garden styles, but are also common in English garden styles. In fact, they can fit into any type of garden due to their neutral appearance. In addition, their flexible appearance makes them suitable for a wide range of functions, such as hedges or trimming.

Boxwood has been cultivated since ancient times and is an important plant in many formal landscapes. Each region has its own claim to it, so don't be surprised if you find this plant called English boxwood or Persian boxwood.

However, whatever you call it, this plant is so versatile that it can add a touch of elegance to any garden. Plus, as you'll discover, it's easy to grow and not too demanding on the environment.

About common boxwood

  • Common boxwood is native to southern and western Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia. Some breeds are also naturalized in North America and are sometimes called American Boxers. In the USA it can be found in Florida, Georgia, Delaware and Maryland.
  • There are more than 30 species of Buxus. Sempervirens is not the hardiest of all, but it is the tallest and most versatile, which makes it the most popular. The species differ in size, leaf color and shape.
  • Boxwood is not susceptible to pests and diseases, except for boxwood October. This is a nymph pest that is active in the spring. It survives by feeding on the developing shoots, which lead to the leaf calyx. This pest usually hides in cup leaves and is difficult to get rid of. The best way to get rid of it is to trim the infected tip or use insecticidal soap on the affected area. In severe cases of infection, you can use chemotherapy.
  • Boxwood shrubs have light cream colored trunks and are sometimes used in various wood projects. Being cheap, dense and not easily broken, it is very suitable for engraving and is often used for small instruments such as chess pieces or flutes. It is also used to make parts for various stringed instruments.
  • Buxus plants have been used in medicine for a long time. Usually the leaves are used to obtain various extracts. These extracts are used to treat malaria, arthritis and even AIDS. However, the leaf itself cannot be used in alternative medicine as it can be toxic and even cause death if not dosed correctly.
  • The shrub is also poisonous to pets, especially cats, dogs and horses. Ingestion of the leaves can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs and cats, which can lead to various complications of dehydration. In horses, it can cause diarrhea, colic, seizures and breathing problems.
  • Boxwood is the oldest ornamental plant used in Western gardens.

Common characteristics of boxwood: an overview

  • The average height of a mature boxwood is 1.8-2.4 meters. In perfect growing conditions, it can grow up to 9 m tall with a trunk up to 20 cm in diameter covered with brown, wrinkled bark.
  • It has glossy leaves that retain their bright green color throughout the year. The leaves are leathery and have oval shades. They are about 1-5 cm long. Their shade of green is darker at the top and lighter at the bottom. The bush's very dense crown is resistant to pruning, so the plant can be trimmed frequently to control its growth and shape.
  • The plant blooms in mid-spring. The flowers are yellow-green, and apart from their strong smell, they are mostly unnoticeable. The flowers are bisexual and are pollinated by insects. They develop into a 3-lobed fruit capsule containing up to 6 seeds.
  • If you want to grow this shrub outdoors, you should know that it is suitable for USDA zones 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a and 8b. In its native environment, this plant prefers limestone foundations. It grows best in neutral soil, but can tolerate mild alkaline or acidic fluctuations. The soil must be well drained
  • Boxwood grows well in full sun, but also does well in partial shade. Its needs for sunlight are greatly influenced by the climate. Contrary to popular belief, shade is even more important in cold regions with severe winters. This is because the leaves are more prone to browning in the winter sun.
  • If you want to combine this shrub with other plants in your garden, you must consider the overall effect you want to achieve. The most interesting are combinations with other bushes that have leaves of contrasting colors. If you want to create a formal garden design, you can use boxwood to create knot gardens where you can plant flowering grass or other plants. In a natural environment, you can combine this shrub with lilac, yuppie or ceramic.
  • Occasional mulching is necessary to protect the roots, improve soil health and reduce weeds.

Watering common boxwood

This plant thrives best with regular watering, although it is resistant to drought, so it can survive high heat, especially if you provide it with some shade.

A young, newly planted bush should be watered deeply to saturate the roots. After that, it needs to be watered twice a week until maturity, which happens after about a year. During the second year, it is necessary to water only once a week. Once fully established, it does not need to be watered as its strong root system will provide all the water and nutrients it needs from the soil.

However, try to help it with occasional watering during hot and dry seasons. Watering your shrubs heavily in late winter before the ground freezes will also help mitigate the cold damage that can occur in winter. If you are not sure whether you need to water the boxwood, use a spade to bury it about 10 cm below the outer branches of the bush. If the soil there is dry, your boxwood needs to be watered. Avoid excessive watering because the plant can easily drown and its roots can easily rot.

Propagation of common boxwood

The easiest way to propagate this shrub is by cuttings. You can use softwood cuts, semi-hardwood cuts, or even hardwood cuts.

If you decide to propagate from cork, use 10-15 cm cuttings. Remove the leaves from the lower half of the cutting or as much as you need without the leaves touching the growing medium. Dip the cuttings in growing gel or powder, then plant them in propagating sand or basic growing mix. You can also use honey instead of HGH.

The cuttings can be planted close to each other, because they lean against each other and grow better, but it is best if they all have separate containers. Create a warming chamber using a plastic lid or bag and place it in a sunny location. They don't need a lot of watering or nutrients at this stage, but they do need warm, moist conditions. After about six weeks, you can move them to the garden. Sowing should be done during vegetation breaks in autumn and spring.

For hardwood cuttings, it is important to let them dry for several days until the surface of the cut becomes calloused. Note that this shrub can grow to quite a wide diameter, so it is best to leave about 2 meters of space between two boxwoods.

You can also propagate from seed, although this is a more time-consuming option. If you choose this method of propagation, open the seed pods only after they have dried on the plant. Note that this seed does not store well no matter how you clean it, so it is best to sow it as soon as possible.

in summary

As you can see, this evergreen shrub is not very demanding. If you keep it out of the heat and give it basic care, it will grow without any problems and will be a great addition to any garden.

Although Buxus sempervirens is a very common shrub that can be found in most gardens, its basic nature makes it suitable for the most luxurious gardening projects. You can use it for a lush labyrinth garden, a minimalist garden or an unusual garden with lush green sculptures. You can also use it to create a space around a garden fountain or to create an intimate space around your pool or other garden space.

Do you grow boxwood? Share your experience in the comments!


Guide to Buxus sempervirens: How to Plant and Care for 'Common Boxwood' (5)

Miruna Sequianu

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Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. He proudly owns an outdoor rose garden and a collection of small indoor succulents. Ten years ago, she bought her first succulent, the lovely Echeveria Setosa. Now there are over 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes and sizes. Miruna is a successful writer and, as you can probably guess, her favorite subject is gardening. Contact

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