Green Gem Boxwood vs Winter Gem: Comparative Analysis and Care Tips

Comparing the green gem boxwood and winter gem reveals unique characteristics that set them apart in terms of growth, care, and landscape use.

Green Gem and Winter Gem are two popular varieties of boxwood, each with its unique characteristics that make them suitable for different gardening needs.

The Green Gem boxwood is known for its naturally round shape and robust resistance to winter burn, while the Winter Gem boxwood stands out due to its fast growth rate and ability to retain a vibrant green color throughout the winter.

This article delves into the nuances of these two boxwood varieties, comparing their growth habits, maintenance requirements, and overall aesthetics.

By the end, you will have all the information you need to decide which boxwood, Green Gem or Winter Gem, is the right choice for your garden.

Key takeaways:

  • Green Gem and Winter Gem have distinct hardiness zones.
  • Green Gem stays compact, Winter Gem grows taller.
  • Green Gem has consistent dark green foliage, Winter Gem changes color.
  • Winter Gem requires more frequent pruning.
  • Green Gem has better tolerance for dry conditions.

Comparison of Green Gem Boxwood and Winter Gem Boxwood

green gem boxwood vs winter gem

Green Gem and Winter Gem Boxwoods, both hailing from the group of plants known as Buxus Microphylla, have distinct features setting them apart. One of the primary factors is their hardiness zones. The Green Gem is suited for Zones 4-9, tolerating colder climates better than its counterpart, while the Winter Gem thrives in Zones 5-9, preferring a milder climate.

Size differentiates the two as well. Green Gems usually remain compact, reaching a height and spread of 2-4 feet, providing an excellent choice for small hedges or border accents. Winter Gems, on the other hand, mature to a larger 4-6 feet in height and spread, proving ideal for creating tall hedges or privacy screens.

Both cultivars are enjoyed for their evergreen foliage. However, their leaf color varies across seasons. Green Gems maintain a more consistent dark green year-round, while Winter Gems exhibit a bright green during the growing season, shifting to a bronze hue in the winter months.

Moreover, each boxwood cultivar has its unique growth rate and overall form. Winter Gem, with faster growth, requires yearly pruning to maintain its rounded shape. In contrast, the slower-growing Green Gem naturally takes on a ball-like form requiring less frequent trimming.

Even though both cultivars have impressive drought tolerance once established, their watering needs slightly differ. Winter Gem requires more consistent moisture, especially in extreme heat, while Green Gem exhibits greater tolerance for dry conditions.

Origins of Green Gem Boxwood and Winter Gem Boxwood

Both Green Gem and Winter Gem boxwoods are hybrids, part of the Buxus microphylla (Littleleaf) species, originating from Asia. Their development was part of the Sheridan Green Series at the Sheridan Nurseries in Canada. They were specially bred for their high resilience and adaptability, with the goal to survive harsh winters better than common varieties.

The Green Gem was the result of crossing the Littleleaf Boxwood (Buxus microphylla) with the English Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), while the Winter Gem is a cultivar of Buxus microphylla buxus sinesis (synonymous with Buxus microphylla var. koreana) or the Korean Boxwood, a hardier species with a reputation for winter resistance. Thus, these boxwoods are well-equipped for different climates and conditions.

Foliage Differences Between Green Gem and Winter Gem Boxwoods

Both boxwoods have eponymously verdant foliage, but that’s where the similarities end. The Green Gem, a hybrid of the Korean and English boxwoods, sports small, glossy leaves, darker in green, staying vibrant all year round. This resilient plant maintains its lush color even in harsh winter conditions, visually adding to its hardy personality.

Contrastingly, the Winter Gem is synonymous with versatility and transformation. Its leaves, slightly larger than its Green Gem counterpart, have a lighter, more vibrant shade of green during the growing season. It’s in winter that the Winter Gem lives up to its name, with the foliage undergoing a captivating transformation into a bronze-brown shade, returning to its radiant green once spring arrives. This chameleon-like change makes it a distinctive choice for a four-season landscape.

Floral Characteristics of Green Gem and Winter Gem Boxwoods

Both varieties produce flowers although they’re not generally grown for their blossoms. Green Gem Boxwood blooms tend to be lightly fragrant, small and pale green while the Winter Gem’s flowers have a similar form and size but lean more towards a creamy yellow hue. Neither of them exhibit the vivacity of showy blooms making their floral display rather understated and subtle. This subdued floral aesthetic allows more emphasis on their dense, lush foliage which is the key highlight of these plants. In short, while not renowned for their bloom, both have a refined, discreet flower display that complements their verdant foliage.

Cultivation: How to Grow Green Gem Boxwood and Winter Gem Boxwood

Green Gem and Winter Gem Boxwoods are highly adaptable, thriving in a variety of soil types, including clay, loamy, or sandy soils. Ensuring the soil is well-drained is vital to prevent the roots from becoming waterlogged and succumbing to root rot.

Both Green Gem and Winter Gem Boxwoods flourish in areas receiving full sun to partial shade. They, however, might require protection from harsh, burning afternoon sun during summer months.

When planting, leave ample space between the plants to improve air circulation and deter the spread of diseases. Use mulch to maintain moisture levels and to keep the soil temperature regulated.

Regular pruning isn’t a requirement, but it can help in maintaining the plant’s shape.

For optimal growth, fertilize the boxwoods annually with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer. But avoid over-fertilizing, as it leads to excessive growth which in turn invites more diseases.

Water the boxwoods regularly, especially during dry spells, to keep them healthy and vibrant. Adequate watering is also essential during the winter months to prevent desiccation. Despite their hardiness, care needs to be taken to protect these plants from severe wind and snow.

Remember, the key to successful cultivation of both Green Gem and Winter Gem Boxwoods lies in understanding their needs and providing a conducive environment for their growth.

Performance: Green Gem Boxwood Versus Winter Gem Boxwood

Both boxwoods are resilient, arguably more so than most other plants. The Green Gem Boxwood is particularly adept at tolerating harsh winters, making it a popular choice for colder climates. It can maintain its deep green color even under heavy snow cover demonstrating incredible resistance.

On the other hand, the Winter Gem Boxwood, while also hardy, is better suited for moderate climates. It offers a nice, compact size and can also manage different soil types. However, very cold winters can slightly bronze the shrub’s leaves. Yet, come spring, the Winter Gem returns to its usual vibrant green.

Both specimens are prone to certain pests like boxwood leaf miners and boxwood psyllids but they can fight off diseases rather well, especially with proper care and attention. Remember, their performance is largely dependent on the conditions you provide. So, make sure to consider your regional climate, soil condition and care routine when picking one over the other.

Determining the Suitable Boxwood: Green Gem or Winter Gem

When identifying the right fit for your landscape, several factors come into play. Both the Green Gem and Winter Gem possess unique traits that make each desirable in their own respect.

Firstly, consider your region’s climate. If you live in an area prone to harsh winters, the Winter Gem can be a more favorable choice due to its superb cold hardiness. This variety is renowned for withstanding lower temperatures while maintaining a vibrant green hue.

Meanwhile, the Green Gem shines in its dense, rounded growth which requires minimal pruning. For those seeking a low-maintenance addition that provides a consistent, year-round green, the Green Gem may be the better candidate.

The size of your garden is another crucial determinant. Green Gem’s compact nature is ideal for smaller spaces or where intricate landscaping is desired. Conversely, the slightly larger Winter Gem can be better equipped for filling more spacious areas.

Finally, the soil type in your garden plays a role. Both varieties are fairly adaptable, but the Winter Gem tends to tolerate a wider range of soil conditions than the Green Gem.

In the end, both boxwoods bring their charm and utility. By taking into account your specific circumstances, you can leverage the strengths of each variety to beautify and personalize your garden.


Does green gem boxwood stay green in winter?

Yes, the Green Gem Boxwood retains its green color throughout the winter season.

Which type of boxwood is best?

The best type of boxwood largely depends on your needs and location; 'Franklin's Gem', 'Green Gem', and 'Green Mound' are great for low hedges or balls, Japanese and American boxwood best suit warmer states, while 'Green Velvet' is suitable for general-purpose hedging or as a specimen variety.

Is Green Gem a good boxwood?

Yes, Green Gem is a good boxwood due to its compact size, ability to provide winter interest with its dark glossy leaves, and resistance to rabbits and deer.

Which boxwood is best in the winter?

The best boxwoods for winter are 'Wintergreen', 'Green Velvet', 'Green Mountain', and 'Glencoe' as they retain their green color throughout this season.

How does the growth rate of the Green Gem compare to the Winter Gem boxwood?

The growth rate of the Green Gem boxwood is slower compared to the Winter Gem boxwood, which tends to grow at a faster pace.

What are some common diseases and pests that affect these types of boxwoods?

Common diseases that plague boxwoods include root rot, macrophoma leaf spot, and boxwood blight, while typical pests are the boxwood leafminer, the boxwood mite, and the boxwood psyllid.

Where is the optimum planting location for both Green Gem and Winter Gem boxwood?

The optimum planting location for both Green Gem and Winter Gem boxwood is a spot with well-drained soil and partial to full sun exposure.