Sprinter Boxwood vs Winter Gem: In-depth Comparison and Care Guide

Exploring the key differences and unique characteristics of Sprinter Boxwood and Winter Gem can guide you in making informed decisions for your garden landscape.

Distinguishing between Sprinter Boxwood and Winter Gem can be a challenge, given their similar appearance and growth habits. However, subtle differences set them apart.

Sprinter Boxwood, scientifically known as Buxus microphylla ‘Bulthouse’, is renowned for its rapid growth rate, hence the name ‘Sprinter’. It boasts a rich, glossy foliage that remains vibrant throughout the year.

On the other hand, Winter Gem, or Buxus microphylla japonica ‘Winter Gem’, is known for its resilience in winter, maintaining its lush green color even in colder temperatures.

This article will delve into the specifics of these two varieties, including their growth rates, size, care requirements, and more, providing you with all the information you need to make an informed decision.

Key takeaways:

  • Sprinter Boxwood grows rapidly, while Winter Gem has a slower growth rate.
  • Sprinter Boxwood is known for its vibrant foliage, while Winter Gem maintains its green color in colder temperatures.
  • Sprinter Boxwood reaches heights of 2-4 feet, while Winter Gem reaches 2-3 feet.
  • Sprinter Boxwood is ideal for privacy hedges, while Winter Gem is perfect for garden borders.
  • Both varieties thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5-9

Sprinter Boxwood and Winter Gem: A Comparison

sprinter boxwood vs winter gem

Emerging from the same botanical family, Buxus, both Sprinter and Winter Gem boxwoods hold significant popularity among garden enthusiasts due to their evergreen nature and attractive, compact forms.

The Sprinter variant, with its fast growth rate, rapidly forms a lush green backdrop in any landscape, while the Winter Gem stays true to its name, demonstrating an impressive endurance to harsh winter conditions by retaining a vibrant green hue throughout.

Both species are known for their adaptable nature, thriving in a wide range of soils. Their elegant, dense foliage offers a distinct aesthetic appeal, while also serving the practical purpose of providing year-round screening.

However, the differences between the two become more apparent when we delve deeper. Sprinter Boxwoods significantly outpace the growth of their Winter Gem counterparts, maturing quickly to heights of 2-4 feet. Conversely, the Winter Gem is appreciated for its slow but steady growth, reaching a potential height of 2-3 feet over time.

Gardeners often choose based on the particular needs of their landscapes, with Sprinter lending itself to quicker privacy hedge establishment, or a speedy pop of green in new gardens, while the Winter Gem is a patient gem, trodding along to eventually form perfect, thick garden borders or focal points.

Disparities Between Sprinter Boxwood and Winter Gem

While both types of boxwood thrive under similar conditions, there remain notable contrasts. Sprinter Boxwood, typically faster-growing, establishes itself more rapidly in your garden, hence the name. It outpaces the Winter Gem when it comes to attractive year-round evergreen color, maintaining its vibrant green appearance during the colder season.

On the other hand, Winter Gem is less compact in shape, often taking a looser, more natural form compared to the more uniform Sprinter. This could be particularly appealing to garden enthusiasts who prefer a less manicured look. It offers a rich, deep green set against the Sprinter’s lighter shade.

Lastly, Winter Gem Boxwood has been noted for its remarkable tolerance to frost, which could be pivotal for gardeners in cooler growing zones. Therefore, although these boxwood variants share similarities in appearance and basic care needs, their disparities influence their specific uses in your yard or landscaping project.

Origins of Sprinter Boxwood and Winter Gem

While both Sprinter Boxwood and Winter Gem belong to the Buxus genus, their varieties have different origins. The Sprinter Boxwood, Buxus ‘Bulthouse’, is a relatively new variety bred in Michigan, USA, known for its fast growth and hardiness. This particular type of boxwood, suitable for both formal and informal gardens, exhibits year-round dark green foliage and a dense branching habit.

In contrast, the Winter Gem, Buxus microphylla var. japonica ‘Winter Gem’, traces its roots to Japan. Recognized for its exceptional tolerance to winter cold, this hardy variant stands out with its bright green, round-shaped, small leaves. Its ability to retain its lushness through the winter makes it an admired choice for hedges and borders.

Overall, both these boxwood varieties bring unique traits to the landscape, their contrasting origins contributing significantly to their individual strengths and aesthetics.

Foliage of Sprinter Boxwood Versus Winter Gem

The Spring Boxwood boasts a vibrant green hue that transcends seasons, retaining its sharp color even under snow. Its small, glossy leaves are tightly packed, contributing to its dense and compelling appearance that gives any garden a polished look.

On the other hand, the Winter Gem exhibits a darker, more nuanced tone of green, bringing a warm depth to colder landscapes. Its leaves bear a similar glossy appearance but are slightly larger than those of the Sprinter. In the colder months, expect it to evolve into a rich, bronzed green that lends an understated elegance to wintery scenes.

Flowering Characteristics of Sprinter Boxwood and Winter Gem

Both varieties differ considerably in their flowering characteristics. Sprinter Boxwood, although not widely known for its flowers, does produce small, faintly fragrant white blooms in the spring. Their insignificant look often melds them into the lush greenery, unnoticed by many observers.

Winter Gem boxwood, on the other hand, offers a subtly different spectacle. Like its counterpart, it also generates understated white flowers, though slightly larger and marginally more noticeable. Blooms here arrive a bit later, typically appearing from late spring into early summer.

In both cases, these tiny flowers give way to small, ornamental fruit, adding another layer of nature’s intrigue to these standout shrubberies. It is important to note that neither of the varieties depend on their floral show for their visual appeal; their consistent greenery throughout the year is their main drawcard.

Year-round Color Retention in Boxwoods

Both variants retain their vibrant green hue throughout the colder months, exhibiting superior evergreen characteristics. Unlike others in the Buxus family, they resist browning or bronzing despite harsh winter weather.

Maintaining their color contributes to the aesthetic appeal of the garden all year round. This is highlighted when the deep green leaves become a stark contrast against white winter landscapes. The intensity of the hue can vary, with the Sprinter Boxbox often displaying a brighter green compared to the darker tones of the Winter Gem.

Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on your personal preference and the existing color palette of your garden.

Growing Zones Appropriate for Boxwoods

Both Sprinter Boxwood and Winter Gem thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5-9. As the name suggests, Winter Gem is more tolerant of colder climates than the Sprinter, performing well even in Zone 4. Cultivation across this rather wide range of growing zones is mainly due to their ability to resist severe winter temperatures.

Although they can sustain cold weather, they hate heat stress. Both types of Boxwood require partial to full sun exposure for optimal growth. However, providing some shade in the hottest part of the day, particularly in regions with lower hardiness zones, can prevent leaf scorch. It’s also essential to plant them in well-drained soils since they are susceptible to root rot.

Remember that regardless of hardiness zone, wind protection is a crucial factor in the health and appearance of your Boxwood.

Height Potential of Sprinter Boxwood and Winter Gem

Sprinter boxwoods enjoy a rapid growth pace, reaching 2 – 4 feet in both height and width. The ideal condition for this plant involves unfettered growth where it rapidly matures and forms a neat, rounded shape.

On the other hand, Winter Gem typically attains an ultimate height and width of 4 – 6 feet under optimal growing conditions, given its relatively slower growth rate. This makes it an ideal option for those seeking a slightly taller hedge or privacy screen in their landscape.

However, with regular pruning and maintenance, both varieties can be kept at a more manageable size to suit gardeners’ preferences.

Toxicity of Boxwoods to Dogs

While the boxwood family is usually a safe and visually appealing choice for landscaping, they harbor a toxic side that dog owners should be aware of. Boxwood plants, including Sprinter and Winter Gem varieties, contain alkaloids that are poisonous to dogs if ingested.

When exposed, symptoms in dogs can show up quickly or may be delayed, making it important for dog owners to stay vigilant. Look out for signs of poisoning such as diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, and abdominal pain. More severe symptoms include tremors, seizure, and, in rare cases, can lead to death.

In any case of suspected ingestion, immediate action is key. Remove any remaining plant matter from the affected dog’s mouth and consult your local vet or the Pet Poison Helpline immediately. It’s not recommended to induce vomiting without professional instruction due to the risk of aspirated pneumonia. Prevention is the best medicine, so training your dogs not to eat these plants is paramount. Protection can be enhanced by planting boxwoods out of dogs’ reach or opting for pet-friendly shrubs.

Cultivating Sprinter Boxwood and Winter Gem

Both of these boxwood varieties favor well-drained soils, rich in organic matter. They can tolerate full sun to part shade conditions, though the winter gem shows a slight preference for a little afternoon shade, especially in the hotter parts of its range.

Plant them in a hole twice as wide and almost the same depth as the root ball. After placing the shrub, backfill the hole with the removed soil and a compost mix, ensuring the top of the root ball is level with or slightly above the surrounding soil to promote good drainage.

They are moderate to heavy feeders, so a slow-release, balanced fertilizer applied in early spring and late summer will support lush growth and dense foliage. Mulching helps maintain soil moisture while suppressing weed growth.

In areas prone to intense winters, consider wrapping the shrubs in burlap to prevent winter burn. Regular watering throughout the year, but particularly during dry spells, helps them stay vibrant and resilient. Regular monitoring for pests, such as boxwood blight or leaf miners, helps maintain plant health.

Despite having slightly different preferences, both types thrive under similar care, showcasing their full flourish when given appropriate attention.

Pruning Techniques for Boxwoods

Proper pruning enhances the health, shape, and growth of your Boxwood. Begin pruning in early spring, before the shrub initiates its new growth. Typically, it’s best to prune a young shrub lightly to maintain its attractive natural form. As the shrub matures, harder pruning may be required.

Follow these simple techniques for successful pruning:

  • Identify old, non-productive branches and cut these at the base.
  • Ensure to thin out dense areas in your Boxwood’s core, as it promotes air circulation and reduces potential risks for disease.
  • To maintain a formal shape, use a measured string as a guide. Work your way from the top down and make sure to routinely step back to assess your work.
  • For a natural look, selectively remove branches rather than shearing off the shrub’s outer layer. This will allow sunlight to reach the inner leaves, fostering overall health.
  • Always use sharp pruning tools to make clean cuts which will heal faster.

Remember to not stress if your first attempts don’t result in a perfect shape. Pruning improves with practice and Boxwoods are forgiving shrubs; they regrow fast and can be easily corrected in the following season.


What is the difference between winter gem and boxwood?

The primary difference between winter gem and green velvet boxwood is their size, with the winter gem potentially growing up to six feet in ideal conditions, whereas the green velvet typically reaches a height of four feet.

Does sprinter boxwood stay green in winter?

Yes, the Sprinter boxwood maintains its green color throughout the winter, even in colder climates.

How big do sprinter boxwoods get?

Sprinter boxwoods, when mature, typically reach between 2 to 4 feet in both height and width.

What is the difference between sprinter boxwood and green velvet boxwood?

The difference between Sprinter boxwood and Green Velvet boxwood is that Sprinter boxwood has glossier leaves and a slightly more vibrant color compared to Green Velvet.

How should sprinter boxwoods be cared for in extreme weather conditions?

In extreme weather conditions, sprinter boxwoods should be cared for by providing ample irrigation during dry spells, guarding them with a windbreak in high winds, and shielding them with burlap wraps in intense cold.

What pests or diseases are most common in winter gem boxwoods?

Winter gem boxwoods are commonly affected by pests such as boxwood leafminers and diseases like root rot and boxwood blight.

How quickly does a green velvet boxwood grow compared to a sprinter boxwood?

The Green Velvet Boxwood typically has a slower growth rate, generally achieving 3 to 4 feet in height and width in about 5 to 6 years, whereas the Sprinter Boxwood can reach its mature size of 2-4 feet in height and spread within half the time due to its rapid growth rate.