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Do Korean Boxwoods Smell? What You Need To Know

Do Korean Boxwoods Smell? What You Need To Know

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Willie Moore
Latest posts by Willie Moore (see all)

Are you considering rearranging your garden and adding some new plants to your assortment? Korean boxwoods would make an excellent addition, but you might be concerned about the smell they are rumored to have. So, do Korean boxwoods really smell?

Korean boxwoods can emit a foul order similar to cat urine when exposed to a lot of constant sunlight, resulting in an oily, smelly substance coming out of the leaves. Boxwoods are sensitive to very moist soil, which can cause fungus or root rot and a foul odor.

This article discusses what Korean boxwoods smell like and why. I’ll also discuss the scent differences with other boxwood types, like the English, Japanese, and Dee Runk boxwood. Let’s get started! 

What Do Korean Boxwoods Smell Like (and Why)?

Korean boxwoods can smell like cat urine. The smell is caused by direct sunlight, which heats the oils in the plant’s leaves and emits an odor. The smell is the most pungent during the spring or if you live in a warm climate. Sometimes the smell can be due to bad soil. 

“Cat urine” is the most common description of the smell that Korean boxwoods emit in the spring or in direct sunlight. However, some people describe the smell as woody, fishy, resinous, or ammonia-like

I’ll discuss the reasons Korean boxwoods can smell like urine in more detail below: 

Sun Exposure

Young Korean boxwood leaves contain growth-promoting oils during the spring when plant development is at its peak. When direct sunlight comes into contact with the boxwood’s leaves, they emit an unpleasant-smelling odor. 

Thankfully, the terrible smell decreases in the summer and is less noticeable at night. 

Decomposing Soil

Decomposing soil can smell horrible. A boxwood’s soil should drain well because too much moisture sitting in the soil can cause the roots to rot.

Root rot also causes a nasty smell and is diagnosable by inspecting the boxwood’s roots. If the roots appear soft and darker, there’s a good chance the plant has root rot.  

Too much moisture can also cause fungus to grow and emit an intense and foul smell. The smell of fungus is closer to that of smelly fish, which could be even more of a nuisance in your garden (source).

Both root rot and fungus in the soil can kill your boxwood if you don’t do anything about it as soon as you notice a problem.

Which Boxwoods Smell the Most?

Some boxwoods smell worse than others, so if you’re thinking about planting some in your garden, you should choose the type wisely and avoid picking the ones that are more prone to emitting an unpleasant smell.

Let’s take a look at how some common boxwood varieties smell:  

  • English Boxwood: English boxwoods typically smell the most. This is the riskiest boxwood variety to plant if you don’t want a bad smell. If you want to avoid any possible issues, it’s best to opt out of buying an English boxwood.
  • Green Beauty (Japanese Boxwood): According to Lawn Care Lessons, Green Beauty is one of the boxwoods that doesn’t usually smell unpleasant. However, the plant can still start to smell bad if you don’t take good care of the soil or if you plant them in an area that is exposed to a lot of sunlight and heat throughout the day.
  • Dee Runk Boxwood: Dee Runk is another boxwood species that doesn’t smell as much as English boxwoods. Dee Runk is an American boxwood variation. 

What Can I Do About the Smell?

When you understand where the scent comes from and what causes it, there are ways to avoid the smell of cat urine:

Grow Your Korean Boxwoods in the Shade

Boxwoods don’t need total sun exposure. According to SFGate, a partly shaded area is perfect for your boxwood. If your boxwood isn’t fully exposed to sunlight, it won’t start releasing the substance that smells horrible.

The best place to plant your boxwood in the garden is the area that catches the sunlight in the morning hours or before noon when it gets hotter. Your boxwood will get the sunlight it needs to grow and thrive, but the plant won’t burn and release a foul odor. 

Boxwoods can even survive in full shade, but they won’t look too great if they never receive any sunlight. Photosynthesis is necessary for plants to grow strong and healthy. It will also make them look their best and upgrade your garden.

Take Care of The Soil

Neglecting your soil can cause a stench, so the obvious solution is to take great care of it. This problem is perfectly preventable if you’re willing to spend some time taking care of your plants.

Drainage is the most important aspect of boxwood soil. You shouldn’t use soil with too much clay because clay particles absorb a lot of water and constantly keep the soil moist. 

Silt in the soil also absorbs quite a lot of water, but not as much as clay. Plants that would thrive in silt-rich soil are pepper plants.

A more considerable amount of sand in the soil is the way to go. Sand doesn’t absorb much water, and it allows a lot of air to circulate through the soil because the particles are larger than clay. 

You can also add a tiny amount of cinnamon oil to the soil to make it smell better and prevent fungus from growing.

Choose The Location of Your Korean Boxwoods Strategically

If you love the look of Korean boxwoods and want to find a way to keep them in your garden while limiting their foul smell, carefully consider where you plant them. 

Far corners of your garden or places where people don’t typically walk past are excellent considerations. On the flip side, avoid planting them next to your front door or alongside your patio. 

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Korean boxwoods can smell because of over-exposure to sunlight. This can make them ‘perspire’ an oily substance from their leaves that can smell horrible and make you regret planting boxwoods. English boxwoods are the most susceptible to this phenomenon.

The awful smell can also come from the soil when it’s too moist at all times, and the roots have started to rot. This can also cause fungus to grow in the soil, and that would cause a more fishy smell around your boxwoods. 

Avoiding over-exposure to sunlight and using well-drained soil is how you prevent an awful smell.

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