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Azara microphylla is a delicious evergreen!
I always strive to include year-round interest in the garden, and the Box Leaf Azara (Azara microphylla) is great for this.
So often we see fantastic gardens in Spring that look like a messy, ugly pile of dirt in mid-winter. However, in the Pacific Northwest there’s no excuse not to have a beautiful winter garden. Here it is relatively easy to craft a garden with blooms, color, fragrance, and food for wildlife all year. And that means a fantastic winter garden! And guess what? Azara is a tree that offers all of these benefits to your garden!
While Azaras are very cold hardy, super deep freezes may damage them. So if your garden dips below 10F for long periods in winter, an Azara might not be exactly the right plant for you. However, we have seem them tough it out through cold periods. But when we had a record cold snap that sent us well below 10F for several days, our Azaras took a big hit.
Azara microphylla is a special winter bloomer
Not only is this plant evergreen, but it also blooms yellow in February. And it’s tiny flowers smell like chocolate! In fact, your whole garden will be filled with hot cocoa aroma when this plant flowers. And what a delicious fragrance that is on a cold winter day.
What does this plant look like?
The blossoms are small. But they are abundant. And they stand out against the dark green leaves. Or if you need to brighten up a darker spot in your garden, look for the variegated form of Azara microphylla. This plant may be a little weaker and a bit less sun tolerant, but it is lovely!
How big will my chocolate tree grow?
Azaras are often labelled with deceiving information. That means the tags may tell you this plant will get to about 15′ tall. Unfortunately, that’s not quite right. If your plant thrives, expect it to easily get to be twice that size. And while they are fairly columnar in shape, Azara microphylla trees do get wide. The good news is, that means they can make a great evergreen screen in your garden too.
How does this plant serve wildlife?
It’s unlikely you’ll eat the fruit from your Azara. Instead, drink in that hot chocolate scent in winter. However, it does serve up tasty morsels for wild birds. And you’ll enjoy watching them pecking away at the beautiful furrowed bark where tasty insects hide.
Want to learn more about great plants like these?
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Laura, Thanks for writing in. At this time, we are not aware of any dwarf Azara that would be appropriate to maintain in smaller shrub form. These are better maintained as large trees. That being said, there are some pruning techniques that might enable you to keep a plant like this smaller and somewhat shorter. If you’d like lessons in pruning like this (or other pruning to tree and shrub health and vigor), please get in touch to set up a consultation to discuss ways we might be able to help.