What is an American Boxwood?

Angie Bates
Angie Bates
Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Also called the common boxwood, the American boxwood is a type of evergreen shrub that is extremely popular in the United States. This shrub is considered a hardy, pest resistant plant. American boxwoods are often used as hedging or accents in yards and, because of their thick foliage, are frequently used as natural privacy screens. The scientific name for the American boxwood is Buxus semperverins.

The American boxwood grows to an average height of 5-10 feet (about 1.5-3 m), though it can grow as tall as 12 feet (roughly 3.6 m). Generally oval in shape, this boxwood does need pruning in order to help keep its shape neat and to remove damaged branches. Pruning should not be extreme, however, since the shrub's slow growth rate prohibits it from recovering quickly.

As an evergreen, the American boxwood keeps its leaves year round. The leaves are dark green on the top and light green underneath. When it blooms in the spring, this boxwood produces tiny white flowers.

American boxwoods can tolerate full sunlight, but thrive in partial shade. They prefer sand or clay soil, though they can live in nearly any soil as long as the pH level is above 6.5. Propagation is relatively easy and can be accomplished by planting cuttings or layering, which involves leaving branches on the ground to take root. Propagating should be done in the summer or fall.

To plant an American boxwood, the area should be cleared of rocks and grass. Since the boxwood is a shallow-rooted plant, it should be placed in a hole not quite as deep as its root bulb. The hole should then be filled half way, watered, then filled in completely. If planting rows of boxwoods, they should be spaced 3-5 feet (about 0.9-1.5 m) apart.

Though the American boxwood is resistant to most pests, it can still fall prey to certain mites, leaf miners, and psyllids. Insecticides, however, will usually clear up this problem. A dish detergent-water mix sprayed on the plant may also rid it of pests.

Root rot and bronzing of the leaves are other possible problems with this type of boxwood. Root rot occurs when a fungus called Phytophthora parasitica grows on and around the roots. If the ground does not remain consistently soggy, root rot should not be a problem. Bronzing normally occurs because of wind or frost damage during the winter months, though sometimes drought is a factor. Setting up wind shields should help take care of this problem.

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