Are you looking for some good boxwood alternatives? We know that Boxwood (Buxus) hedges are extremely popular for their evergreen, low-maintenance features. They are practically fool-proof plants, tolerating a wide range of conditions from sun to shade, deer and rabbit pressure, poor soils, and cold or hot climates. The one big issue facing boxwood lovers now is a fungal disease called Boxwood Blight that is killing many new and old boxwood plantings all over Europe and the United States. We have selected great boxwood substitutes that we offer in the same MiniHedge size as our well-loved boxwood hedges for folks who either can’t grow boxwood anymore due to having blight in their landscapes, or for those who simply do not prefer boxwood but want native alternatives to boxwood.
Take a look at our carefully selected boxwood alternatives to find the perfect hedge for your landscape!
THE NEED FOR BOXWOOD ALTERNATIVES
With boxwood (Buxus) being such a popular landscape plant for many great reasons, why is a selection of good alternatives to boxwoods so important?
– Boxwood drawbacks: No plant is perfect, and boxwoods are no exception. Some situations are simply not suitable uses for boxwood plantings. For example, allthough they are extremely hardy plants, there are some regions where the winters are just too harsh for boxwood. There is also the issue of fragrance. While not all boxwood varieties are pungently scented (Green Mountain being a mild-smelling cultivar), some have a distinct odor that has been compared to cat urine. This isn’t usually an issue in landscapes, but in certain applications, like outdoor wine tasting venues where a fragrance-free environment is required, this can be problematic.
– Biodiversity: Mass plantings of 1 plant species have a dramatic impact, but the best choice for biodiversity is to plant a wide range of species and genera. This supports different pollinators and diversifies your plant portfolio, making it more likely that at least some things will survive in case of environmental or disease issues.
– Disease and pest pressure: Unfortunately boxwood has some major diseases that were recently introduced to the USA that are threatening the ability to grow boxwood successfully in many parts of the country, namely Boxwood Blight and the devastating Box Tree Moth that was recently spotted in Canada. These pests specifically affect Buxus species and just a few others (Sarcococca and Pachysandra)
Boxwood Blight (Calonectria pseudonaviculata) is a fungus affecting mainly Buxus species as well as Sarcococca and Pachysandra. It causes defoliation, plant decline, and plant mortality and spreads readily through spores that can be carried on water splashes, clothes, gardening tools or by animals. It tends to be worse in areas with humid summers or gardens with overhead irrigation, and once it finds its way to a landscape it can be practically impossible to remove.
Using care to avoid introducing it with strict sanitation practices is the best way to avoid blight, but it has many ways of spreading and this can be difficult. There are also preventative fungicides and other cultural practices that have been used with some success to protect an existing boxwood hedge from infection.
There are breeding programs attempting to develop blight-resistant cultivars, but as of now there are no truly blight-resistant varieties (although there is a big range in susceptibility within common cultivars. For example, Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ is known to be one of the most susceptible varieties, while Buxus x ‘Green Mountain’ demonstrates some natural resistance).
The only way to fully prevent Boxwood Blight is to plant alternatives to boxwood hedges that are not susceptible.
HERE ARE 2 GREAT OPTIONS FOR BOXWOOD ALTERNATIVES:
1. Hicks Yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’)
This classic evergreen hedge has a deep green foliage color similar to most boxwoods. It is a conifer, so it has needles instead of broad leaves. It also bears bright red “fruits” for added color contrast. Birds eat the fruits but all parts of the plants are toxic for humans and pets. Unfortunately, deer are not deterred by this. Hicks Yew is a great choice for boxwood substitutes for narrow and deep shade locations and also does well in full sun. It requires well-draining soil but tolerates many harsh conditions.
- Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-8
- Exposure: Full sun to full shade
- Growth rate: Moderate, 6-8” per year
- Mature size: 10‘ x 2’ unpruned, as small as 3’ H x 1’ W pruned
2. Teton Firethorn (Pyracantha ‘Teton’)
This hedge has evergreen, boxwood-like foliage with a few highly distinctive features. As the name implies, the branches are covered with sharp thorns, making this hedge deer-resistant and a good deterrent for intruders. In early summer, Teton displays billows of beautiful white flowers that attract pollinators. Later in the early fall, plentiful bright orange berries develop that last through the winter, providing great winter color and food for birds. A low-maintenance and rewarding boxwood substitute!
- Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-9
- Exposure: Full sun to full shade
- Growth rate: Fast, 8-12” per year
- Mature size: 8‘ x 5’ unpruned, as small as 3’ H x 2’ W pruned