What Is Boxleaf Azara: Learn About Azara Microphylla Care

What Is Boxleaf Azara: Learn About Azara Microphylla Care

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By: Teo Spengler

If your neighbor says she is growing azara boxleaf shrubs, you might ask: “What is boxleaf azara?” These shrubs are gorgeous little evergreens for the garden. For more Azara microphylla information and tips on how to grow boxleaf azara, read on.

What is Boxleaf Azara?

Imagine a slender tree with tiny, shiny evergreen leaves that look like round emeralds. The foliage is evergreen, with variegated types available, and stays on the plant year round. But that’s not all you’ll get if you start growing azara boxleaf shrubs. Early every spring, the azara produces yellow, pom-pom shaped flowers that exude a striking fragrance with a touch of vanilla. These become orange or crimson berries in summer.

Azara Microphylla Information

Boxleaf azara (Azara microphylla) is an understory shrub or small tree native to South America. It grows to 15 feet (4.6 m.) tall with a 6 foot (1.8 m.) spread, and thrives in both sun and shade. You’ll find many reasons to invite this lovely plant into your garden or backyard. The small leaves are dainty and glossy, shining brightly in the sun.

The tiny pom-pom shaped flowers fill your garden with a lovely fragrance early in spring. In summer, you’ll get a multitude of reddish orange berries that attract wild birds. Another attraction is the lovely growth habit, with gracefully layered branches. And when it comes to care, the plant requires little or no pruning to keep its shape strong and attractive.

How to Grow Boxleaf Azara

If you are wondering how to grow boxleaf azara, start with making sure it will grow in your climate. The shrub is not very cold hardy, thriving in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10.

You can start growing azara boxleaf shrubs in a site with full sun. Or you can plant the shrub in an area with filtered shade.

Here’s an important rule: find a site with excellent drainage. Sand and other rapid-draining soils are ideal for this plant. As far as soil pH goes, it accepts anything from highly acidic soil to mildly alkaline.

If you select the correct site for this plant, Azara microphylla care is not difficult. Pruning is not necessary, but irrigation is. You’ll want to provide your azara with ample water on a regular basis.

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Boxleaf azara typically reaches a height of 12 to 18 feet and a width of 8 to 12 feet, although very old specimens may become treelike and up to 30 feet tall. The plant produces flat, alternating branches that give it a graceful appearance, with branches covered in shiny, dark-green leaves. In winter, boxleaf azara produces an abundance of tiny yellow flowers tucked between leaves along its branches. Usually described as having a chocolatelike aroma, the blossoms may also have a fragrance with vanilla overtones. Small, shiny berries appear after blossoms fall in the early spring.

Boxleaf azara thrives in full sun but also tolerates dappled shade, at least for part of the day. Choose a warm, sheltered spot to protect your plant from wind that could desiccate and brown its leaves. Boxleaf azara does well in any type of garden soil, provided the location is well drained and not likely to remain either moist or very dry for long periods. It needs average amounts of water and requires only occasional, supplemental watering when weather is dry or if planted in constant full sun.

Where to grow

Azara microphylla 'Variegata' (Box leaf azara 'Variegata' ) will reach a height of 8m and a spread of 4m after 20-50 years.

Suggested uses

City, Cottage/Informal, Beds and borders, Mediterranean, Wallside and trellises


Plant near a door or a path used in the winter to get the most of the vanilla scent.

Soil type

Chalky, Clay, Loamy, Sandy (will tolerate most soil types)

Soil drainage

Moist but well-drained, Well-drained

Soil pH




UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.

Companion plants

This plant has had its best by the time spring really arrives, so combine it with later flowering climbers, such as jasmine, honeysuckle or clematis.

We do not currently have companion plants added for this plant.

Botanical name

Azara microphylla 'Variegata'

Other names

Box leaf azara 'Variegata' , Variegated box leaf azara


Variety or Cultivar

'Variegata' _ 'Variegata' is a tall, elegant, evergreen shrub (or small tree) with arching, pendulous branches and masses of tiny, glossy, golden variegated leaves. Flowers are also small, deep yellow, in small clusters, strongly scented vanilla, from late spring, followed rarely by red berries.



The significance of this plant lies in its strong, delicious scent in late winter and early spring.


Plant Profile: Boxleaf Azara (Azara microphylla)

This broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree is native to Chile and Argentina where it grows in the understory or margins of woodlands. The glossy, dark green, oval leaves are up to one inch long and are carried on horizontal branches arranged in a herringbone pattern. The yellow flowers lack petals but appear fluffy because of their long stamens. They are borne in clusters in the axils of the leaves in February or March and emit a delicious fragrance described as chocolate or vanilla. In warm years when pollination occurs the flowers may be followed by small round berries that mature to orange. Good choice for informal hedge or screen but also grows well on a wall where it gets protection from wind.

Type: Evergreen shrub to small tree

Outstanding Feature: Evergreen leaves fragrant flowers in winter to early spring

Form: Fountain-shape

Growth Rate: Slow to moderate

Bloom: Small fluffy flowers in February or March

Size: 12-18’ H x 8-12’ W

Light: Full sun to dappled shaded

Soil: Fertile, humus rich, well-drained soil but tolerates less as long as soil dries out or is wet.

Hardiness: Zones 8-10

Care: Needs protection from cold winds prune every few years to maintain compactness

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Cuttings of mature side shoots in autumn or layering both methods are difficult.

Outstanding Selection: ‘Variegata’ (leaves lined with cream slow growing)

National Collection of Azara

The University holds the National Collection of Azara in co-operation with Plant Heritage and the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG).

The NCCPG seeks to conserve, document, promote and make available Britain and Ireland’s rich biodiversity of garden plants for the benefit of everyone through horticulture, education and science.

Azara is the name of a small genus of trees and small shrubs which are evergreen or partially evergreen, with scented yellow flowers, native to Chile and surrounding countries in South America.

Some of these species are difficult to grow, requiring their own microclimate, and it has proved impossible to grow them all in one place on the campus.

The University holds a digital Herbarium which represents all of the Azara plant specimens held by the University.

  • Azara celastrina
  • Azara integrifolia
  • Azara integrifolia Variegata
  • Azara integrifolia Browneii
  • Azara lanceolata
  • Azara microphylla
  • Azara microphylla variegata
  • Azara paraguayensis
  • Azara petiolaris
  • azara-serrata
  • Azara uraguayensis

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