Boxwood alternative

(Question)

Last year, all of our boxwood hedges died, thanks to the box tree moth that has wreaked havoc in west Toronto and Etobicoke. We lost about 50 plants, and would like to replant something similar. Would love your insights!

(Answer)

Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners. What a tragedy to lose so many boxwoods!

Unfortunately, there aren’t many one-for-one substitutions for boxwood, which is why it’s so widely planted. I have seen Euonymus fortunei closely clipped in a similar way to Buxus, and it was quite effective. Likely, it would need to be pruned for shape more than once a season.

Another option might be an American holly, such as Ilex glabra or inkberry, which is hardy in Southern Ontario. Like boxwood, it is a broad-leaf evergreen but has the advantages of being both a native North American shrub and a berry producer for added garden interest. It works well as a mass planting, but prefers moist soil.

Although this shrub bounces back after occasional hard pruning, the jury is out on whether it can take the place of boxwood in all its clipped forms.

The following links provide more information about Ilex glabra and its plant culture:

http://hort.uconn.edu/detail.php?pid=218

https://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/resource-library/plant-week/inkberry-holly-2-29-08.aspx

I hope this helps you make your choice. Best of luck!