Curly Locks BoxwoodBuxus microphylla var. japonica ‘Curly Locks’
View more from Boxwood Shrubs
30 day - ARRIVE AND THRIVE™ guaranteeLearn more
Probiotic Root Stimulant
Buxus microphylla var. japonica ‘Curly Locks’
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Curly Locks Boxwood is a unique specimen boxwood, to be grown untrimmed, not for hedges or topiary. It forms a bush about 3 feet tall and wide, depending on how you train it, and it has fascinating curling branches, and leaves too, that make each plant an individual, and a real garden conversation piece. Grow it as a feature in a small garden. Plant it in an Asian-style garden, or even turn it into a bonsai. Grow it on a low trellis against a wall, spreading it out to show off the branches. Use it in a planter or pot on a terrace or patio.
Full sun to partial shade are perfect for the Curly Locks Boxwood, which will grow in any well-drained soil. Add some organic material to poor soils, and use as spring mulch. Don’t trim, but exposing the branches with pruners will enhance its unique and exotic look. Pests and diseases are not common, and can usually be controlled with our organic Neem Oil spray. It isn’t bothered by rabbits or deer, and is generally easy to grow in most gardens.
Boxwoods are incredibly useful plants in almost every garden, and of course they are widely grown. Mostly, though, they are not grown for their beauty, but for the ease with which we can turn them into ‘green structures’, like hedges, globes, pyramids and other geometrical structures. It’s more a matter of green structure than individual beauty. Some, though, stand out for their distinct beauty, and as a general principle we are all in favor of growing some of them untrimmed, to develop into attractive rounded shrubs that often have fascinating forms. One stands out, though, for certainly never being suitable for trimming, but being outstanding as a unique specimen for small spaces, and for beauty in its own right. This is the ‘Curly Lock’s Boxwood, a variety of the Japanese little-leaf boxwood. This intriguing little plant has a mind of its own, and grows as it chooses, developing intriguing twisted branches, and often twisted leaves too. It twists and curls its way around, forming a unique bush every time, and always being appealing and eye-catching. Perfect where you want an interesting specimen, it is ideal for growing in a container or small garden – perhaps a courtyard or Asian-style layout – and even for training as a miniature espalier up against a trellis, where its twisting branches can be shown off to maximum effect.
The Curly Locks Boxwood is a small, slow-growing evergreen shrub that will in time reach a height of about 3 feet, with a similar or slightly wider spread, depending on how it is grown. The branches are covered in a light-brown, flaking bark, and the stems twist and turn randomly, creating an attractive effect. The small green leaves are less than an inch long and almost circular. They are leathery in texture, smooth, glossy and an unusually-light yellow-green color. Some of the leaves, like the stems, tend to curl too, adding further to the charm of this great little plant. In colder zones sometimes in winter the leaves can turn a little bronzy, much less so than with other forms but this soon disappears again in spring. In spring you will see inconspicuous small greenish-yellow flowers in clusters along the older stems, but these are of no particular ornamental value.
This is not a boxwood for hedges or clipped topiary. The Curly Locks Boxwood is a unique small specimen plant that should be grown as an accent or conversation piece. Plant it at the corner of a bed, or somewhere it stands out. Grow it in an attractive planter, or train it as a charming bonsai. Plant it at the foot of a wall and spread out the branches on a trellis for a unique espalier plant – this also shows off the twisting of the branches to maximum effect.
A variety of Japanese boxwood, the ‘Curly Lock’s Boxwood is completely hardy in zone 6, and with winter protection would probably also grow in warmer parts of zone 5. It is happy to grow in warmer zones, all the way into zone 9, but in very hot and humid areas it may be more prone to problems.
The Curly Locks Boxwood grows across a wide range of light conditions, from full sun to light full shade, such as at the foot of a north-facing wall. In hot areas, and in drier soils, some afternoon shade is beneficial. As long as the soil is well-drained, it will be happy, so avoid wet and waterlogged areas, especially where it is wet during winter. Poor soils should be enriched with organic materials dug in, and mulch in spring is helpful too. Avoid touching branches or leaves with mulches. Established plants are reasonably drought tolerant, but benefit from regular deep watering during dry summer weather.
Regular watering and some spring evergreen fertilizer will keep the Curly Locks Boxwood generally free of pests and diseases. Any problems can usually be treated successfully with our safe, organic, Neem Oil spray. It is normally not bothered by deer or rabbits. Avoid trimming with shears at any time – this is not a boxwood for topiary work. To show off the curly branches remove small twigs along the stems to expose the structure of the plant, as you wish to. More detailed trimming will of course be necessary if you are growing it as a bonsai.
Japanese Boxwood, or littleleaf boxwood, Buxus microphylla var. japonica, is a plant that was introduced from Japan, where it is widely grown in gardens. Wild plants have never been found, so it could be a garden creation, or perhaps it became extinct in the wild at some point in the past. Early varieties proved to be more hardy and reliable in the American climate, and in many areas it is a better choice than the European boxwood, Buxus sempervirens. The variety called Curly Locks was first described by Donald Wyman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard, in 1963. It had been discovered much earlier, in 1942, at the Kingsville Nursery, Maryland, who introduced it in 1946. It could easily have been a branch sport on another dwarf boxwood discovered early last century at that nursery, called ‘Kingsville’, but we don’t know that for sure.
This unique tree is totally different from the normal bushy boxwoods grown for hedges. It’s a rare specimen plant, and only occasionally available from specialist nurseries. We found some excellent specimens to start you on your love-affair with this plant, but order now, because stock is limited and will soon all be gone.