A question I often hear is 'What is a good alternative for boxwoods?' Many gardeners are frustrated by their boxwoods’ random death and/or browning after years of growing beautifully in the garden.

Winters can take a terrible toll on boxwood. A cold December and January combined with a lack of snow cover can dry and desiccate leaves. Any snow cover that comes later in the season won’t help if the leaves were already exposed to killing temperatures. Plants are especially susceptible to winter damage in temperatures get below -10 degrees Fahrenheit, especially in locations next to pavement or siding of the house with direct sunlight that warms the tissue up too quickly.

Due to our rigorous winters, only a few broadleaf evergreens will survive in Minnesota. Boxwood, rhododendrons, vinca and pachysandra are four common broadleaf evergreens for Zone 4. Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) is typically hardy down to Zone 5.

Some boxwood cultivars are more tolerant of cold temperatures than others. A Korean cross with sempervirens has produced a hardy boxwood to -10 F. Chicagoland Green and Green Velvet are listed as hardy to Zone 4.