Buxus microphylla

Littleleaf Box, Littleleaf Boxwood




  • native to Japan
  • zone 6, to zone 4 with proper cultivar selection

Habit and Form

  • 3' to 4' tall with equal spread
  • evergreen shrub with dense branching
  • compact, rounded or broad habit

Summer Foliage

  • opposite leaves, leathery
  • 0.3 " to 1" ; long, approx. 0.25" wide
  • leaf apex notched
  • medium green color
  • leaves broadest at or above the middle

Autumn Foliage

  • foliage tends to turn yellow-green or brownish in fall and winter
  • evergreen


  • male and female flowers
  • blooms in April, but not showy
  • fragrant and attractive to bees


  • insignificant 3-celled dehiscent capsule


  • new stems green with square shape
  • older stems become brown, but hidden by foliage


  • prefers moist, cool soil with mulch around roots
  • best in site with full sun or light shade, but protect from winter winds, sun and cold.
  • tolerant of pruning
  • provide newly planted shrubs with shade for best establishment
  • best establishment form containers
  • dislikes environmental extremes
  • grows slowly

Landscape Use

  • low hedge plantings
  • foundation plant
  • mass plantings
  • exhibits good deer resistance


  • lack of cold hardiness without proper selection of cultivars
  • boxwood psyllid, boxwood leaf minor, boxwood mite, nematodes and phytophthora root rot can be problems
  • foliar injury during harsh winters
  • foliage turns an unpleasant yellow-green in the cold months, although newer selections are better at retaining dark green foliage
  • slow growth; both a liability and an asset

ID Features

  • opposite leaves distinguish it from Ilex crenata which has alternate leaves
  • small elliptical or rounded leaves with notches in the apex
  • distinctly square green stems
  • dense growth, low habit, evergreen
  • yellowish green leaf color in winter
  • foliage has a distinct odor


  • cuttings root readily


There are numerous cultivars, but the following discussion will be limited to selections with exceptional cold hardiness and/or good green winter foliage color.

var. koreana - An exceptionally cold hardy geographic variety which can take -20 to -25o F without significant injury. Unfortunately, its foliage turns an unpleasant yellow-green or brown in the cold winter months. Grows to 3' tall.

'Sunnyside' - Has large-sized leaves and exceptional cold hardiness. Fast growing to 6' by 6'. Foliage will bronze and yellow some in the winter.

'Winter Beauty' - A mounded form with dark green foliage. Requires little pruning. Will bronze in the winter, but its version of bonzing is considered to be attractive. A var. koreana selection.

'Winter Gem' - A var. koreana selection, growing to 4' tall and wide. Very similar to 'Winter Beauty' and may be a renamed cultivar.

'Wintergreen' - Has bright green leaf color and small leaves. Has performed well in cold climates. Leaves do not discolor in the winter. 2'-3' tall.

B. microphylla var. koreana x B. sempervirens hybrids - (Sheriden hybrids from Sheriden Nursery, Ontario, Canada) Possess cold hardiness of var. koreana and leaf color of sempervirens.

  • 'Green Gem' - 2' by 2' mound or rounded ball
  • 'Green Mountain' - wide oval form, upright 5' tall by 3' wide
  • 'Green Mound' - 3' by 3' mounded habit
  • 'Green Velvet' - 3' by 3' rounded habit

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database, http://hort.uconn.edu/plants, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.