Alternatives to Boxwood

Why consider alternatives to boxwoods?

Boxwoods are traditional evergreen shrubs that offer good resistance to deer browse. However due to new pests like boxwood blight, and box tree moth, both of which require regular spray treatments, some gardeners are looking for landscape substitutions. The following list of evergreen shrubs can serve as a starting point when thinking about alternatives to boxwoods.

Brian Eshenaur
Sr. Extension Associate
New York State Integrated Pest Management

Boxwood Alternatives in New York State

Some of these plants may not be hardy in your area because local conditions vary. Consulting with your extension office, public garden or local garden retailer will be helpful in plant and cultivar selection.

We appreciate the valuable input by Cornell Botanic Garden staff horticulturists, Emily Norsen and Phil Syphrit.


Myrica pennsylvanica

  • Full sun to part shade
  • Tolerant of costal sea water spray and de-icing salt.
  • Deer Resistant
  • Hardiness Zones: 3-7 (May experience leaf browning and foliage loss with cold winters)
  • NYS Native. 
  • The female plants produce a small gray waxy fruit that is attractive to certain birds and was traditionally used to make candles.

Dwarf Hinoki Cypress

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana’

  • Full Sun
  • Deer Resistant
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • The cultivar ‘Nana Gracilis’ has a dwarf irregularly globose form.

Inkberry Holly

Ilex glabra

  • Full sun to part shade
  • Deer Resistant
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • NYS Native.
  • Cultivar ‘Gem Box’ has small boxwood-like leaves and dwarf habit.

Japanese Holly

Ilex crenata

  • Full sun to part shade
  • Deer Resistant
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-8
  • Small, dark green boxwood-like leaves
  • Easily sheared for formal shapes or a small hedge.

Plum Yew

Cephalotaxus harringtonia

  • Shade Tolerant
  • Deer Resistant
  • Hardiness Zones: 6-9
  • Dark green flattened needle shaped leaves.
  • Can be pruned to maintain form.

Blue Holly

Ilex x meservea

  • Full sun to part shade
  • Deer resistant
  • Hardiness zones 5-7
  • Dark green with typical holly leaf shape
portrait of Brian Eshenhaur
Brian Eshenaur

Senior Extension Associate

NYS Integrated Pest Management

Brian Eshenaur