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Schaefferia frutescens Florida Boxwood

Edward F. Gilman, Ryan W. Klein, and Gail Hansen


Florida boxwood is usually found close to the tidewater area on sandy soil and hammocks. Although large specimens can grow to 30 feet tall, most are seen as small to medium-sized shrubs. Smallish leaves borne close together make the plant look similar to the well-known boxwood famous in English gardens. Leaves are yellow-green and rolled over slightly along the margins. Small, greenish white flowers are borne in the leaf axils in compact clusters. Fruits turn from green to yellow then bright red. The bark is smooth grey or brown. The yellow wood is used in boxes and for carving when it becomes available.

Full Form - Schaefferia frutescens: Florida Boxwood
Figure 1. Full Form - Schaefferia frutescens: Florida boxwood.
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS


Leaf - Schaefferia frutescens: Florida Boxwood
Figure 2. Leaf - Schaefferia frutescens: Florida boxwood.
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Schaefferia frutescens

Pronunciation: sheff-FEER-ree-uh froo-TESS-senz

Common name(s): Florida boxwood

Family: Celastraceae

Plant type: tree

USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Figure 3)

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year-round

Origin: native to Florida

Invasive potential: not known to be invasive

Uses: reclamation plant; superior hedge; near a deck or patio; espalier; recommended for buffer strips around parking lots or for median strip plantings in the highway; screen; border

Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant

Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 3. Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: 15 to 25 feet

Spread: 10 to 15 feet

Plant habit: oval

Plant density: dense

Growth rate: fast

Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: elliptic (oval)

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches

Leaf color: green

Fall color: no fall color change

Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: greenish-white

Flower characteristic: spring flowering


Fruit shape: round

Fruit length: less than 0.5 inch

Fruit cover: fleshy

Fruit color: yellow

Fruit characteristic: persists on the plant

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems; not particularly showy

Current year stem/twig color: green

Current year stem/twig thickness: thin


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun

Soil tolerances: well-drained; alkaline; sand; loam; clay

Drought tolerance: high

Soil salt tolerances: good

Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: usually not a problem

Winter interest: no special winter interest

Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding

Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Florida boxwood can be planted in a row to form a nice hedge or screen. It takes to clipping well, making it suited for creating a formal appearance. Train the hedge wider at the bottom than the top to allow light to reach the bottom. This will help keep it dense. Larger plants can be trained into small, multi-trunked trees. Nursery operators can also train young plants into a standard with one trunk and a tight head of foliage. This is nicely suited for a formal landscape.

Florida boxwood is well-adapted to partial shade, making it a good candidate for planting along foundations and other areas receiving less than full-day sun. It grows well in slightly alkaline soil.

Pests and Diseases

No problems appear to affect the growth or health of this plant.

Publication #FPS540

Release Date:January 31, 2024

Related Collections

Part of Shrubs Fact Sheets

Related Topics

  • Critical Issue: 1. Agricultural and Horticultural Enterprises
Organism ID

About this Publication

This document is FPS540, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Revised October 2023. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor, arboriculture; and Gail Hansen, professor, sustainable landscape design; Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Gail Hansen de Chapman
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