Boxwood’s adaptable nature and great ability to withstand pruning make it ideal for shaping into various garden forms, making it a favorite among topiary enthusiasts. Today, we’re going to look at two well-liked boxwood varieties: Green Velvet and Winter Gem.
Green Velvet’s leaves are a lighter shade of green compared to Winter Gem’s darker and shinier leaves. Also, Green Velvet leaves have a pointed tip. Size-wise, Green Velvet can grow to be 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, while Winter Gem typically reaches a height and width of 4 to 6 feet.
|Green Velvet Boxwood
|Winter Gem Boxwood
|USDA Hardiness zone
|4-6′ (1.2-1.8 m)
|4′ (1.2 m)
|partial shade, full sun
|partial shade, full sun
|1 time per week in a drought
|1 time per week in a drought
Size and shape
Green Velvet reaches a mature height of 3 feet, with its width matching its height. Its branches spread more horizontally. With proper light, water, and fertilizer, it can grow up to 4 feet in both width and height.
Winter Gem typically surpasses 4 feet in height and can even grow up to 6 feet. Its branches grow more upwards, though not completely vertical. This gives Winter Gem a somewhat elongated or wide-columnar shape, in contrast to Green Velvet’s spherical or pyramidal form.
Another difference is their growth rates. Winter Gem grows about 2 to 3 inches annually, while Green Velvet’s growth is slower, at 1 to 2 inches per year.
Green Velvet’s rounded shape and slower growth make it more suitable as a specimen plant or for low hedges. Winter Gem is ideal for taller hedges due to its faster growth and slightly wider spread. The wider the plants, the fewer you need to form a hedge.
The most noticeable difference between these plants is their leaf shape. Winter Gem’s leaves are about half an inch long, rounded, with the leaf’s width nearly matching its length. The tips are blunt, resembling the ear of a mouse.
In contrast, Green Velvet’s leaves are more elongated, about an inch long and half an inch wide, making them appear narrower than Winter Gem’s. The tips of these leaves are slightly pointed.
Color is another key difference. Green Velvet’s leaves are a light, slightly pale green, not too bright. The leaves change color throughout the season, starting off as a yellowish-green when young.
On the other hand, Winter Gem boasts a deeper green color with a more noticeable gloss. Unlike many boxwoods that turn brownish-green in winter, Winter Gem maintains its dark green hue throughout the colder months.
Both Winter Gem and Green Velvet boxwoods have similar sun requirements. Winter Gem, with its type of foliage, can handle a bit more shade. However, it still needs at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
In USDA hardiness zones 5-6, it’s ideal for boxwood to receive around 8-10 hours of direct sunlight. This means they can be planted in full sun in these cooler climates.
In warmer regions, like zone 9 in the southern United States, partial shade is beneficial. Here, 12 hours of direct sunlight might be too intense for boxwoods. So, in these warmer areas, planting them in partial shade is a good idea.
Both Green Velvet and Winter Gem Boxwoods are versatile when it comes to soil types, thriving in both clay and sandy soils. The key is to ensure there’s no waterlogging near the roots to prevent root rot. If your soil tends to retain water, it’s important to improve drainage before planting.
These varieties also handle a range of soil acidity well, though neutral soil is ideal. Be cautious with overly alkaline soil, as it may cause chlorosis.
When planting boxwoods in your garden, it’s beneficial to create optimal conditions for them to establish well. I suggest adding a few buckets of high-quality compost to the planting hole and blending it with the native soil. Planting boxwoods in this enriched mix greatly increases your chances of successful growth.
Both Green Velvet and Winter Gem Boxwoods have similar water needs. It’s crucial to remember that watering is vital for newly planted boxwoods.
In the first and second years after planting, a lack of water can be fatal for these plants. During this time, keep a close eye on both the plants and the surrounding soil. If the soil dries out more than an inch deep, it’s time to water your boxwoods. Make sure to water them enough to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
Typically, watering once a week is sufficient during the summer, though you might need to water more frequently if it’s particularly hot. In autumn and spring, reduce the frequency of watering. During winter and rainy periods, there’s no need to water at all.
After the initial 1-2 years, once the boxwoods are well-established, you only need to water them during periods of extreme heat or drought.
When it comes to feeding boxwoods, it’s important to know that both Green Velvet and Winter Gem varieties generally don’t require fertilization. They can grow well even in less fertile soil.
However, if you’re aiming for faster growth and quicker results, fertilizing can be beneficial. This is especially true for Green Velvet Boxwood, as it tends to grow more slowly.
Spring is the ideal time for fertilization. Start by mulching the root zone with nutrient-rich compost, ensuring the layer is about 1 to 2 inches thick. This not only provides organic nutrients to the plant but also helps in retaining soil moisture.
Following that, apply a slow-release fertilizer around each bush, adhering to the amount recommended on the product label. There are various effective fertilizers available specifically for boxwoods.