Hedging Guide: Alternatives To Box Hedging

Box (Buxus Sempervirens) hedging is extremely popular throughout many gardens around the country. Primarily loved for their dense, bushy appearance and low maintenance nature, Buxus is perfect for low/formal hedges. 

That being said, Box can be somewhat prone to something called Box blight, which can be a major issue for those looking to plant a lot of it. Box Blight causes the leaves on the plant to turn an orangey-yellow colour, before turning completely brown and falling off the bush. This then ends up leaving nasty and unsightly bare patches throughout the hedge. If it gets too out of hand, your Buxus plants will then have to be removed completely. 

Therefore, if wanting to avoid the risk of facing of Box Blight, or you just want something a little different but with similar characteristics, then here are some ideal options:

Japanese Holly (Ilex Crenata)

Ilex Crenata is an ideal alternative to Buxus, due to it being so similar in nature (even though it is a type of holly), as well as having added benefits. It is resistant to Box Blight, regenerates from old wood (meaning you can re-shape it easily if its been neglected for a while), and do not get leaf scorch when pruned. As well as this, Japanese Holly is slightly more adaptable to tougher conditions than Box, making it great for colder areas.

You can easily keep Ilex Crenata as a small, neat hedge or make it part of a lovely edging to a border/path. You could even consider growing it to be a bit higher (around 1m tall), and trim to a topiary shape.

It's good to note that Ilex Crenata will tolerate full shade and urban pollution, too!

Shrubby Honeysuckle (Lonicera Nitida)

Having such packed, tiny leaves on long stems makes Shrubby Honeysuckle a very full an dense species of hedging. Lonicera Nitida, if you're lucky, can also boast tiny, scented, creamy-white flowers which develop into purple-blue berries during autumn (this is more likely to happen when you've had a good summer).

Though a lot of people may not recognise the name, Shrubby Honeysuckle is a very popular hedging species, with a very similar appearance to Box, making it a great alternative if you're suffering from Box Blight.

Evergreen Barberry (Berberis Stenophylla)

Berberis Stenophylla, or commonly known as Evergreen Barberry, produces little, dark green leaves (with a leathery feel to them), held onto elegant, arching branches. Pleasantly fragranced, yellow flowers in the shape of cups cover the stems in spring, and then in autumn, are followed with bunches of blue/black berries, which the birds love.

Different wildlife species also particularly love the prickly thorns and dense, bushy leaves, as they can easily turn it into a roosting, nesting, and hiding place to settle down in. And of course, the flowers are greatly loved by the bees!

Whilst thriving best in sunny conditions, Berberis Stenophylla will also tolerate full shade. The plant will grow well in any soil type and situation, as long as it's not faced with harsh winds or a wet site. Other than this, Evergreen Barberry is an average growing plant, which is fairly easy to look after and will give colour/interest year-round. 

Burkwood Osmanthus (osmanthus x burkwoodii)

With its finely toothed, evergreen foliage, Osmanthus is a brilliant alternative to Buxus. Like a lot of white flowering shrubs, Osmanthus x Burkwoodii has a gorgeous fragrance which can travel a far distance, making it ideal for planting near the house, on the patio, or on your balcony! 

In terms of wanting more flowers the following year, we recommend trimming the hedge/shrub after it has finished flowering. This encourages new and increased growth.

Though it is easily kept to a low height, Burkwood Osmanthus can reach up to 3m tall, with its fairly average growth rate. The plant is not particular about its soil type, but should always be moist, and not exposed to any East/North winds which can easily damage the leaves.

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead')

English Lavender is loved for its stunning shrubbery that's easy to grow, has a compact nature, and is very hardy. The plant looks perfect in any English cottage garden, countryside site, or even as a potted specimen!

Lavender is often used to get rid of pests, as the scent coming from the flowers, stems and leaves, can easily deter them. The plant can be used in many ways in cooking, too, and can easily be used as a substitute to Rosemary. 

English Lavender flowers bloom from May/June through to August, in which plenty of bees, butterflies and other insects/pollinators are attracted to. Saying that, if you love to see a bit of wildlife in your garden, this makes Lavandula 'Munstead' the perfect alternative to Box hedging. Being an evergreen, you will be provided with year-round interest, too!

We recommend planting English Lavender in a sunny position and in free-draining soil. It's important to note that the plant does not like very wet or shady conditions, especially in very cold temperatures. It can, however, grow very easily in containers/gravel/planters.

Purple Barberry (Berberis thunbergii 'Atropurpurea')

Berberis thunbergii 'Atropurpurea' is a deciduous, slow-growing hedge, sitting at around 10-20cm per annum, making it the perfect choice when looking for a low, prickly hedge, which offers an abundance of colour throughout the year - if suffering from Box Blight, then this could definitely be the choice for you! It's especially useful when looking to create a colourful border or edging to paths, too, considering its leaves give off a lovely, attractive, purple-red glow when caught in the sun.

As the season goes on, be ready to then welcome wildlife to your garden with Purple Berberis, as the orange berries which deepen into red are seen as a wonderful treat to birds.

Berberis thunbergii is a hardy, but easy-to-grow plant, which can tolerate many soils and sites (even coastal). It will, however, always prefer a sunny or partially shaded area, as this helps the plant to provide its best colour and thrive best. It's a great, low maintenance hedging species which can easily be kept to around 1m tall (due to its slow growth rate), hence we recommend it as an alternative to Buxus!