Boxwood shrubs are classified as American, English, Korean and Japanese. The dwarf English boxwood variety Suffruticosa, first introduced in the United States in the early 1700s, remains popular today. Reaching a mature height of 3 feet, it retains its rounded shape and is evergreen. Newport Blue boxwood only reaches 18 inches in height, attains a width of 3 feet and tolerates pruning. Often used as a specimen plant, it also works well as a short hedge in formal gardens.
English boxwood shrubs, native to southern Europe and northern Africa, grow larger than the Japanese boxwood and hold their bright-green leaf color in both sun and shade. Leaves are wider at the base and slightly tapered or pointed. Northern Beauty boxwood grows to a height of 5 feet with an equal width, and is one of the hardiest of English boxwoods. Argenteo Variegata, useful both as a specimen plant and hedge, is an ideal boxwood to brighten a shaded area and features variegated yellow and green leaves. The drought-tolerant upright boxwood variety Pyramidalis has dense, green foliage and is often used as a specimen because of its conical growth habit that reaches a height of 12 feet.
The Japanese boxwood, often called the little-leaf boxwood, is a densely compact shrub that grows in sun or shade. Leaves are smaller and more rounded than those of the English boxwood and have a tendency to brown slightly in full winter sun. Green Beauty is Japanese boxwood variety that attains a height of 3 feet with equal width. Morris Dwarf and Morris Midget are both slow-growing Japanese boxwood shrubs that make ideal hedges because of their small size. Wintergreen is a small variety ideal for planters, growing only 2 feet tall and wide, with dark-green leaves that resist winter burn.