Buxus sinica var. insularis 'Winter Gem'

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 9 Professionals
Common Name: Korean boxwood
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Buxaceae
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: Yellowish-green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer


Best grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Prefers sun-dappled part shade and moist, sandy loams with a slightly acidic to slightly alkaline pH. Tolerant of pruning and shearing. Avoid cultivating around plants because they have shallow roots. Roots appreciate a good mulch (1-2 "). Thin plants and remove dead/damaged branches annually to improve air circulation. In USDA Zone 5, this boxwood is best sited in a sheltered location which protects it in winter from strong winds and full sun. Carefully remove heavy snow accumulations from plants as quickly as practicable to minimize stem/branch damage. Among the various types of boxwoods, Korean boxwoods are generally noted for having the best winter hardiness and are good selections for the St. Louis area.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Buxus sinica var. insularis, commonly called Korean littleleaf boxwood, is a dense, compact, many-branched, broad, mounded evergreen shrub with a loose and open habit. A slow grower (to 1.5" per year) which is typically grown as a 2-2.5' tall shrub with a larger spread, but which can reach 5' tall after 25 years if not pruned lower. An extremely hardy variety that is a good choice for northern climates. Apetalous, greenish yellow flowers (separate male and female flowers on the same plant) appear in spring. Flowers are sparse and insignificant, but quite fragrant. Small, ovate, light yellowish green to medium green leaves (to 3/4" long). Formerly known as and sometimes still sold as Buxus microphylla var. koreana.

Genus name comes from the Latin name for plants in this genus.

Specific epithet means Chinese.

Common name of boxwood is in reference to the prior use of the wood to make boxes. Another theory on common name is that boxwood describes the quadrangular (square box cross section) stems of young plants.

‘Winter Gem’ is a Korean boxwood that typically matures to 2-3’ tall and as wide. Synonymous with and sometimes sold in commerce as Buxus microphylla var. japonica ‘Winter Gem’ or Buxus microphylla var. koreana ‘Winter Gem.’


Boxwoods can be somewhat temperamental plants to grow in the St. Louis area where foliage tends to bronze (turn unattractive brownish yellow) in harsh winters, particularly if plants are located in open areas exposed to winter winds. Otherwise, requires little care other than pruning. Some susceptibility to blight and leaf spots. Root rot can be a problem in poorly drained soils. Shows good resistance to the three main insect pests of boxwood (leaf miner, psyllids and mites).

‘Winter Gem’ is noted for its ability to retain good green foliage throughout winter.

Garden Uses

Small hedge or mass as a ground cover. Also useful as specimens or in small groups in a variety of landscape applications including shrub borders or foundation plantings. Bonsai plant.