December: Boxwood

Evergreen plants are the backbone of designs built to stun in all seasons. They provide the reliable structure to keep things from looking bare and help highlight the spots of color and texture that other plants like beautyberry and paperbark maple provide. We love to use boxwoods for this purpose. They do much better in our soils than a lot of other evergreens, and their ability to be sheared or grown naturally allow us to make all kinds of interesting artistic decisions with them.

CC0 image, retrieved from

CC0 image, retrieved from

Boxwood species come from all over the world. They can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and even Central America. Most of the commercially produced varieties are hybrids of different species selected for useful traits such as winter hardiness, disease resistance, and compact habit. While boxwoods are generally disease-free, they can suffer from root rots and a few other fungal diseases. The big one to watch out for right now is boxwood blight. This disease is new to the U.S. and could wipe out our entire boxwood crop if not carefully contained. So far boxwood blight has not been found in Indiana, but there have been outbreaks in Ohio and Illinois. Click here to learn more about the disease and how to spot it. Worried you might have boxwood blight? Report it to Purdue's PPDL or contact your county's extension office. Not from Indiana? Every state has its own university extension office system where you can find guidance on what to do if you think you have boxwood blight.

CC0 image, retrieved from

CC0 image, retrieved from

Common Name: Boxwood

Scientific Name: Buxus species and hybrids

Notable Varieties: 'Green Mountain' (pyramidal variety); 'Green Gem' (small with dark, glossy green leaves); 'Green Velvet' (small with smaller, softer green leaves)

Light: full sun to full shade (shade tolerance varies somewhat by variety, and heavily shaded plants will be less dense)

Size: 2-12' tall, 2-15' wide (depends on variety, can be sheared to maintain specific size and shape)

Soil: tolerates a wide range of soil pH; prefers good drainage, but can handle clay soils if they aren't soggy

Blooms: inconspicuous green blooms in spring, often pruned off through routine maintenance

Other Notes: deer and rabbit resistant; animal urine can easily cause bleached dead spots, so be careful with pets

See other plants of the month.

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