We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Buxus sempervirens - L.

Common Name Box, Common box, American Boxwood
Family Buxaceae
USDA hardiness 6-8
Known Hazards All parts of the plant are poisonous, especially the leaves and bark[200].
Habitats Beechwood and scrub, usually on chalk and limestone[17].
Range Europe, including Britain, south and east from France and Germany to N. Africa and Albania.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Buxus sempervirens Box, Common box, American Boxwood

Buxus sempervirens Box, Common box, American Boxwood


Translate this page:


Bloom Color: Green. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Rounded.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Buxus sempervirens is an evergreen Shrub growing to 5 m (16ft) by 5 m (16ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5. It is in leaf all year, in flower from April to May, and the seeds ripen in September. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Bees, flies.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts:
Edible Uses: Condiment

The leaves have been used in France as a substitute for hops (Humulus lupulus) in making beer[7]. They cannot be very wholesome, and would probably prove to be injurious[2].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Alterative  Antiperiodic  Antirheumatic  Cathartic  Cholagogue  Diaphoretic  Epilepsy  Febrifuge  
Homeopathy  Leprosy  Malaria  Narcotic  Odontalgic  Oxytoxic  Sedative  
Tonic  Vermifuge

Although it has been used medicinally in the past as a sedative and to treat syphilis, box is very rarely used in modern herbalism[268]. The leaves and the bark are alterative, antirheumatic, cathartic, cholagogue, diaphoretic, febrifuge, oxytocic and vermifuge[4, 7, 9, 21, 178]. The leaves have been used as a quinine substitute in the treatment of malaria[7]. The leaves are harvested in the spring, before the plant comes into flower, and they are dried for later use[238]. The bark can be harvested at any time of the year and is dried for use in decoctions[238]. Use this remedy with caution and preferably only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. The plant has not been fully tested for its toxic side effects[7, 21]. The wood is diaphoretic, in full dose it is narcotic and sedative, in overdose it is convulsant and emetico-cathartic[4]. A tincture of the wood has been used as a bitter tonic and antiperiodic, it has also had a reputation for curing leprosy[4]. A volatile oil distilled from the wood has been prescribed in cases of epilepsy[4]. An essential oil obtained from the plant is used in dentistry[7]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant[7]. It is extensively used in the treatment of rheumatism[7].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Dye  Hedge  Hedge  Wood

Box makes an excellent hedge from 45cm to 4.5 metres tall according to the variety grown[11, 29]. It is quite slow growing but very tolerant of cutting and is often used in topiary, where the hedge is trimmed into different forms for ornamental effect[182]. The leaves and sawdust, boiled in lye, have been used to dye hair an auburn colour[4]. Wood - hard, close grained, heavy. Although the wood is rather small, it is highly valued on account of its hardness - it is twice as hard as oak (Quercus species)[4, 268]. It is used for engraving, printing blocks, bowls, combs etc[4, 7, 11, 46, 100, 115, 178]. The root especially is much liked by turners and cabinet makers[7].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Hedge  Hedge  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Container, Foundation, Screen, Woodland garden. Succeeds in almost any soil that is well-drained[11, 200], preferring light shade and chalky soils[9, 11, 28, 31]. Succeeds in dry shade[188]. Tolerates a pH range from 5.5 to 7.4[200]. A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to at least -23°c, though it prefers milder winters[238]. A very polymorphic species, it is a very ornamental but slow growing plant[11] and there are many named varieties developed for their ornamental value[182]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[88, 200]. A good bee plant[108]. Plants are very tolerant of being trimmed, they can be cut right back to the base if required and will usually resprout freely[11, 29]. The foliage is pungently scented, especially when wet[245]. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Not North American native, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - stratification is not necessary but can lead to more regular germination[113]. The seed is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[138]. Sow stored seed as early in the year as possible in a cold frame. It usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 15°c but stored seed can take longer[138]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of short side shoots with a heel, September in a frame[200]. High percentage[78]. Rather slow to root[K]. Nodal cuttings in spring in a frame. Fairly easy[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Buxus balearica Shrub3.0 7-10 SLMHSNM003
Buxus harlandiiJapanese BoxShrub1.0 6-9 SLMHSNM002
Buxus microphyllaLittleleaf boxwood , Littleleaf BoxwoodShrub1.0 6-10 SLMHSNM003
Buxus wallichiana Shrub2.0 7-10 SLMHSNM013

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

ANdrew Saulnier   Thu Nov 18 12:57:20 2004

I like the primative overall outlook of the Common Boxwood

David Beaulieu   Tue Jan 24 2006

Boxwood Shrubs Uses for boxwood shrubs and how to grow them.

   Fri Jan 19 2007

Does anyone know why the Buxus sempervirens smell like cat pee?

Ken Fern, Plants for a Future   Sun Jan 21 2007

Tastes seem to vary widely regarding the smell of this plant. Whilst the comment above compares it to the scent of cat wee, other people have had very positive reactions to it calling it highly refreshing and stimulating. The smell is much stronger after rain, so if anyone out there wants to give it a sniff and then pass on your comments to me, we can collate the results to see how many people have positive or negative reactions.

Ruud   Sat Mar 3 2007

We live in Spain in the Pyrenees and have plenty of buxus around. Now, buxus is also entering the fields/pastures and are hard to kill. Who knows an effective way to get rid of buxus?

   Sat Jul 26 2008

We live in Ohio and have boxwood in front of our house it to smells like cat pee.

Philip   Wed Sep 17 2008

My BOX has recently become dead in several places. Some 15 years old and suddenly dead patches appearing. Very worrying. HELP Please. Philip

kiumars   Thu Jan 29 2009

some technological properties of boxwood

Ktroy   Tue Mar 31 2009

This plant smells to me like fresh rejuvenating oxygen after a rain. I am very attracted to this plant.. I just planted one near my window.

edward   Tue Jan 19 2010

I can't help but thinking that the people who have smelly box might have some smelly cats visiting their garden! Our box hedge certainly smells nothing like a cat's loo and I'm not surprised - our dogs won't let a cat near our garden. It is of course possible that we aren't all talking about the same Buxus species. Philip's comment above is old but it's a common problem: box blight is a losing battle in my experience. I know several people who have managed it for years with constant cleaning, pruning, spraying etc and there is plenty of info out there, but I would personally give up and move on. If you have good soil drainage, you might consider lavender as a similar sized shrub. As for killing box, I'm surprised that it's a problem! Just dig down a bit, saw through some roots and rip it up. Hoe over any seedlings that appear - if you have a wild population sending seeds into your garden each year, this will just be one of those chores.

Ashridge Trees - Boxwood Plants More about Box

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Buxus sempervirens  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.