Do Boxwoods have an odor?

Boxwood with its thick, verdant, and dense leaves is an ideal option for many of the garden features including landscaping. It is also hugely popular throughout America and Europe. But some people are simply not impressed by the positive outlook provided by garden experts about this plant.

Their main concern is that some varieties of boxwood smell very badly at some point of the year. Do boxwoods have an odor? Why do boxwood bushes smell? These are two very important questions about boxwoods. In this post, we will try to find the answer to these questions. We will also try to see if there are any alternatives to smelly boxwood plants.

The tiny flowers, especially in the English boxwood popular for clipped hedges, emit the unpleasant smell that many people think smells like cat urine. This is a natural phenomenon, and it happens particularly when the boxwood is in bloom in the late spring.

Boxwood flowers in Slovakia
Boxwood flowers smell in the late spring


Boxwoods do have a smell and while some people like its smell, others find it a bad odor. Boxwood shrubs have deep green leaves with a compact round structure. They are widely used as formal hedges, ornamental borders, and topiaries. These plants are found in many species and cultivars. Unfortunately, some people complain that some of the boxwood shrub varieties are smelly. More specifically, they complain that their boxwood shrubs give a bad odor that smells like a cat’s urine.

It seems the English boxwood is the one that gives a foul smell. The English boxwood is more popular for clipped hedge usage.

People also claim that the boxwood odor is resinous. To be fair, a resinous scent is not a bad thing. I know this kind of smell. It reminds me of European gardens full of beautiful flowers and a few humming bees. I love the boxwood plant for the redolence it gives under the glazing sun. I can’t relate myself to the cat urine smell that some people associate boxwood smell. Whoever said that beauty lies in the eyes (or the nose) of the beholder was definitely talking about boxwood. To me, these green shrubs represent the unsung glory of resistance and resilience. But they do smell at some point of the year.

But there can be many other plants in your garden that may have an unpleasant smell. Why blame boxwood? The acrid cat urine smell is unique to some varieties of boxwood. But the reason why it makes such big news on the gardening circuit is that the boxwood is fairly ubiquitous as an ornamental border, hedge, and landscaping plant. If it smells, there is no way you can ignore it.


Why do boxwood bushes smell?

Although I seem to be in love with boxwood shrubs, I know sometimes they can be smelly and odorous. It happens particularly when the boxwood is in bloom – sometime in late spring. You don’t expect this profusely green leafy plant to flower mostly because it is so rare and on such a minuscule scale that you can easily overlook it. But the boxwood shrubs do produce blooms – tiny and inconspicuous. These tiny flowers, especially in the English boxwood, emit the unpleasant smell that many people think smells like cat urine.

Let’s face it: Some species of boxwood do smell bad, especially when they are in bloom. That’s a natural phenomenon and it should not have been such a big deal by the way. A very common mistake that most people make with boxwood plantation is in choosing the location for it. Many people make the mistake of having a boxwood plant near the door and the windows. Boxwood is a wonderful plant for making formal borders, hedges, and landscaping in the garden. It is so popular throughout America, Europe, and some parts of Asia that imagining a garden without boxwood is impossible. But it must be used where it is intended for

There is no point in having it indoors or near the doors and the windows. If you have these plants close to where you live, you are more likely to feel the bad smell coming from the plants.


What does boxwood smell like?

Are you one of those people who have been perplexed by a strange pervasive smell in your garden? The odor smells as if a cat has just pissed somewhere nearby. The source of this smell is your boxwood shrub at least as far as this article is concerned. But in reality, it can very well be a cat’s piss that’s making your garden smell.

If you have some indoor cats, it’s possible that some stray cat is marking your home with his urine. But if the odor is not a pungent moment but a lingering low-grade odor, you can stop blaming the cat. It’s certainly the suspect plant in your garden.

Some people have extremely bad experiences with English boxwood and they do not mind making their minds clear. They think it’s a functional plant variety but undesirable.

It’s a fact that English boxwood smells bad at certain times and some seasons in the year. The smell is hard to ignore as it’s similar to male cat piss. This kind of lingering bad smell can make your home lose some of its curb appeals. If you are planning to sell your home, finding a buyer can be difficult with bad smell pervading all around the garden.


What boxwood doesn’t smell?

If boxwood plants make you anxious about the impending bad smell, there are certain things you can do to fix the problem. First of all, you should not install English boxwood near the doors and the windows or in landscaping in areas in the garden that you frequently use.

You can also use other boxwood species and cultivars that are known to be non-odorous. These species include Asian or Japanese boxwood and Little Leaf boxwood. You can check out the local nursery what other varieties of boxwood they have. You can choose a completely new species of plant in place of English boxwood. For example, you can choose evergreen plants with dense leaves to replace English boxwood. You can choose cultivars of hollies and myrtles.

Boxwood in the winter
Boxwood doesn’t smell in the winter


Final thoughts

It’s true that some boxwood varieties can smell bad during their flowering season. While you can make alterations to continue with these plants, in some cases uprooting them could be a good idea. Imagine you have put your home on sale and you are expecting some buyers to visit your home.

A lingering bad smell coming from your garden can work as a spoilsport. In this article, we have also discussed some alternative plants you can use.


The News Team

With a background in computer science, I've dived into journalism as communication and education is very close to my heart. I'm also a dad, and my family is essential to me, and I have a ton of projects around the house. Enjoying good food and wine and beer when ever I find the time. I hope you'll enjoy the topics here on the site, and you can read more about my investigative journalism on my about-page.