Buxus (Box)


Slow growing shrub with dense evergreen growth, that makes it ideal for close clipping and shaping. Popular for creating topiary, low hedges, mazes and formal knot gardens.

Family: Buxaceae
Botanical Name: Buxus
Common Names: common box, European box, Abassian boxwood

Foliage: Small, leathery, glossy green leaves. Evergreen. Some variegated forms are available.

Flowers: Clusters of small, pale yellow-green flowers. Green/brown fruits in the autumn.

Flowering Period: Spring.

Soil: Well-drained soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Any pH.

Conditions: Best in semi or partial shade. Plant in any aspect, exposed or sheltered.

Habit: Bushy, slow growing.

Type: Long-lived hardy shrub or small tree.

Origin: Europe, North Africa, Asia and America

Hardiness: Fully hardy in the UK (down to -15 deg C).

Planting and Growing Box

This versatile shrub grows well in any reasonable garden soil, including chalk, so long as it is free draining. It copes well with exposed positions and thrives in sun or shade. Good drought resistance once established. Protect from strong winds which can scorch the leaves.

formal knot garden

Common box makes a good formal hedge or as a backdrop to a flower border. The plants are easily shaped and clipped to make formal topiary. Also ideal for creating the divisions in a decorative parterre or knot garden.

Container grown specimens can be planted out at any time of the year. Bare rooted plants are often available (at much lower cost), which can be planted-out in the autumn or spring. Water well until established.

To create a box hedge, select 12in (30cm) tall plants and plant 12in (30cm) apart. Cut back lightly in the summer to encourage branching to fill-out the gaps between plants.

To create a traditional knot garden, lay-out a square or circular shaped hedge and plant the space inside it with your favourite herbs such as, thyme, rosemary, sage, feverfew or lavender.

Taking Care of Box

Water thoroughly during dry weather until well established. Mulch with organic matter in spring and apply a general fertilizer suitable for shrubs.

Pruning Buxus

Keep hedges and topiary closely clipped by pruning several times during the growing season. Ensure your shears and cutting tools are sharp to ensure the best results. Blunt tools can easily damage or tear the leaves, leaving a ragged edge that may turn brown and unsightly.

Old 'leggy' specimens can be heavily pruned down in early spring to encourage regeneration.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by box sucker and mussel scale. Can be affected by leaf spot and box blight.

Propagating Buxus

Take 6in (15cm) semi-hardwood cuttings in early autumn. Root in a free draining compost in a propagator or cold frame.

B. 'Suffruticosa' can be divided in early spring.

Box strikes very easily from cuttings so you can buy a few plants and increase your stock at low cost. Ideal if you are planning to create a large knot garden.

Popular Varieties of Buxus Grown in the UK

Although Buxus is a genus of around 70 species, the main form grown in Britain is Buxus sempervirens.

Buxus sempervirens (common box) is a slow growing shrub of dense habit, with small dark-green leaves. Height up to 20ft (6m), spread up to 5ft (1.5m).

Several good cultivars are readily available, including:

Buxus s. 'Argentea' has small green leaves with white edges.

Buxus s. 'Elegantissima' is a small domed shrub with creamy-white-margins on the leaves. Height to 5ft (1.5m).

Buxus s. 'Handsworthiensis' (silver box) is vigorous erect shrub with thick, leathery, round or oblong leaves.

Buxus s. 'Latifolia Maculata' has green leaves with a yellow variegation.

Buxus s. 'Suffruticosa' (edging box) is a small compact plant ideal for creating a low hedge in formal gardens or parterres.