True-story time.

Years ago, when I was around 6 or 7 years old, my parents decided to move cross country for reasons I don’t quite remember.

What I do distinctly remember, however, is that on the day of the move I excitedly ran up the walkway up to this awesome new house and was greeted by an almost choking smell of cat urine. My parents didn’t seem to mind or notice, and I began to scan the neighborhood for the cat or cats responsible.

As it turns out, none of the neighbors owned cats as a pet and no strays roamed the neighborhood. The true culprit behind the rank urine smell, I later found out, was a large boxwood bush that lined the house’s hedges.

When I recently went upstate to visit one of my best friends at their new home and a waft of that litter box odor hit me as soon as I stepped out onto the driveway, I immediately started looking around for the garden boxwoods.

A large boxwood bush

Lo and behold, there they were: a full hedge of boxwood shrubs. When I told my friend about my childhood story, they couldn’t believe it. They, like me so many years ago, had been on the lookout for a feline culprit.

So, if you’ve been smelling cat pee around your home but have yet to see the cat, a Boxwood shrub could very well be to blame. How can you tell, and, more importantly, how to get rid of the boxwood smell?

Buxus – More Commonly Known As Boxwood

Foul-smelling plants are more common than most people realize. For example, some daisies can smell of cow manure, the starfish flower cactus smells of rot and decay, the Bradford pear tree’s smell has been likened to that of dead fish, the female ginkgo tree can smell of vomit when it flowers, and the valerian plant can smell like dirty wet socks.

So the Buxus plant, more commonly known as the boxwood is not alone in its olfactory infraction.

Buxus has a bad odor

Boxwood is a dense and leafy evergreen bush that provides gardeners with a hardy plant that looks great, has very low maintenance requirements, and is perfect for hedging because it can thrive under a variety of sun/shade and soil conditions.

The obvious downside is that some species of boxwood produce a very distinct and pungent odor, that most people liken to cat urine.

While some people do not find the smell of the boxwood plant too offensive, often describing it as resiny, most people can’t help but find the smell heavily disagreeable.

How To Identify The Boxwood Plant

There are many different species of boxwood, but the most common and the one most people find smells bad is the English Boxwood or the Buxus Sempervirens.

The English Boxwood has very soft and lush foliage that is also very compact. The plant has glossy, fleshy leaves that are small and rounded to a lanceolate.

The obvious tell, however, is that the bush produces a very strong odor that is often indistinguishable from that uric acid smell of animal urine.

If you’ve been smelling cat pee around your home and you have seen no cats that could account for the smell and you’ve also been able to identify some boxwood bushes close by, it is time to look at

How To Get Rid Of Boxwood Smell?

You can’t do much to get rid of the boxwood smell, except replace the bush with a different cultivar. Most gardeners recommend replacing the offending bush with some Buxus Microphylla also known as the Japanese Boxwood.

Japanese Boxwood offers many of the same positive qualities that the stinky boxwood plants, but it produces less of the offending smell. In fact, most people with Japanese boxwood fail to notice any particularly strong odors.

Cleaning up the boxwood hedge in the garden

Something to keep in mind, however, is that Japanese boxwood tends to grow taller and faster than stinky boxwood. This means that your landscaping requirements will change and likely get more demanding.

Personally, I don’t find the smell unbearable and since the plant only smells during certain times of the year, I told my friend to do as I did so many years ago: grin and bear it. It’s not that bad.