Best Boxwoods For Every Landscape And Climate

Elegant Boxwood Garden
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

Elegant when used alone and sublime as companion plants, boxwoods offer amazing versatility in the garden. They greet our guests at the door and provide an element of delight and surprise when clipped and trained into topiaries and parterres. They look stately in pots and add a spot of green to any winter garden. Plus, deer don't usually eat them.

The secret to working with these fine-textured evergreens is choosing the best selection to fit your vision, your climate, and your growing conditions (well-drained soil and protection from winter winds are key). Some grow as tall as a tree and just as wide, while others hug the ground. Find out more about our top picks that are suitable for the South, and then ooh and ahh over our most gorgeous illustrations of how you can use these shrubs in the garden.

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American Boxwood

American Boxwood Garden

Ralph Anderson

  • Botanical Name: Buxus sempervirens
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun or partial shade
  • Soil Type: Any well-drained, moist soil
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline (6.0-8.0)

One of the largest boxwoods, American boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) can grow to 15 or 20 feet tall and wide. It's also known as common boxwood, a label that makes more sense given its origins from southern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. This boxwood would be a good choice for screening, but it's also slow-growing and can be kept smaller with pruning. Plant in USDA Zones 5-8; this is not a boxwood that will tolerate the heat of the Coastal South.

02 of 11

English Boxwood

English Boxwood
Juliette Wade/Getty Images
  • Botanical Name: B. sempervirens  'Suffruticosa'
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun or partial shade
  • Soil Type: Any well-drained, moist soil, but grows best in loam
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline (6.0-8.0)

The plant we call English boxwood is a variety of the common boxwood and requires similar growing conditions. All common boxwoods prefer a site protected from wind and full winter sun, which can dry out and bronze the leaves. 'Suffruticosa' does best in well-drained, loamy soil. This is a dwarf cultivar that grows 2 to 3 feet tall and slightly wider.

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Littleleaf Boxwood

Littleleaf Boxwood Garden

Ralph Anderson

  • Botanical Name: B. microphylla
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun or partial shade
  • Soil Type: Any well-drained, moist soil
  • Soil pH: Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline (6.0-8.0)

A slow-growing species from Japan, Littleleaf boxwood is cold hardy and can be used in the Upper, Middle, Lower, and Coastal South. Littleleaf boxwoods have the most finely textured leaves and can easily be shaped with pruning. These shrubs can be used as accents, topiaries, small hedges, or edging, with most cultivars topping out at 3-4 feet tall. Mulch well to keep the soil cool and conserve moisture.

04 of 11

Japanese Boxwood

japanese boxwood garden

Ralph Anderson

  • Botanical Name: B. microphylla japonica
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade or dappled sun
  • Soil Type: Any well-drained, moist soil
  • Soil pH: 6.0-8.0

The Japanese boxwood subspecies has a more mounded form, growing 6-8 feet tall and 10-15 feet wide. The round-tipped, glossy, dark green leaves of Japanese boxwood may take on a bronze cast in cold winters when exposed to southwestern sun. It tolerates heat, humidity, and nematodes, making it the best boxwood for the Coastal South, though it does well throughout the South. Japanese boxwood prefers moist and cool soil, so mulch heavily around the roots.

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Korean Boxwood

Sunny Korean Boxwood Garden

Ralph Anderson

  • Botanical Name: B. sinica
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
  • Soil Type: Well-drained, moist, sandy loam
  • Soil pH: 6.0-8.0

An excellent choice for hedges or edging, Korean boxwood tolerates severe winters, making it an especially good choice for the Upper South as well as down in the Coastal South. 'Wintergreen' has the best winter color; other cultivars can turn bronzy in the cold. These shrubs can be grown in average soil but do best in moist, sandy loam. The mound-shaped plants can be pruned as a privacy screen, eventually growing to 10 feet tall.

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Harland Boxwood

Harland boxwood (Buxus harlandii)

DeAgostini/Getty Images

  • Botanical Name: B. harlandii 
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
  • Soil Type: Any well-drained, evenly moist soil
  • Soil pH: 6.0-8.0

Harland boxwood is more pest-resistant, drought-resistant, and clay tolerant than most boxwoods, making it a good choice for tough sites. But this species is less cold-tolerant, hardy only to USDA Zone 7b. Plant it in a spot protected from winter winds to avoid bronzing. These boxwoods generally reach about 3 feet but occasionally grow to 5 feet tall.

07 of 11

Layer With Evergreens

All-Green Evergreen Garden

Helen Norman

Boxwoods can be planted as single specimens but are especially eye-catching when planted in masses. Rows of clipped English boxwoods, protected from the hot afternoon sun, soften straight lines in this small front yard garden. The vibrant green foliage stands out against a holly hedge and Four box-clipped European hornbeams.

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Make Boxwoods The Centerpiece

Elegant Boxwood Garden
Robbie Caponetto

An elegant potager (kitchen garden) with an intricate knot of clipped boxwoods in its center acts as a focal point for the garden. At the end of this terrace rests a paved sitting area surrounding a fire pit. What better place to sip a glass of wine as the amber light from the setting sun ignites the riverside trees?

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Plant A Parterre

Front Yard Boxwood Parterre

Laurey W. Glenn

Boxwoods make up the backbone of this parterre, a formal, low garden laid out in intricate geometric designs. This impactful front yard garden surrounded with antique bricks was designed in the style of Colonial Williamsburg.

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Shape Boxwoods Into Topiaries

White container with boxwood topiary, phlox, star jasmine, and lemon thyme
Robbie Caponetto; Produced: Mark Thompson

Boxwoods can be made into topiaries like this lollipop-shaped standard. To train your plant into a standard, prune away side stems from the main stem, leaving about 1/3 of the growth on top. Then lightly trim the leaves to achieve the shape you want.

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Grow A Boxwood Hedge

Fennel Maudlin's Garden Lawn with Boxwood Hedge
Robbie Caponetto

Boxwoods are especially suited to forming hedges tall or small, depending on the species and how aggressively you use your pruning shears. Gardener Anthony Brewington planted 300 'Wintergreen' boxwoods in this Alabama oasis and shaped them into a wavy hedge. 

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