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Common boxwood

Specimen of common boxwood, cultivar 'Schmidt'.

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

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Buxus sempervirens

All common names:

Common boxwood, box, common box

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Container,
  • Foundation,
  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet),
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet),
  • Low-growing shrub (under 3 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 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Alkaline soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Road salt

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • late winter

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Broad,
  • Mounded,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

More Information:

Size & form

A broadly rounded evergreen shrub reaching 3 to 4 feet high and wide

Tree & 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. Avoid late summer pruning. New growth will not harden off  for winter.
Remove heavy snow cover to avoid winter damage.

Disease, pests, and problems

Winter frost cracking during sudden temperature drop, volutella,  phytophthora, boxwood psyllid, leafminer, mites.
All plant parts are poisonous.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Deer and rabbit resistant

Native geographic location and habitat

Europe, Asia, and Africa

Bark color and texture 

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

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite. Small, 1/2 inches to 1 /12 inches oval to oblong leaves with  smooth-margins.
Leaves are dark glossy green above and yellowish-green below.  Leaves have a malodorous  fragrance.
Winter sun can cause bronzing.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Early spring, pale green to yellow to creamy white flowers are inconspicuous in auxiliary clusters. 

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

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

Cultivars and their differences 

North Star® common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens 'Katerberg'): A densely globe-shaped habit reaching 2 to 2 1/2 feet high. requires little pruning to retain shape.

Schmidt common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens 'Schmidt'):  An upright evergreen reaching 5-7 feet high and 4 feet wide.

Vardar Valley common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens 'Vardar Valley'): Low-growing, flat-topped mound reaching 2-3 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide. Excellent dark bluish-green foliage.

Location of Buxus sempervirens (Common boxwood) at the Arboretum