Boxwood - Buxus sempervirens

Boxwood - Buxus sempervirens

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The plant known as Common Boxwood is a tree and the most well-known exponent of the Buxaceae family. This contains 4/5 kinds (depending on the classifications) with about 60 species of evergreen trees, shrubs and some herbaceous plants. The boxwood is for all gardening enthusiasts that evergreen plant used for the realization of hedges or as a pot plant. One of the characteristics for which boxwood is most appreciated, in addition to its evergreen leaves, is the compactness and the ability to keep the shape typical of this plant. Boxwood, also known by the Latin name of buxus sempervirens, in fact lends itself very well to geometric pruning in the shape of a ball, spiral, pyramid or other and for this reason it is used very much as an ornamental pot plant.

General characteristics

Shrub or small evergreen tree, native to Europe, Japan and the Himalayan plateau with slow growth, very long-lived; It is widely used as a single plant or as a hedge plant, the dwarf varieties, which constitute very decorative round cushions, are highly appreciated. It presents dark and wrinkled bark, tending to greyish-brown on mature wood, lighter on young wood; the foliage is usually very leafy and compact with small, ovate, leathery leaves, which give off a strong aroma if rubbed; it easily supports even drastic pruning, in fact it is also widely used in topiary art. In spring it produces bunches of yellowish, insignificant but very fragrant flowers; in summer roundish fruits, consisting of woody capsules containing small seeds. The leaves of some varieties change color in winter, tending to become greenish-yellow.
It is a plant native to Europe, North Africa and western Asia.
Environment: adapts to arid and rocky areas. It grows spontaneously on the Alps and the Apennines. Prefers alkaline soils.
It is rustic and lives well in almost all of our country. It can have some problems only in the high mountains as it bears the cold well up to -17 ° C (zone 7).
it has persistent, opposite leaves, from ovate to oblong, up to 2.5 cm long and 1 cm broad, engraved on the apex. The color is dark green and shiny in the upper part, paler in the lower part. The branches are quadrangular. The bark is gray and smooth and breaks into small squares with age. It has small and green flowers: the male ones have many yellow antene, the female ones, instead, have three stigmas. It flowers in the axil of the leaves, at the beginning of spring (March-April). It produces capsule fruits, woody and green, up to almost a centimeter long. They open in the fall to release the seeds. It is considered by some a large shrub, by others a small tree. It has a very resistant wood.
It is a very long-lived plant. It can live up to 600 years.
it can reach 6 meters in height and, if allowed to grow freely, it takes on a wide cone shape. It has a very slow growth which makes it ideal as a hedge plant or for topiary art.


The ideal exposure for the boxwood is sun-half shade. If we live in a particularly hot area it is better to opt for the partial shade. The buxus sempervirens it grows well in any place, particularly preferring sunny or semi-shaded positions, even if it does not present particular development problems even when it is grown completely in the shade. It does not fear the cold and bears even temperatures well below 0 °. It does not have particular needs even with regard to the soil, preferring however the chalky, well-drained soils. The boxwood does not need particularly abundant watering, although in particularly dry periods of the year it may occasionally need water; the water supplied by the rains is usually sufficient. It is advisable to bury a small amount of organic fertilizer at the foot of the plant, in autumn and at the end of winter, to ensure good plant development.

Planting and care

The boxwood is a shrub that requires very little care. Absolutely no intervention is required and it is generally a very resistant plant.
Planting rarely creates problems, even when dealing with large plants. This is because the boxwood tends to create a very dense network of roots and therefore greatly increase the absorption surface, reducing recovery times.
Usually large subjects are planted with earthen bread. The small ones, on the other hand, are usually sold bare-rooted.
It is advisable to proceed in autumn so that the plant has all winter to create new roots.
It is enough to dig a hole twice the size of the earth bread. If the soil is particularly clayey and heavy it may be a good idea to create a drainage layer with gravel. After this you will intervene by creating a layer with the bottom fertilizer (based on manure or cornunghia) and then, after having covered it with a little earth, we can plant the plant. Finally we cover with the remaining soil and press well.
If we want to get borders in a short time (perhaps keeping the plants very low) it is good to plant them at 20 cm from each other.
If instead we want to create a high hedge the ideal distance between the subjects is 60 cm.


it can occur by seed, to be used as soon as the fruits dry, at the beginning of autumn, to be sown in a mixture of sand and peat in equal parts; as the boxwood is a very slow growing plant, it is difficult to sow, most often to propagate it, cuttings or layings are taken in spring, which should be kept in pots even for 2-3 years before being planted.
With this plant care must be taken in the presence of children and animals. In fact it is poisonous in all its parts. It can cause vomiting, problems with the digestive system and dermatitis.

Pests and diseases

Occasionally the buxus sempervirens is struck by aphids and cochineal; more often the leaves are ruined by an insect called cecidomia, which deposits the eggs on the young leaves, a born sprint, the larva cyanates of the leaves, often causing extensive damage to the boxwood plants. Boxwood is usually very durable, but can be attacked by some insects. Unfortunately, in recent years, a parasite has been practically unknown until recently. It is the box borer (Cydalima perspectalis). It was accidentally introduced in 2006 from China and is spreading throughout Italy starting from the North-Western regions. The larvae of this insect feed on the leaves, bark and twigs of the plant. In a very short time they can cause a vast desiccation: the leaves and branches, first green, turn to greyish yellow. This is of considerable damage to the general aesthetics of the hedges. Moreover, being plants of slow growth it becomes difficult to recover the damage in a short time. It is therefore necessary to monitor the plants very carefully and intervene at the first signs of affection with contact insecticides suitable for lepidopterans (pyrethroids). If you notice the presence of the insect at the larval stage only, it is possible to intervene also with products with a lower environmental impact such as those based on bacillus thuringiensis. If it is in a too shady area (or is too compact) it can be a victim of cochineal. In that case it is good to intervene with a systemic insecticide and then use a mineral oil to complete the operation.

Irrigation and fertilization

Box trees are plants that love a rather dry and stony soil. Apart from the period of planting (especially if the rains were lacking), it is not necessary to intervene (if you really want, we can water once a month if there is no precipitation). This plant does not tolerate having roots that are too wet and we could encounter radical rot.
If we live in a particularly dry and hot region (like Southern Italy), we can activate it by mulching the soil well with straw, leaves, bark and pine needles. This will protect the many superficial roots from excessive heat.
For supporting fertilization it is advisable to intervene in autumn by spreading well-matured manure at the foot. In the spring, slow release granular fertilizer with a high nitrogen content can be added to stimulate vegetative growth.


As we have already mentioned the boxwood is a very resistant plant (at least in the whole of Continental Europe). If winter has been particularly stiff (below -20 ° C), it can happen that some leaves are "burned": let's not worry because with the arrival of spring they will be promptly replaced (especially if we help with a light pruning ) and there will be no damage nor aesthetic nor functional. In this regard we must be rather careful because similar damage can be caused by the use of herbicides. In that case, however, the plant is struggling more to recover. We therefore pay the utmost attention during their use.

Boxwood pruning

The boxwood tolerates pruning very well and for this reason it is one of the most used plants for the creation of hedges, barriers or for topiary art. Pruning is one of the few interventions it requires, even if it is not as assiduous as on other plants because it has a very slow growth. Usually we intervene twice a year, ie in spring and early autumn (but not always necessary). If the bushes are particularly old and have been neglected it is possible to intervene during the month of May with a severe pruning that has the purpose of rejuvenating the whole. In the first years some more assiduous intervention may be necessary to favor a good branching and filling of the spaces. Keep in mind that the classical cultivar grows on average from 5 to 7 cm a year when it is young and later around 10 cm. If we have a few specimens we can easily intervene with hedge shears (to finish with shears). If we have long hedges it is better to have an electric hedge trimmer. This allows for faster and more precise work.

The boxwood in a vase

The boxwood is also an excellent and very decorative pot plant, very resistant. What it really can't stand is humidity at the roots. It is therefore good to choose a vase with large drain holes, perhaps in terracotta (since it allows perspiration). We need to create a draining layer on the bottom, often made of clay, gravel or shards. Above we put organic fertilizer. In the meantime, place the roots of the plant in a mixture of water and soil for two hours (especially if we purchased it with bare root). It is an excellent method to rehydrate it and prepare it for planting. Finally put it in the container and cover with light and draining soil. For pot cultivation the ideal is to choose a dwarf variety that maintains its shape better and does not require very frequent use of scissors. The ideal exposure is sun-half-shade (better if we live in the South). In the early days it will need fairly frequent watering. Once settled, however, we intervene only when the ground is dry even in depth. Repotting should be done on average every 5 years.


Boxwood can be reproduced in many ways. Being a slow-growing plant we will still have to wait long before we can boast a totally self-produced hedge. The most used method is the cutting. Semi-woody branches are taken in spring. They are left to root in a mixture of coarse sand eventually added with perlite and always kept moist. The ideal is to place the twigs in a perforated box and space them about 3 cm from each other, keeping it in the shade. Before winter we will be able to discard the branches that have not taken root and transfer the others to jars.
For sowing you can proceed in the autumn by taking the seeds from a capsule. They can be placed either in pots or directly at home and left outside in order to undergo vernalization. In spring we will see the seedlings tick.

Interesting species and varieties

Usually only the common boxwood is found in cultivation. Over the years, many varieties have been selected to increase the possibilities of choice for enthusiasts:
- Varieties variegated and with particular colors: "Argentea" "Argenteovariegata" "Elegantissima", Aureovariegata "," Latifolia Maculata "," Blauer Heinz "with leaves tending to glaucous blue.
- Compact in size: "Handsworthensis" "Herrenhausen" "suffruticosa".
- "rotundifolia": with larger leaves and more vigorous than the others, "pyramidalis", conical in shape, the most suitable for topiary, Latifolia Pendula with hanging leaves.

Boxwood - Buxus sempervirens: Artificial boxwood

To all lovers of boxwood it will certainly have happened to see in the vases and in the planters of some bar or restaurants, an artificial boxwood. These artificial boxwoods are certainly not the best to see for those who love plants and flowers but are very comfortable for those who do not want to devote too much time to the care and cultivation of plants. Being artificial plants, in fact, they do not need care and therefore watering, repotting and pruning. Very often then plants that are so beautiful to look at and so likely that people do not even notice that they are fake or real are on the market.
Certainly a plant lover, as well as a person attentive to detail, will notice at first glance whether a plant is false or true but if the goal is to create a little atmosphere without too much effort, artificial plants can be a trick.
On the market you can find artificial boxwoods of all kinds even if the artificial ballwood boxwood is undoubtedly the most sold. Its cost can vary from 10 to 40-50 euros depending on the quality and size. On sale there are also fake boxwoods in the shape of a pyramid, rectangular boxwoods and spiral boxwoods, even if the latter are the most difficult to find.
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