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Botanical name: Buxus sempervirens
Common name: Boxwood
USDA zones: 5 to 9 (find your zone)
Water requirement: This plant is quite drought tolerant.
Light requirement: Partial shade to full sun
Mature size: Technically, boxwood can get to about 10 feet high and 10 feet wide, but it is a very slow-growing plant.
Benefits and tolerances: Boxwood is somewhat drought tolerant and should not be left sitting in standing water due to its short roots. If you are in a hot climate, try to give it partial shade; if you are closer to the northern zone limits, give it full sun.
Seasonal interest: This is an evergreen plant that has very glossy deep green leaves year-round.
When to plant: Ideally in the fall, but you can plant it in mid to late spring, after the last frost.
Photo: Buxus Sempervirens ‘Green Mountain’
Boxwood has long been the number-one choice for formal hedges. Because it is evergreen, it can give your garden a verdant structure year-round. It also takes to shaping very well, whether you want to shape a rectangular hedge, conical shrubs, rounded balls or a Bart Simpson–shaped topiary.
Photo: Malus sargentii 'Tina' (Flowering Crabapple)
Boxwood grows slowly, which means you'll need to be patient; it won't shoot up to its potential 10 to 12 feet for decades and decades. This is what young boxwood plants look like at first.
While boxwood is worth the wait, if you are impatient, Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata), which has a similar look to boxwood but is much faster growing, might be for you. It will need more pruning than boxwood as it matures, and while it's a lovely plant, it's not quite as elegant as boxwood.