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Keep Boxwood Blight Out of Your Landscapes with Distylium

Looking for a boxwood alternative? Look no further – try Distylium.

September 14, 2023

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A relatively recent development as far as plant diseases go, Boxwood Blight was first confirmed in the United States in 2011. Initially discovered in North Carolina, it quickly spread to other Northern and Mid-Atlantic states through infected nursery stock. Today, Boxwood Blight is also found in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest.

Since Boxwood Blight kills the infected plants, it’s a disease you want to address as soon as it’s discovered. One of the best ways to do this in southern geographies is to substitute distyliums for boxwoods while achieving a similar desired look. Removing the species susceptible to the fungus, and replacing it with a tough, disease-resistant alternative can make it easier to maintain the entire landscape.

Why Distylium?

Distylium is an evergreen shrub that’s disease and insect-resistant, heat and drought-tolerant, and requires very little pruning. As part of a landscape design, it can bring in some nice color thanks to glossy leaves in shades of blue, green, and bronze with small maroon flowers that bloom in the winter months.

They grow in full sun or part shade, and while it prefers well-draining soil, it’s adaptable to almost anything.

Overall, distylium can range in size from 3-10 ft. tall and 4-8 ft. wide depending on the variety selected.

Available at SiteOne® Landscape Supply, you can find many varieties of distylim including Cinnamon Girl® and Swing Low®. Cinnamon Girl® grows to a height between 2-3 ft. and spreads out between 3-4 ft. It’s rated for Zones 7-9 and is both low maintenance and disease resistant. Swing Low® provides great ground cover for a low hedge or foundation planting, producing knee-high branches and blue-green leaves.

Other varieties of distylium available through SiteOne include:

  • Coppertone™ 
  • Linebacker™
  • Vintage Jade® 
  • Blue Cascade® 
  • Emerald Heights® 
  • Spring Frost™ 
  • Myricoides

To check existing inventory, and see individual pricing for each of these plants, make sure you have a account.

Do I need to give up on Boxwoods?

If you live in an area where Boxwood Blight isn’t a common problem, or have healthy plants in the landscapes you maintain, there’s no reason to forgo boxwoods. However, Boxwood Blight affects all boxwood species, either as a host or an infected plant. 

The most striking symptom of Boxwood Blight is rapid defoliation, and it only takes about a week for visible symptoms to appear once a plant gets infected. Before leaves start falling off, you’ll see markings appear on both leaves and stems. Brown spots will appear on the leaves, growing bigger until the leaves drop. Coloring of these spots include a range of browns, from tan to bronze. Black streaks will show up on the stems.

Boxwood Blight outbreaks most often occur in high humidity with temperatures between 64º-84º F. This fungus is also extremely hardy. If it appears in areas where ideal weather conditions are easily met, Boxwood Blight can survive in plant debris or soil, without a host plant, for up to 5-6 years.

To reduce the risk of a long-term outbreak, make sure to clear plant debris and check boxwoods regularly. For additional information, see our Boxwood Blight article.

Staying on top of Boxwood Blight outbreaks in my area

The issues endangering common plants used in landscaping can change frequently. To stay on top of the latest industry news, sign up to receive text messages from SiteOne. We’ll send SMS alerts with relevant updates, events, and promotions. A text will also update you on our Plants on the Move program. This program gives you access to monthly special offers on seasonally appropriate plants and materials.

Don’t let Boxwood Blight catch you off guard. A back-up plan that includes distyliums could make all the difference in helping your landscapes stand out even more.

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