Common boxwood or buxus (Buxus microphylla) is one of the most widely used shrubs for hedging around homes and commercial landscapes. There are many varieties of buxus, but buxus, or common boxwood, is planted most often because of its durability and ability to be closely sheared and make a dense hedge. Buxus has been grown in gardens for more than 600 years. It does not grow in the wild.
In the northern half of its growing range, buxus performs best in a full sun location that receives exposure to at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. In the southern half of the U.S., protection from the hottest afternoon sun prevents leaf browning. A partial shade location where sunlight exposure is limited to four to six hours is acceptable throughout the growing range. Buxus is suitable for growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture planting zones 5 through 9.
Buxus is slow growing and may only need pruning once a year in most cases. While there are examples of buxus being pruned into distinct shapes such as globes or animals, buxus is usually pruned to form a dense hedge. Prune buxus to the desired height in late spring using a sharp pruning tool to avoid tearing the leaves. However, leave the bottom of the hedge slightly wider than the top. This allows the bottom part of the hedge access to sunlight so it does not become woody or sparse.
Buxus adapts to a wide range of soil conditions, but the leaves begin to turn brown during long periods of dry weather because of the shallow root system. Apply additional moisture as often as needed to keep the soil slightly moist, but not wet, around the root system. A 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the root system of the buxus shrubs helps conserve moisture.
Buxus easily grows in soils with low fertility, but to increase the growth rate and keep the plants green and healthy, apply a 1-inch layer of compost and a cup of granulated organic fertiliser over the roots of each plant in the spring before applying fresh mulch.
Buxus emits an odour that some people think smells like ammonia or cat urine. The odour is more prevalent in the spring and when buxus is planted in locations with poor air circulation. This is something to keep in mind before planting buxus near doors or windows that are frequently opened.
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