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Plant Profile: English Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’)

English boxwood over 100 years old.

English boxwood over 100 years old.

There is nothing I like better for a formal garden than English boxwood. I use them now to edge the parterres of my rose garden where they provide a strong structure in winter when the roses are nothing but canes but I have also used them in my perennial garden with good results. The joy of growing English box starts in the spring when they put on their new apple green coats and continues well into fall as they darken to a lovely deep green. Since box is evergreen, they are attractive all through the winter although some may turn bronze especially if new and planted in full sun. They only grow about 1’ per year so do not have to be pruned often and make a wonderful low growing hedge. Although they can eventually attain a height of 4-5’ they can be kept to 6-12” with yearly pruning. As a bonus they are fabulous Christmas greens and can be made into table top trees, kissing balls, and wreaths as well as used in mixed greens arrangements. They have a long vase life so can be used early in the season and will still look great a month later. Even if you use them without a water source they will dry well and be an attractive addition to your holiday décor.

Type: Woody evergreen shrub.

Outstanding Feature: Small size; fine textured evergreen leaves.

Form: Dense rounded cloud like mounds when mature.

Growth Rate: Very slow.

Bloom: Inconspicuous flowers in spring.

Size: 5’ H x 4’ W, but may be kept 6-12” tall.

Light: Full sun – part shade.

Soil: Average, well drained soil; once established box will withstand some dryness.

Fertilizer: Apply 10:10:10 in spring.

Hardiness: Zones 5-8.

Pests and Diseases: Nemotodes, leaf miner, Phytophthora root rot, spider mites, and psyllids can attack boxwoods but usually do not present a significant problem; good cultivation practices will help avoid them. Deer resistant.

Propagation: Soft or hardwood cuttings taken in summer to fall root easily in sand.

Comments: English box is very dense and can be harvested for greens without damaging the plant. Pick stems that are on the sunny side of the bush and regrowth will occur more quickly than you would guess.

Some people claim that English boxwood smells like cat urine but I have cats and smell no similarity although I admit that I can smell a distinct and unique fragrance.

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