Content Detail

Common boxwood is a broadly rounded evergreen shrub or small tree. Native to Europe, Asia, and Africa where it is found in open woodlands and rocky hillsides. A popular ornamental evergreen used for hedges, borders, and topiary. So named because its wood was popular for making boxes and cabinets.

  • Family (English) Box
  • Family (botanic) Buxaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Evergreen (foliage year-round)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet), Small shrub (3-5 feet), Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Dry sites, Road salt
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Broad, Mounded, Round
  • Growth rate Slow

Size and form:

A broadly rounded evergreen shrub that reaches 3 to 4 feet high and wide.

Native geographic location and habitat:

Native to Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Bark color and texture:

New growth is angular and green. Mature stems are tan to light brown.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Opposite, small, oval to oblong leaves with  smooth-margins are ½ inch to 1-½ inches in size. Leaves are glossay and dark green above and yellowish-green below with a malodorous  fragrance. Winter sun can cause bronzing.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers in early spring. Pale green to yellow to creamy white flowers are inconspicuous and borne in axillary clusters. 

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Fruit is a 1/3 inch, dehiscent capsule that matures to brown.

Plant care:

Best in part shade, but tolerant of full sun with adequate soil moisture. Plants in deep shade will be more open and loose. Avoid windy sites. Prune as needed. Can be sheared and shaped in early spring, but avoid late summer pruning as the new growth will not harden off for winter. Remove heavy snow cover to avoid winter damage.

List of pests, diseases,  tolerances and resistance:

Susceptible to winter frost cracking during sudden temperature drops, volutella, phytophthora, boxwood psyllid, leafminers, and mites. All plant parts are poisonous. Deer and rabbit resistant.

North Star® common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Katerberg’):

A densely globe-shaped cultivar, reaching 2 to 2 1/2 feet high, it requires little pruning to retain shape.

Schmidt common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Schmidt’):

An upright evergreen cultivar reaching 5 to 7 feet high and 4 feet wide.

Vardar Valley common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Vardar Valley’):

A cultivar that is a low-growing, flat-topped mound, reaching 2 to 3 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide, with excellent dark bluish-green foliage.


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift