Boxwood Trees and Shrubs (with Pictures) – Identification Guide

Boxwood Trees and Shrubs

Boxwood (Buxus) is a group of evergreen landscape shrubs that are popular for hedges, foundation plantings, topiary, accents, and containers. Boxwood trees and shrubs are easy to grow in most areas and thrive in full sun or shade. Most boxwood shrubs have dense evergreen foliage consisting of small green oval leaves and compact growth. Boxwood plants have a variety of shapes, including rounded, columnar, and dwarf shrubs.

This article is a guide to choosing the best boxwood trees and shrubs for your garden landscape. In addition, you will find out about varieties of these hardy evergreen shrubs that are suitable for growing in most locations.

About Boxwood Trees and Shrubs

boxwood shrubs

Dwarf boxwood shrubs can look great as potted plants

Boxwoods are typically slow-growing small evergreen trees and shrubs. The tallest boxwood trees usually grow to around 40 ft. (12 m) tall. However, most boxwood cultivars are grown as garden shrubs and reach between 1 and 5 ft. (0.3 – 1.5 m) tall, depending on the cultivar.

Buxus sempervirens tree

Buxus sempervirens tree

Boxwood shrubs and trees are popular for their versatility. Evergreen boxwood shrubs thrive in full sun, partial shade, or full shade. The landscaping shrubs are relatively tolerant of drought and grow in a variety of moist, well-drained soils. Their evergreen foliage means that boxwoods provide color and privacy to a garden throughout the year.

Boxwood shrubs are also relatively cold-hardy and perform well in USDA zones 5 through 9. However, it’s always good to check the specific cultivar as there are some cold-hardiness variations.

Boxwood For a Privacy Hedge

box hedging plants

Box plants can create low growing formal hedges or tall privacy hedges, depending on the cultivar

Many tall boxwood trees and shrubs make ideal privacy hedges. Tall, columnar boxwood shrubs have soft, dense foliage, creating perfect security and privacy screens. Boxwood hedge plants are also easy to trim and shape to create formal hedges, low-growing hedges, or privacy hedges.

Boxwood Leaves

boxwood leaves

Boxwood leaves create dense foliage

Most boxwood shrubs are characterized by having small, oval, or lanceolate leathery green leaves. Leaf shape and color are also ways to identify specific boxwood cultivars apart. For example, Japanese boxwoods have tiny oval leaves, whereas American boxwood has leathery lanceolate leaves measuring 1.5” (4 cm) long.

Types of Dwarf Boxwoods

Dwarf boxwood shrubs are ideal landscaping plants for low-growing hedges, container plants, borders, or foundation plantings.

Morris Dwarf Boxwood (Buxus microphylla var. japonica ‘Morris Dwarf’)

Morris Dwarf Boxwood

‘Morris Dwarf’ boxwood

‘Morris Dwarf’ boxwood is a compact rounded shrub with bright green to dark green leaves. This low-maintenance cultivar has oval, leathery leaves growing oppositely on woody stems. The slow-growing boxwood shrub only grows 1 ft. (0.3 m) tall and wide. The ‘Morris Dwarf’ boxwood is also deer resistant.

The ‘Morris Dwarf’ boxwood thrives in full sun to full shade. In the winter sun, the leaves may experience bronzing. However, bright new green foliage replaces old leaves in spring.  Plant this dwarf boxwood along borders for formal beds or driveway edging.

Littleleaf Boxwood (Buxus microphylla ‘Compacta’)

Littleleaf Boxwood (Buxus microphylla ‘Compacta’)

Littleleaf boxwood

Littleleaf boxwood is a dwarf evergreen shrub with densely growing branches and an abundance of small oval, leathery leaves. The rounded obovate leaves grow 0.25” (0.6 cm) long, hence the name “littleleaf boxwood.” The Japanese boxwood cultivar ‘Compacta’ is a slow-growing shrub that grows 1 ft. (0.3 m) tall.

Some identifying characteristics of the littleleaf boxwood are a rounded shape, small glossy leaves, and compact growth. The low-maintenance shrub is ideal for border edging, container planting, or growing short, formal hedges. Like most boxwoods, the small shrub performs well in full sun to complete shade.

Dwarf English Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’)

Dwarf English Boxwood

Dwarf English boxwood

The boxwood cultivar ‘Suffriticosa’ is a type of dwarf European boxwood landscaping shrub. The low-growing evergreen shrub has glossy green, ovate leaves that grow up to 1” (2.5 cm long). The characteristic features of the English boxwood shrub are soft, lush foliage, compact growth, and low maintenance.

Plant dwarf English boxwood shrubs in moist, well-drained soil and full sun or shade. The versatile shrub is ideal for foundation plantings, topiary, evergreen ground cover, or a low-formal hedge. This English boxwood shrub grows between 2 and 3 ft. (0.6 – 1 m) tall and up to 4 ft (1.2 m) wide.

Dwarf Boxwood ‘Kingsville’ (Buxus microphylla ‘Kingsville’)

Dwarf Boxwood ‘Kingsville’

Dwarf Boxwood ‘Kingsville’

The Japanese boxwood cultivar ‘Kingsville’ is a low-growing landscaping shrub with bright green, oval leaves. Like many Buxus microphylla cultivars, this shrub has characteristic small, rounded leaves growing densely on woody branches. The ‘Kingsville’ dwarf boxwood grows up to 2 ft. (0.6 m) tall and 2.5 ft. (0.8 m) wide.

The ‘Kingsville’ boxwood is considered one of the smallest Buxus cultivars. It is also extremely slow-growing and will only grow 1 ft. (0.3 m) in the first ten years. The dwarf shrub is ideal for containers, low-growing formal hedges, ground cover if left to spread, and border edging.

‘Jims True Spreader’ Boxwood (Buxus microphylla ‘Jims True Spreader’)

'Jims True Spreader' Boxwood

‘Jims True Spreader’ boxwood

‘Jims True Spreader’ is a type of littleleaf boxwood with compact growth that creates an elegant dwarf landscaping shrub. The identifying traits of this dwarf boxwood are dark green foliage, tiny glossy green leaves, and spreading growth. The dwarf boxwood grows up to 4 ft. (1.2 m) tall and 5 ft. (1.5 m) wide.

Compared to other boxwood cultivars, ‘Jims True Spreader’ has an informal look with a relatively fine texture. With pruning, the dwarf shrub is ideal for hedges, privacy screening, or container planting. Or you can allow the shrub to spread for ground cover in full sun.

Korean Boxwood ‘Nana’ (Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Nana’)

Korean Boxwood 'Nana'

Korean Boxwood ‘Nana’

The dwarf Korean boxwood ‘Nana’ is a compact, evergreen shrub with dense green foliage that keeps good color throughout the year. The ‘Nana’ boxwood cultivar has tiny spoon-shaped green leaves creating a lush, rounded shape. As a dwarf boxwood shrub, Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Nana’ is a slow grower, maturing at 2 ft. (0.6 m) tall.

Although the ‘Nana’ Korean boxwood grows in full sun to full shade, too much direct sunlight can scorch its foliage. For best results, plant in partial shade and moist, well-drained soils. Compared to other dwarf boxwoods, this cultivar is highly resistant to common pests and diseases that blight some evergreen shrubs.

Boxwood ‘Silver Beauty’ (Buxus sempervirens ‘Silver Beauty’)

Boxwood 'Silver Beauty'

Boxwood ‘Silver Beauty’

The ‘Silver Beauty’ boxwood is a stunning hedge plant with brightly colored creamy-white and green foliage. The small, oblong, pointed leaves have a yellow margin and green center. This variegated boxwood has a pyramidal-rounded shape. The ‘Silver Beauty’ cultivar grows up to 3 ft. (1 m) tall and 4 ft. (1.2 m) wide.

The dwarf boxwood with its dark-green leaves and creamy-white margins, brightens up gardens throughout the year. You can plant the elegant shrub as an accent, foundation planting, border, or large container plant.

Types of Rounded Boxwood Hedge Plants

Many boxwood varieties have a naturally round shape and require little pruning. You can use rounded boxwood shrubs as hedge plants, container plants or to create interesting landscape designs.

‘Green Velvet’ Boxwood (Buxus x ‘Green Velvet’)

'Green Velvet' Boxwood

‘Green Velvet’ boxwood (left, bottom and right)

The ‘Green Velvet’ boxwood is an evergreen shrub with a rounded shape and compact growth. The lush foliage consists of dark green glossy leaves that keep their color throughout the winter. The hardy landscaping shrub thrives in most soils and light conditions. It grows 3 to 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m) tall and wide.

One of the benefits of planting a ‘Green Velvet’ boxwood plant is that it keeps its shape remarkably well. With little to no pruning, the shrub has moderate growth and has a rounded growth habit. Use the landscaping plant for formal borders, hedges, privacy screens, or mass planting.

‘Winter Gem’ Boxwood (Buxus microphylla var. japonica ‘Winter Gem’)

'Winter Gem' Boxwood

‘Winter Gem’ boxwood

The ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood is an excellent evergreen shrub to grow as a formal hedge. The rounded boxwood plant has elongated oval leaves with a round apex forming dense, lush foliage. Each leaf measures just under 1” (2.5 cm) and has a smooth surface. The ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood grows 4 to 6 ft. (1.2 – 1.8 m) tall and wide.

The ‘Winter Gem’ Japanese boxwood performs best in full sun to partial shade. The bushy landscaping shrub keeps its color throughout the year. Plant the rounded boxwood together to create a lush formal hedge, driveway border, privacy screen, or a neat and tidy foundation planting.

‘Wintergreen’ Boxwood (Buxus sinica var. Insularis ‘Wintergreen’)

'Wintergreen' Boxwood

‘Wintergreen’ boxwood

The ‘Wintergreen’ boxwood is an evergreen, rounded shrub with tidy, globular growth that stands up well to pruning. The characteristics of ‘Wintergreen’ Korean boxwood are glossy, bright green leaves with rounded tips creating a mound of lush foliage. This boxwood with round growth grows 3 to 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m) tall and 3 to 5 ft. (1 – 1.5 m) wide.

The hardy ‘Wintergreen’ boxwood is an attractive landscaping and border shrub. The easy-to-shape plant looks stunning in containers at an entrance or on a patio or deck. The densely growing woody branches also create excellent year-long privacy if you want to create an evergreen hedge or screen.

American Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

American Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

American boxwood (common boxwood)

Also called the common boxwood, the American boxwood is an evergreen landscaping shrub with dark, glossy green leaves. The tall multi-stemmed boxwood shrub has round growth and grows between 15 and 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m) tall. The plant’s shiny narrow leaves are oblong to ovate with rounded tips and measure 1” (2.5 cm) long.

The dense, lush leafy growth on American boxwood plants makes them one of the most popular evergreen hedge plants. The tall boxwoods are easy to prune to create formal privacy screens to block noise and prying eyes. In addition, the perennial landscape shrub is ideal for foundation planting, borders, or landscape accents.

‘Elegantissima’ Variegated Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Elegantissima’)

Variegated Boxwood

‘Elegantissima’ variegated boxwood

The boxwood ‘Elegantissima’ is a variegated cultivar with a rounded growth habit and small, lance-shaped creamy-white and green leaves. The brightly colored leaves make the boxwood shrub appear pale green from a distance. The variegated boxwood grows between 3 and 5 ft. (1 – 1.5 m) tall and wide.

The boxwood leaves are its identifying characteristic. Leaves measure between 1” and 3” (2.5 – 7.5 cm) and are glossy green with irregular creamy-white margins. Like many rounded boxwood plants, use the ‘Elegantissima’ cultivar for foundation plantings, accents, borders, or a privacy hedge.

Boxwood ‘Green Gem’ (Buxus microphylla var. koreana x Buxus sempervirens ‘Green Gem’)

Boxwood ‘Green Gem’

Boxwood ‘Green Gem’

The ‘Green Gem’ boxwood is one of the cold-hardiest evergreen shrubs for your garden landscape. The lush oval, glossy dark green leaves form an impressive globular shape. The boxwood hybrid also keeps its dark colors throughout the winter. The ‘Green Gem’ boxwood grows between 3 and 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m) tall and wide.

This cold-hardy boxwood thrives in USDA zones 4 to 9. The evergreen perennial performs best in full sun to part shade. It is ideal as a low-growing hedge or foundation planting.

Types of Upright Boxwoods

Upright boxwoods are typically tall shrubs in the Buxus genus with columnar growth ideal for growing tall privacy screens.

Boxwood ‘Fastigiata’ (Buxus sempervirens ‘Fastigiata’)

Boxwood ‘Fastigiata’

Boxwood ‘Fastigiata’

The ‘Fastigiata’ boxwood cultivar is an evergreen tall shrub-like tree with a narrow conical form. The rich, lush foliage consists of oval or elliptic dark blue-green leaves that grow densely on woody stems. As an upright boxwood, the ‘Fastigiata’ grows up to 6 ft. (1.8 m) tall and has a narrow spread of 2 ft. (0.6 m).

The boxwood ‘Fastigiata’ is ideal for creating formal landscapes where evergreen height is required. The boxwood has a natural columnar shape. However, it is easy to prune it as a narrow columnar tree for accenting an entrance or corner of the house.

Variegated English Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’)

Variegated English Boxwood

Variegated English boxwood

Variegated boxwood shrubs are perfect for adding interest and color to a garden landscape. The boxwood ‘Variegata’ has dark green ovate leaves with irregular creamy-white margins. The tall bushy shrub grows between 5 and 8 ft. (1.5 – 1.8 m) tall and wide. This boxwood is a slow-growing shrub.

With its upright growth, the variegated boxwood is an ideal shrub for a privacy hedge or screen. In addition, you can grow the plant as a garden accent or container plant for a patio or deck with some regular pruning.

Types of Pyramidal Boxwood Hedge Plants

Boxwood hedge plants with pyramidal shapes are ideal for growing as specimens, privacy screens, or accent plants in containers.

American Pyramidal Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Pyramidalis’)

American Pyramidal Boxwood

American pyramidal boxwood

The American pyramidal boxwood tree has a conical shape and lush, dense foliage. The characteristics of this boxwood tree are its small round dark green leaves and distinctive natural pyramidal form. Boxwood ‘Pyramidalis’ has a broader base that usually tapers to a point. This pyramidal boxwood grows 12 ft. (3.6 m) high and 8 ft. (2.4 m) wide.

In the garden landscape, the American pyramidal boxwood grows best as a tall hedge or privacy screen. However, you can also grow the boxwood as an accent plant in a large container.

Common Boxwood ‘Dee Runk’ (Buxus sempervirens ‘Dee Runk’)

Buxus sempervirens ‘Dee Runk’

Common boxwood ‘Dee Runk’

The ‘Dee Runk’ boxwood is an elegant landscaping shrub with columnar growth, lush foliage, and a medium to fast growth rate. The relatively compact growth of this pyramidal boxwood makes it perfect for small gardens. The dense foliage consists of shiny, green ovate-shaped leaves. The boxwood grows up to 8 ft. (2.4 m) tall and 3 ft. (1 m) wide.

Thanks to this boxwood’s narrow growth, it is an ideal shrub for growing narrow hedgerows or privacy screens. You can also plant the upright, pyramidal boxwood to accent a corner or entranceway where its conical shape creates visual interest.

Types of Tall Boxwoods

If you require a tall privacy screen to protect your property, choose from hardy types of tall boxwood plants.

Truetree Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Arborescens’)

Truetree Boxwood

Truetree Boxwood

The Truetree boxwood is a broadleaf, evergreen shrub that grows like a tall tree. The boxwood ‘Arborescens’ has oval leaves growing oppositely on woody stems. The boxwood tree grows between 15 and 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m) tall and has an open spread. It is easy to prune the tall tree into a dense privacy hedge.

‘Graham Blandy’ Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Graham Blandy’)

'Graham Blandy' Boxwood

‘Graham Blandy’ Boxwood

The ‘Graham Blandy’ boxwood is a tall, narrow, columnar shrub perfect for small gardens. This boxwood grows up to 15 ft. (4.5 m) tall and only 1 to 2 ft. (0.3 – 0.6 m) wide. The pencil-like boxwood tree makes an exclamation point in gardens. It is ideal for accenting corners or growing as a specimen plant.

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