Not All Boxwood Stay Small

Design, Plantings · Written by Roger

2 Comments

boxwd_wintergem.hedgeYou can tell right away this homeowner likes “the formal look”.  I even iron my jeans before visiting this client.  (Obama’s not the only one with front and back creases on his Levis.)

I was intrigued with what looked like a “floating lantern”, only to discover it was sitting on a brick pier.

The original landscaper was undoubtedly satisfying the request of the homeowner to plant simple, formal plantings.  Simple can be very elegant in design when it’s done right.  With landscape plantings that are well-chosen, well-spaced, and well-cared for, simple can be elegant and beautiful.

Sometimes It’s Just Choosing the Right Variety

So you have the idea for a boxwood hedge around the brick pier and it’s a good one…nice and simple.  You picture this well groomed, boxwood hedge complementing  the pier and helping soften its structural lines.  It’s off to the nursery you go.  There you find these nice, glossy leaved boxwood in 3 gal. pots.  Each plant is about 18″ high.  “Perfect!” you say.  Arranged and installed around the pier, you stand back and admire your work.

Now as each season goes by you’re shearing them for that formal look the homeowner loves, but it’s suddenly dawning on you that these things are getting bigger and bigger in spite of your diligent shearing.

The problem: You’ve chosen a variety of boxwood that characteristically (it’s in its DNA) wants to get bigger than you planned.  And it will.  And if you say “No it won’t, I’ll just shear the hell out of it and keep cutting it back,” the plant will gradually decline and look horrible.

The solution:boxwd_dwf.english1 There are many types of boxwood out there and each has its own story and characteristics.  You need to check some of this information out if you’re going to make a smart and long-lasting selection.

To the right is Dwarf Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’).  This plant will stay far more compact than the variety above, which I’m quite sure is Boxwood ‘Winter Gem’.  Also the growth habit of Dwarf Boxwood is proportionately narrower to its height, whereas ‘Wintergem’ gets as wide as it is tall.

Even if your designs are simple and your plant selections are not diverse it’s OK.  Just make those few selections carefully and your plantings will develop into that beautiful, original vision you had.

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    2 Responses to “Not All Boxwood Stay Small”

    1. Sue Walker Says:

      Hello Roger,
      We just bought a house that has three Boxwood that I believe are American boxwood. There are about 2 feet in diameter and about 4 feet high. My goal was to propagate them and use them extensively in the new landscaping I plan on doing for the backyard. In my vision for the backyard, I see the plants as being smaller – @18″ high. But as I want to plant about 30 of them, I really want to make it less painful to my pocketbook. Hence the reason I was going to propagate what I already own.
      Is it possible to have American boxwood in smaller bowls? Something about 18 inches. Or would I be better off purchasing one dwarf Boxwood, and propagating that? ( I don’t want to be trimming them all Summer long )
      Thank you for any help you could land.
      -Sue

    2. Roger Says:

      Sue,
      I’m not sure I understand your question(s), but here are some thoughts:

      American boxwood can not be kept 18″ tall. You’re better off using a variety that characteristically stays small. Check your local garden centers and nurseries for what they have. Dwarf English Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’) is the most common.

      You mentioned putting boxwood in bowls. You can grow boxwood in planters with proper drainage and soil mix. But evergreens in planters is a bit different in terms of long-term care. Watering and feeding become more of an issue because they don’t have the benefits of the ground. It’s safe to say that the life of an evergreen in a planter is compromised and as a result is not likely to have as long a life as if planted in the ground.

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