The boxwood shrub (Buxus sempervirens) grows into a mound of foliage that reaches 8 feet in height. A popular clipped hedge, the boxwood is easily sheared into a wide range of shapes and sizes. Foliage appears a deep, dark green or variegated depending on the variety or cultivar. Tiny flowers are produced but go virtually unnoticed. However, they do emit a distinct fragrance that many people feel is sweet but others have an allergic reaction to.
Boxwood grows well in full sunlight or partial shade. In areas with intensely hot summers, the boxwood prefers to be located in partial shade. The shrub grows well in loam or clay-based soil. It benefits from a large amount of organic matter added to the soil at the time of planting. Well-draining soil is required for the boxwood's overall health. When the root system of the plant is exposed to prolonged flooded soil conditions, the roots will rot.
The roots of the boxwood are shallow and easily damaged. Avoid deep cultivation around the base of the boxwood so the plant does not suffer root injury. Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the shrub to keep weed growth down. Mulch will also help the root system stay cool in the summer and protected in the winter.
The boxwood grows slowly. Taking the time to properly prune the shrub to look its best is imperative because small mistakes in shearing will cause the shrub to look unsightly for an extended time period. After pruning, clean all cut debris away so disease does not spread. The boxwood can be grown natural with no pruning if desired. It simply forms a tall, mounding appearance with lush growth.
The boxwood contains toxic steroidal alkaloids. All parts of the plant are poisonous if consumed. Convulsions, vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory failure can result, according to the North Caroline University. Its toxicity level is low when consumed. Skin contact with the sap of the plant can also cause skin irritation. Wear gloves when pruning or handling cut areas of the plant.
The boxwood leaf miner causes discoloration, holes and death to the foliage. The tiny orange larva feed on the leaf and create a hole to hide within during the winter months. After winter, adults emerge and the cycle starts again as new leaves are attacked. Soil nematodes also afflict the boxwood. Infestations cause the shrub to wilt, loose leaves and suffer lack of vigor as the nematodes consume the root system.