How To Grow Japanese Boxwood (Buxus Microphylla) In Your Garden

What is Buxus Microphylla?

The genus "Buxus" consists of approximately 70 species. These slow-growing plants feature broadleaf evergreen characteristics with small, leathery, rounded foliage.

One of the most popular boxwood's for gardeners to grow is the Buxus microphylla, or "Japanese box" species.

How to Grow Buxus Microphylla

Choosing the Right Location

The Japanese Boxwood plant enjoys planting in loamy soils, with exposure to full sunlight or partial shade.

When choosing a location, it is recommended to select an area of the yard receiving dappled shade in the afternoon and full sun in the morning.

Buxus microphylla 'Green Pillow'
Buxus microphylla 'Green Pillow' photograph by Leonora (Ellie) Enking; CC BY-SA 2.0.

Providing Shelter and Protection

Regardless of sunlight conditions, the plant prefers being sheltered from the wind, since it has shallow roots.

It also needs protection from the heat. So can lay a three-inch layer of mulch around the base to keep it cool in the summer.

Planting the Boxwood in the shade of larger trees is ideal for providing cooler soil temperatures.

Mulching and Pruning

Start mulching two inches (5 cm) away from the base of the hedge. Avoid mulching up to the trunk, as it invites disease and pests. Work outwards to a circumference of around a foot away from the trunk.

If you are growing the Boxwood as a formal screen or hedge, then regular pruning a few times each growing season is necessary to keep growth uniform.

Soil Conditions and Watering

Boxwoods require planting in well-draining soil to avoid root rot. While they can tolerate lower-pH soils, they prefer pH ranges between 6.8 to 7.5 for optimal growth.

Boxwoods require deep weekly watering for the first two years of the growth cycle.

Avoid shallow watering as it won't fully penetrate the root system, slowing growth and foliage production. Mature plants thrive with deep watering every two to four weeks.

Climate Considerations

Boxwoods usually thrive in cooler climates in USDA zones 6 to 9.

If you're planting in warmer climates, consider increasing watering and planting in the shade. Gardeners in USDA zone 5 may find that the stem tips die back in the presence of cold weather snaps.


You can fertilize the Boxwood with all-purpose fertilizers in the early spring, before the emergence of new growth.

Japanese Boxwood
Japanese Boxwood photograph by Bri Weldon; CC.

Quick Growing and Care Guide

Scientific Name: Buxus microphylla

Common Name(s): Japanese Boxwood, Littleleaf Boxwood

Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): USDA Zones: 5-9; UK RHS zone: H5

Best Used For / Garden Location: Hedges, topiaries, borders, and containers.

Plant Details

Life Cycle / Plant Type: Evergreen shrub.

Plant Height: 2-4 feet (60-120 cm).

Plant Spread: 2-4 feet (60-120 cm).

Blooms: Spring to early summer.

Flower Details: Insignificant, small yellow-green flowers.

Leaf Foliage: Small, glossy, dark green leaves.

Fruit: Inconspicuous, small brown capsules.

Growing Conditions and Location

Best Light Conditions: Full sun to part shade.

Suitable Soil Types: Well-drained soil with average fertility.

Sowing / planting: Plant purchased plants or cuttings in well-prepared soil in spring or fall, spacing them 2-3 feet apart.

Germination time: N/A (propagated by cuttings).

Propagation: Take semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer to early fall.

Plant Care: Water regularly, especially during dry periods. Mulch around the base to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Prune in late spring or early summer.

Growing in pots and containers: Yes. Use a well-draining potting mix, and choose a container that allows for root development. Place in a location with bright, indirect light.

Growing as an House plant: Not suitable as a houseplant due to its size and light requirements.

Further Information

Miscellaneous: Japanese Boxwood is a popular choice for formal hedges and topiaries due to its dense foliage and ability to withstand shearing.

Pests and diseases: Common pests include boxwood leafminer, boxwood psyllid, and mites. Diseases such as boxwood blight and root rot can also affect the plant.

Common Cultivars / Varieties:

  • Buxus microphylla 'Faulkner': Compact form with dark green foliage.
  • Buxus microphylla 'Golden Dream': Dwarf variety with yellow-gold foliage.
  • Buxus microphylla 'Wintergreen': Cold-hardy and maintains green foliage in winter.
  • Buxus microphylla 'Morris Midget': Compact, slow-growing cultivar with dense foliage.

Family: Buxaceae (Boxwood family).

Native: East Asia (Japan, Taiwan).

References and Further Reading:

Common Questions

How fast does Buxus microphylla grow?

Japanese Boxwood, is a slow to medium-growing plant. On average, it can grow about 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) per year under optimal conditions.

This plant is known for its dense and compact growth habit, rather than its rapid growth

What is the lifespan of Buxus microphylla?

Under favorable growing conditions and with proper care, this species can live for several decades, often reaching 50 years or more in age.

Are Buxus plants easy to keep?

Yes, Buxus plants are generally very easy to keep. They are adaptable, resilient, and can tolerate different soil and light conditions.

Regular watering, suitable pruning, and attention to their specific needs contribute to their overall health and beauty.

Do they have deep roots?

Buxus microphylla, have relatively shallow root systems. The majority of their roots are concentrated in the top few inches of soil.

This makes them suitable for container planting and allows for easier maintenance, but it's important to provide consistent moisture and avoid over-watering to prevent root rot.

In Summary

Buxus microphylla, also known as Japanese boxwood, is a slow-growing, broadleaf evergreen shrub. It thrives in USDA zones 6 to 9 and prefers loamy soil with dappled shade in the afternoon and full sun in the morning. Protect it from wind and heat, mulch around the base, prune regularly, and provide deep watering for optimal growth.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Buxus microphylla. You may also enjoy the following growing guides: How to grow X Cupressocyparis leylandii, Kochia plants, Ixora, and Viburnum.

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