Wintergreen vs Winter Gem Boxwood: Detailed Comparison and Care Guide

Explore the distinctive characteristics and differences between Wintergreen and Winter Gem Boxwoods, two popular plants for year-round greenery.

Wintergreen and Winter Gem boxwoods are two popular shrub varieties that are often compared due to their similar names and characteristics. The Wintergreen boxwood, known scientifically as Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Wintergreen’, is renowned for its cold-hardiness and deep green foliage that remains vibrant even in the chilliest winters.

On the other hand, the Winter Gem boxwood, or Buxus microphylla ‘Winter Gem’, stands out with its rounded growth habit and slightly larger leaves that take on a bronze hue in cold weather.

This article will delve into an in-depth comparison of these two boxwoods, including their growth habits, care requirements, and ideal uses in the landscape.

Stick around to discover which of these boxwoods might be the perfect fit for your garden.

Key takeaways:

  • Winter Gem has lighter green foliage compared to Wintergreen
  • Wintergreen is smaller, reaching 2-4 ft in height, while Winter Gem can grow up to 4-6 ft
  • Wintergem has oval leaves, Wintergreen has elongated leaves
  • Wintergreen is better for colder climates, Winter Gem is more tolerant of warmer climates
  • Wintergreen is ideal for hedges, Winter Gem is versatile for topiary and knot gardens

Identifying the Differences Between Wintergreen and Winter Gem Boxwood

wintergreen vs winter gem boxwood

At first glance, both plants may look quite similar, with their dense, green foliage and rounded shape. However, a closer look will reveal subtle differences. Wintergem boxwood, with its lighter green color, stands out immediately against the darker green of the Wintergreen. While Wintergem adopts a more bronze tone during winter, Wintergreen maintains its vibrant green.

Wintergreen typically grows slower and smaller, reaching a height of about 2-4 feet and a width of 2-5 feet. In contrast, the Wintergem attains a height in the 4-6 feet range and spreads up to 5-7 feet.

For foliage, Wintergem’s leaves have a more blunt, oval shape compared to the sharper, elongated leaves of Wintergreen. Both leave types are glossy but vary in texture; Wintergem possesses a smoother texture on its leaves, while Wintergreen’s are slightly rough to touch.

It’s crucial to understand these distinctive traits to select the most suitable boxwood for your landscape and maintain the plant’s overall health.

Comparative Classification of Wintergreen and Winter Gem Boxwood

Wintergreen boxwoods, also scientifically called Buxus microphylla var. koreana ‘Wintergreen’, are a Korean species, standing out for their rich, dark green foliage all year round. They bloom with light green leaves in the spring, transitioning to an assuredly dark green in the colder months. Their preference for cooler climates illustrates their hardiness against frigid winters, retaining color when other plants may falter.

On the other hand, Winter Gem boxwoods, (Buxus microphylla japonica ‘Winter Gem’), hail from Japan. Marked by their softer, lighter green leaves, these plants undergo a similar phase, beginning their life cycle with a luscious green. As the temperature drops, they adopt a lovely bronze tint. A signature trait of Winter Gems is that they are generally more tolerant of warmer climates than their Korean counterpart, and can withstand heavy pruning quite well.

Distinct in their versatility, both version of boxwoods are commonly used as edging plants, proving their worth in landscape design. With the right care and conditions, both of these boxwoods will grace any space with a delightful splash of color, be it a grand garden or a modest courtyard.

Let’s delve deeper into each of these, commencing with an individual look at the Wintergreen and then shifting our attention to the Winter Gem. We’ll explore their preferential environments, ideal usage, and unique characteristics.

In-depth Description of Wintergreen and Winter Gem Boxwood

Wintergreen boxwood (Buxus microphylla japonica ‘Wintergreen’) is a compact evergreen shrub that exhibits vibrant green foliage and maintains its color even during cold winter months. Its mature height and width are typically between 2-4 feet, making it an ideal choice for low hedges or borders.

On the other hand, Winter Gem boxwood (Buxus microphylla japonica ‘Winter Gem’) offers lush, light green leaves that transition to golden hues when the cold arrives. Its dimensions, ranging from 4-6 feet in both height and width at maturity, are slightly larger than that of the Wintergreen variety, providing a substantial presence in any landscape settings.

Both are cherished assets in the landscaping world, due to their versatility, hardiness, and aesthetic appeal, retaining color and structure throughout the year. They differ mostly in dimensions and the tone of foliage during winter, making them suitable for various design needs and preferences.

Appropriate Uses of Wintergreen and Winter Gem Boxwood

Highly adaptable, Wintergreen Boxwoods excel as foundation plantings, offering year-round greenery that beautifully contrasts with more colorful shrubs. They also make ideal candidates for hedges with their natural resistance to deer, and their cold-hardy nature allows them to tolerate winter shadows, making them ideal for north-facing garden edges.

On the other hand, Winter Gem Boxwoods provide exceptional versatility. Their robust, slow-growth pattern makes them perfect for topiary forms and complex garden design elements. Often utilized in knot garden schemes, they contribute significantly towards creating immersive, regal landscapes. Meanwhile, smaller variants achieve delicate balance in container gardening, maintaining form while yielding soft textures.

Above all, both variants shine in their ability to thrive with minimal care, making them stellar assets in low-maintenance garden plans. With proper pruning, these boxwoods easily fit into any desired shape and aesthetic, bringing vibrancy and lush green hues to landscapes across the year.

Origin and Historical Relevance of Wintergreen and Winter Gem Boxwood

Wintergreen boxwood, scientifically known as Buxus sinica var. insularis, originates from Korea, hence its alternative name, Korean Boxwood. It entered the United States’ horticultural scene in the mid-20th century, gradually gaining popularity for its adaptability and frost tolerance. Thanks to these virtues, it thrives in various climates and conditions, making it a preferred option in hardy landscaping.

In contrast, Winter Gem Boxwood, or Buxus microphylla japonica, is a Japanese native. This variety had established its roots in American gardens long before its Korean cousin. It gained widespread acclaim among garden veterans for its evergreen nature and distinctive round shape. Despite its origin, it, too, displays exceptional cold hardiness.

The introduction of these varieties of boxwoods has enriched the botanical heritage and aesthetic appeal of winter gardening. Their use in traditional gardening, like topiary design, add to their historical relevance, having adorned several historic gardens globally. Each plant has etched a formidable position due to unique characteristics, proving their worth time and again through functionality and aesthetics.

Cultivation and Care Tips for Wintergreen and Winter Gem Boxwood

When considering the upkeep of both Wintergreen and Winter Gem Boxwood, there are some crucial guiding points. Foremost, it’s vital to understand that these plants thrive best in well-draining soil, alleviating strain on the roots and promoting healthier growth. Under-watering can be as detrimental as over-watering; thus, maintaining a balance is essential. A soak-and-dry method is recommended, where the soil is thoroughly watered, then allowed to dry before the next watering.

Second, these plants appreciate sunlight but also tolerate shade. Ensuring they receive about six hours of sunlight daily will bring about optimal results. However, in zones with particularly intense summers, partial afternoon shade may benefit these resilient shrubs. Moreover, it’s necessary to act against potential pests. Regular inspection for common pests like boxwood leafminers, mites and psyllids helps to keep the plants healthy. Utilizing an organic or chemical pesticide, preferably in the early morning or late evening, aids in pest control.

Finally, while both varieties of boxwood are relatively low-maintenance, pruning is advisable to maintain their dense, compact form. This should be done in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. While taking care not to prune too much at once, shaping these shrubs annually encourages fuller, more robust growth. These key considerations will ensure that both your Wintergreen and Winter Gem Boxwood flourish, adding aesthetic value to your garden for years to come.

Unique Characteristics and Special Features of Wintergreen and Winter Gem Boxwood

Wintergreen Boxwood, known scientifically as Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Wintergreen’, exhibits a compact, rounded shape with deep green, glossy leaves that maintain their color throughout winter. The residential landscapes highly value this evergreen shrub for its resistance to boxwood blight and its ability to withstand heavy pruning, making it a top choice for hedges, topiaries, or stand-alone features.

On the other hand, Winter Gem Boxwood, or Buxus microphylla ‘Winter Gem’, presents a slight bronze tone during winter, returning to luscious green in spring. With its ability to tolerate a wide array of soil conditions and greater heat exposures compared to the Wintergreen, the Winter Gem is versatile for landscape usage. However, it’s slightly less resistant to heavy pruning than its counterpart.

Uniquely, Wintergreen Boxwood can readily handle colder temperatures, while Winter Gem Boxwood thrives better in heat. Both types are susceptible to pests like the boxwood leafminer and boxwood mite but respond well to treatment. They are also deer resistant and require similar moderate watering habits, making them suitable choices for a low maintenance landscaping aesthetic.


What are the best winter boxwoods?

The best winter boxwoods, prized for their ability to retain green color throughout most winters, include 'Wintergreen', 'Green Velvet', 'Green Mountain', and 'Glencoe'.

What is the most winter hardy boxwood?

The most winter-hardy boxwood is the Buxus microphylla, closely followed by Buxus sinica var. insularis.

Which is better Japanese boxwood or Wintergreen Boxwood?

Wintergreen Boxwood is superior due to its higher cold tolerance, ability to maintain a vibrant green hue throughout winter, and its inconspicuous, albeit less appealing, yellowish-green flowers.

Is winter gem a good boxwood?

Yes, Winter Gem is an excellent choice of Boxwood.

What are the optimal growing conditions for Wintergreen Boxwood?

The optimal growing conditions for Wintergreen Boxwood are well-drained soil, full sun to partial shade exposure, and cool, humid climate.

How does the Winter Gem Boxwood stand up against pests and diseases?

The Winter Gem Boxwood boasts a high resistance against most pests and diseases, making it a robust and low-maintenance choice for gardeners.

How does the rate of growth compare between the Japanese Boxwood and the Wintergreen Boxwood?

The Wintergreen Boxwood generally grows faster than the Japanese Boxwood.