Common Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

Things You Need to Know about the Common Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

The Common Boxwood is a popular shrub used in many a landscape especially as a hedge, screen or for a topiary. With its evergreen foliage and full rounded appearance it makes for an attractive addition to any garden. It is considered a good choice as a foundation plant and as a border plant. The shrub is native to Europe, Africa and Southern Europe and has a long and illustrious history as an ornamental plant and is part of the landscape in many a planned garden around the world.

The Common Boxwood can grow as tall as 30 feet in height in the wild although in culture it is seldom allowed to reach this height. It grows to a height of 15-20 feet and comes in cultivars that range in size from small through medium to large. A mature shrub can be as wide as it is tall. It is typically well-branched and is a slow-growing shrub. The Common Boxwood has many small and smooth leaves. While they are mostly dark green there are also cultivars with leaves in other colors. The leaves of this shrub have a subtle shine to them. The Common Boxwood produces fragrant flowers and even a small fruit but these are not considered worthy of much interest to the gardener. All parts of the plant are considered toxic and should not be ingested or consumed.

Buxus sempervirens is rated as being hardy in USDA zones 6a to 9b. Some gardeners have successfully grown it in zone 5 by choosing a cultivar that is hardy enough for harsher winter conditions. Ideally, the Common Boxwood needs full sun and partial shade. The shrub does well in alkaline soils and needs to be mulched to keep the root system healthy as the root system is shallow. It thrives in cool and moist soil which is well-drained. You have to watch out for dangers of over-watering.

When planting the Common Boxwood in your garden plan on the spread that the shrub may experience down the line and place the plants 15 to 24 inches apart. The plant is propagated from softwood cuttings, hardwood cuttings and semi-hardwood cuttings. You need to allow time for the cut surface to develop a callous before planting it. Newly planted Common Boxwood shrubs should be protected from the harsh sun.

The Common Boxwood takes particularly well to being pruned into various shapes. The plant is able to take the shock of pruning and so its shape can be well managed by even the novice gardener. Sometimes its rate of growth and can seem difficult to control but a severe pruning in late winter or early spring before fresh growth starts should be enough to keep the shrub looking well maintained.

In winter, the evergreen leaves do need to be protected from harsh winter winds which can dry the shrub. The other seasonal injury that the Common Boxwood suffers is sun scald. The shrub is vulnerable to damage by the insect Boxwood Leafminer known scientifically as Monarthropalpus flavus. Diseases that it is known to be vulnerable to include canker, leaf blight, leaf spot, mites, scale, leaf miners, mealy bugs and webworms. The shrub is also known to sometimes have a fungal disease that causes wood rot and decay. Some basic precautions in choosing pesticides and careful observation of the shrub will be needed to avoid these issues if you are planning on including the Common Boxwood in your garden.

An interesting detail about the Boxwood is that its wood is very dense and heavy and in the days before synthetic products, the Turkish boxwood was the base of block-wood prints. Even today the Boxwood wood is used to make wooden chess pieces and the white pieces are left in the natural color of the wood.