Soft Touch Holly Vs. Boxwood: Which Is Right For Your Landscape?

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team
Both soft touch holly and boxwoods are commonly found in all types of neighborhoods due to their unique appearance. Soft touch holly is unique for its dark green leaves whereas boxwoods have distinct star-shaped flowers. Whether it be the shape or color of their leaves, follow along as we compare soft touch holly and boxwoods.

Both soft touch holly and boxwoods are common choices for homeowners looking to liven up their landscape. For many homeowners, however, it can be quite difficult determining the difference between the two.

At a glance, you can tell the difference because soft touch holly has shiny, darker green leaves than boxwoods. Boxwoods also have star shaped flowers whereas soft touch hollies have oval shaped leaves.

Of course, soft touch hollies and boxwoods have quite a lot in common as they are both small shrubs that add character to any front yard. Let’s get into the differences between soft touch hollies and boxwoods.

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How Do They Grow Differently?

The most obvious difference in how they grow is that soft touch hollies grow faster than boxwoods. While soft touch hollies and boxwoods look alike, their growing habits are unique from one another.

Soft Touch Holly

When soft touch hollies reach their full, mature size, they can grow to be 2-3 feet high and 2-3 feet wide. If you can give them between 2 and 3 inches of mulch and somewhat acidic soil, soft touch hollies will thrive.

Soft touch hollies make such great shrubs because of how easily and quickly they grow. They can handle full sun exposure but can do well if they experience partial shade at certain times of the day.

If you want your hollies to reach their full potential, give them plenty of water several days a week during their first few months. Since they grow quickly, you will see your soft touch holly take root and shape in no time.

Once the soft touch hollies have started to grow, you can slowly water them less and less. After a few months of growth, you’ll only need to water your hollies on particularly hot days.


Boxwoods grow at a slower rate of under 12 inches per year. They also are able to grow much larger than soft touch hollies, as boxwoods stand between 1 and 6 feet tall. In some cases, boxwoods can even grow to be 8 feet tall if properly nourishes and pruned when necessary.

Because of their tall height, boxwoods serve as hedges creating privacy and character for many homes. Properly nourishing boxwoods is easy as they only need one or two heavy watering sessions per week for the first year of their life.

After the first year, you can titrate down to watering your boxwoods once a week. If you want to grow a nice row of boxwoods, space them out 2-3 feet apart. At first there will be empty space between the boxwoods, but once they start to grow you will be happy that you did.

How Do Their Leaves Look Different?

Soft touch hollies have soft, oval shaped leaves, whereas boxwoods have star shaped leaves. From a distance it is much harder to tell the difference. The leaf pattern also differs between soft touch hollies and boxwoods. Soft touch holly leaves make a distinct alternating pattern.

Another distinct factor of soft touch holly shrubs is that at the end of summer and beginning of fall, they grow tiny little berries. If you want to avoid the berries altogether, you could prune the holly during the summer.

Boxwoods have leaves that are arranged in natural pairs. They also have a lighter shade of green leaves when compared to soft touch hollies. Holly leaves are darker and shinier both up close and from afar. Despite the name, soft touch hollies don’t have as soft of leaves as boxwoods do.

Which One Requires More Maintenance?

As far as maintenance goes, soft touch hollies and boxwoods have similar requirements. With boxwoods, you want to be sure to prune them towards the end of the summer season, or early fall. You may need to trim boxwoods more often than soft touch hollies as they can grow unevenly at times. The result is well worth it as a nice, healthy row of boxwoods is gorgeous.

Regular seasonal pruning of boxwoods can also help them reach their full height. If you don’t want your boxwoods to turn into full on hedges, consider regularly trimming them. That will possibly make the boxwood’s branches grow faster, but if you stay on top of it, they won’t grow tall.

With soft touch hollies, you don’t need to trim or prune them until winter. You could wait to prune the hollies until early spring even, as long as you carefully remove any damaged growth from within the shrub.

If you avoid pruning during the summer, your soft touch holly will grow berries. The berries add character to the holly and make them look even more gorgeous in any yard they grow in.

Which Looks Better: Boxwoods or Soft Touch Holly?

That is ultimately a matter of personal taste. Both soft touch hollies and boxwoods can create that classic and classic hedgerow look that any homeowner could want. If you want tall and full hedges, you may prefer the look of boxwoods. Not only do they grow taller, but they take extremely well to shearing so you can easily sculpt them to how you want them to look.

With that said, soft touch holly offers a more dynamic look. That is because towards the beginning of autumn, they will grow berries if the conditions are right. Up close, that adds even more color and character to soft touch hollies.

If you are in a pinch and want nice evergreen shrubs that will grow quickly, soft touch holly is your best bet. Soft touch holly grows very quickly and can handle heavy watering in the first few months of its life.

There are more than 90 different species of boxwoods. That means that depending on your local climate, you could plant Green Beauty Boxwoods, Winter Gem Boxwoods, Variegated English Boxwoods and much more.

The other nice thing about boxwoods, is that some varieties such as Morris Midget Boxwoods can be easily rounded to give a unique shape and look to your yard.

What is the Best Layout For Soft Touch Hollies and Boxwoods?

With soft touch hollies, space them about 1.5 feet apart, and boxwoods 1-3 feet apart. As long as you follow that rule, you can spice up your yard and house with several hedge layouts for hollies and boxwoods.

Softwood holly hedgerows are great because they don’t grow more than 3 feet tall typically and they don’t require too much trimming. Consider planting soft touch hollies in a row along the walkway leading to your front door, if you have one. Either that or plant soft touch hollies along the border of your front or back yard creating a gorgeous and lush perimeter.

If you want an added layer of privacy, you can’t go wrong with a perimeter of boxwoods around your yard. Depending on where you are, they can grow up to 6 or even 8 feet which is enough to add privacy without totally obscuring your house.

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What Did We Learn?

Soft touch hollies and boxwoods are both gorgeous evergreen shrubs. Depending on how much pruning you want to do and how quickly you want them to grow, one may be better for you than the other.

Whether you plant soft touch hollies or boxwoods, you will bring a new level of gorgeous, green class and style to your yard.

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Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

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