Boxwood - Buxus sp.
General Information: Boxes are densely branched shrubs native to Europe and Asia. A
hedge steeped in history, box sprigs have been found in the tombs of
Romans. It is widely used as a hedge plant, and is a common topiary
subject. Most varieties of box are marked by a distinctive "foxy" smell
which some find distasteful. The box is an important plant commercially,
as it is one of the few woods heavier than water, and is thus used for
making woodcuts and precision instruments.
Most boxes are grown as hardy bonsai, but the Harland
box has been successfully grown as an indoor plant. Box is very popular
for bonsai due to its tiny leaves and flowers and its tolerence for
extensive pruning and shaping. One note of caution: box leaves are
poisonous, and eating even a few can kill a small pet.
Lighting: Box is not
particular. Sun or shade both work well. Buxus harlandii prefers shade or
semi-shade, and has an indoor light requirement of only 800
depends on variety, but boxwoods need protection from frost and cold winds
even when grown in the proper climate. In the summer, box appreciates
Watering: Moderate, but
does not like wet soil. Allow the box to dry somewhat between
Feeding: Every two
weeks during growth. Harland Box, every 20-30 days. Use a liquid bonsai
fertilizer with one application of pulverized organic fertilizer during
active growth. Fertilize with general purpose fertilizer.
Pruning and wiring:
Growth on the dwarf varieties can be very slow. Box can be wired at any
time. It is tolerant of radical treatments, such as jin, shari and being
grown root over rock. Fine bonsai material may frequently be pillaged from
old hedges. Leaves may turn reddish brown in winter. Control shape by
thinning and by pinching off most of unwanted new growth.
division in spring, or from hardwood cuttings taken in late summer or
autumn. Air-layering is also possible.
Repotting: Every two
years. Spring is the best time, but as box is a broadleaf evergreen, there
is more leeway with appropriate times to repot than with deciduous trees.
It can be repotted in summer and autumn if need be, but avoid repotting
during very hot weather or during a growth spurt. Use basic bonsai soil.
Box dislikes acid soil, and the use of limestone in the soil mix or adding
an occasional dose of lime to the soil is recommended. Soil must be well
Pests and diseases:
Nematodes, mites and leaf miners, blackfly, greenfly, and red spider
mites. Although box is very disease resistant, honey fungus and rust are
Species useful for bonsai:
- Buxus harlandii: Harland box - A native of Taiwan,
the Harland box can grow to 33 feet. Its leaves are thinner than other
box species. This box doesn't like cold,and should not be exposed to
temperatures below 37F, but it has been grown successfully as an indoor
plant. If the temperature goes above 65F, the Harland box enjoys a daily
misting, and the amount of food should be reduced. During the winter,
keep the tree at a temperature below 65F; between 46F and 50F is
- Buxus microphylla: Japanese box - Grows to 5 feet,
and has evergreen leaves under 1 inch long. It tolerates both sun and
shade. All B. microphylla varieties are scentless. It grows best in
- Buxus microphylla 'Compacta': dwarf boxwood,
Kingsville box. Quarterly spray with Black Leaf 40 mixed with
- Buxus microphylla 'Koreana': Korean boxwood - the
most hardy box, it grows in zones 4-8, but expect the foliage to brown
in the winter. It is a low, spreading variety, growing to only 3
- Buxus microphylla 'Morris Midget': Morris Midget
- Buxus sempervirens: common box, English box - this
box can grow to 25 feet in a mild climate, and therefore appears as both
hedges and small trees. Its evergreen leaves grow to 1 1/2 inches. This
box is hardy in zones 6-8 with some winter protection at the upper end
of the range, although there is a cultivar, 'Vardar Valley' which is
hardy to zone 5. This is a long-lived plant, and historic boxes from
Colonial days are still alive in Virginia.
- Buxux sinica - A native of China, similar to other
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