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Are Korean Boxwoods the Same as Wintergreen Boxwoods?

Are Korean Boxwoods the Same as Wintergreen Boxwoods?

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Willie Moore
Latest posts by Willie Moore (see all)

Boxwood is a very popular evergreen used in landscaping that comes in wide varieties. A versatile plant can be found as a small tree, shrub, sculpted hedge, or even in a planter. Some wonder if Korean and wintergreen boxwood is the same species.  

Korean Boxwood is the same as wintergreen boxwood, and the names are used synonymously. This particular species is called “wintergreen” because it is more cold-hardy than other boxwood species, making it a true evergreen even in cooler climates.  

I’ll share some of the most common uses of Korean Boxwood in landscapes today and the conditions under which the species is most likely to thrive. I’ll also pass along some care tips when your Boxwood shows signs of stress or possible disease.  

Buxus Microphylla: The Korean or Wintergreen Boxwood

As the name indicates, Korean Boxwood is a species native to Asia, although China and Taiwan claim it to be native to each country. As is the case with any species that aren’t native to your area, understanding a bit about its properties helps determine where to place it.  

North Carolina State Extension shares that the name “boxwood” is rooted in two facts. First, the fact that wood from the plant was used as a source for carving boxes. Second, the square-ish shape of the plant’s stems gives it its name (source). 

Why Does Buxus Microphylla Go by Several Names?

Buxus microphylla is a particularly hardy species that can survive in many climates and conditions. It will thrive in full to partial sun and moderate to good drainage. So why is Korean Boxwood also known as Wintergreen boxwood?

Buxus microphylla has a slightly smaller leaf that will retain its rich, deep green color year-round. This coloration is where the name Wintergreen comes from. It is an evergreen species insofar as the shrub doesn’t lose its color or leaves during autumn.

Korean/Wintergreen Boxwood is one of the many variants of Buxus microphylla. The parent species is also known as Japanese/Littleleaf Boxwood. Korean Boxwood is often distinguished from other Japanese Boxwood variants by giving it the scientific name Buxus microphylla var. Koreana (source).

See Japanese vs. Korean Boxwood: 7 Differences.

Common Name Versus Scientific Name

Many plants are known by more than one common name. Sometimes, common names are local to a particular area or become popular because they’re used by a nursery. Some common names may even take on a common version of the Latin name.  

What’s most important is knowing the scientific name. This ensures you get the correct plant, regardless of the common name. The first name, Buxus, refers to the genus. The plants in this genus are known as Boxwoods. The second name, Microphylla, refers to the species. This ensures you’re getting a Japanese Boxwood plant rather than, for example, the European Box (Buxus sempervirens). 

The third part of the Korean Boxwood’s scientific name refers to the natural variation within plants. Even plants from the same species are genetically diverse, with different traits (source). As mentioned above, Korean Boxwood is a variant of Japanese Boxwood, and this is distinguished from other Japanese Boxwood variants with the suffix var. Koreana.

Where To Plant Your Korean or Wintergreen Boxwood

There are so many great ways to integrate Buxus microphylla into your landscape. People often erroneously assume Boxwood only fits with a formal landscape design, but there are many traditional and casual applications for using Boxwood around your home.  

Korean or Wintergreen Boxwood can be used as a hedge or a statement shrub in a formal garden. This is actually why Boxwood is so commonly used in gardens. Planted equidistantly apart, Boxwood will grow together and fill in to form a neat, linear border that can be shaped and sized to your liking.  

Knowing this, think about areas you’d like to delineate within your landscaping, and instead of using hardscape, consider using Boxwood to create that natural border or barrier. Boxwood makes a nice, low wall in place of a fence. Since it is evergreen, the boundary is maintained year-round.  

Boxwood also makes a great shade or accent feature at the base of a showcase tree. Boxwood creates a border that gives the tree shape and space within your landscape but has the added benefit of shading the root system and protecting the base of the tree from any species that might be looking for a snack.  

According to Garden Goods Direct, Boxwood is attractive in rural settings because they are deer-resistant (source). Garden Goods also shares some fantastic ideas for how Boxwood can be integrated into your landscape, including using them as foundation plants to hide bare cement or utility features that may detract from your curb appeal.  

Best Conditions for Korean or Wintergreen Boxwood

Boxwood is a very hardy plant that thrives under a variety of conditions. Korean or Wintergreen Boxwood is no exception. Better Homes and Gardens shares that Boxwood succeeds in planting zones 5 to 9, with certain ideal planting conditions contributing to their success (source).  

In general, Boxwood prefers partial to full sun conditions. They like regular watering but can’t tolerate soggy roots for long. As such, find a place where the soil drains quickly to prevent root rot. You can amend the soil to add sand or fill to allow quick drainage when necessary.  

Boxwood Care When Plants Show Signs of Stress

Boxwood is generally a tough species, but the plant can show subtle and not-so-subtle signs of stress under some conditions. Clemson Cooperative Extension shares that if leaves start to show brown, it’s a sign that something is causing pressure on the plant (source).  

Most common in Boxwood are root rot and blight, although some pest species are problematic for Boxwood. More often than not, disease and stress can be tied back to overwatering or poorly draining soil.  

The issue is often exacerbated when people see brown because they think the plant needs more water. If you see brown on your Boxwood, resist the urge to set a sprinkler on high near the plant and do some research as to what may be causing the plant stress first.  

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a hardy evergreen that requires minimal care, stays beautiful year-round, and isn’t susceptible to problems when conditions change, consider adding Korean or Wintergreen Boxwood to your garden. Whether used as a hedge, a topiary, or a planter box, this simple, low-maintenance plant can add so much color and beauty to your landscape.

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