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Garden Coach Plant Profile on Azara Microphylla

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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.

Tiny Chocolately Yellow Flowers on Azara microphylla

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!

Azara will Mature to Provide Evergreen Privacy


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.

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27 comments on “Garden Coach Plant Profile on Azara Microphylla

  1. Katy on

    Also more in the winter garden at the Washington Park Arboretum (it’s called something else now but can’t remember what …). They are about 30 feet tall!!

  2. rhaglund on

    See folks…don’t always believe what you read on a tag or in a book about a plant. Most books and even the Great Plant Picks list reports this tree tops out at 15′!

  3. Joe Lamp'l on

    Good thing I’m *flying* home next week rather than driving. Otherwise you might discover that wonderful gem missing from your garden after our departure from filming there on Tuesday. Well, even if the rain or snow messes with our day, Azara microphylla is going to make it brighter. Can’t wait to see…and smell.

  4. ken and carol gallagher on

    We purchased one today in a 2 gal pot for an an amazing price of $25.00. It looks like it would make an excellent bonsai specimen. Has anyone seen them used that way?

  5. Garden Mentors on

    I haven’t seen them bonsai’d. They may work well for this. They tend to open up on the interior but grow much more vertically than horizontally. Still, give it a shot. Should be a fun project!

  6. turquoisegrecd on

    Are the yellow flowers of the azara microphylla edible and can they be used to do tinctures? Thanks. Turquoisegrece

  7. Badger on

    Katy, I think you may be thinking of the Northofagus that are growing in the Washington Park arboretum… The look INCREDIBLY similar, but the Northofagus (‘antarctica’, I believe) grow a bit taller in this zone, and don’t have the fragrant blooms of the Azara. They are INCREDIBLY handsome and charming trees, though.

  8. ken and carol gallagher on

    I gave the 2 gal to my son in law who is more into bonsai than I am. He is determined to make a go of it as a bonsai. I subsequently purchased a 1 gal and planted it into the ground early this summer. It was about two feet tall and as of now, (late Dec.) it has grown about an extra foot and tightened up nicely. Have any of you tried taking cuttings of the green macrophylla variety? It looks as if this will have lots of potential cuttings to experiment with.

  9. Garden Mentors on

    Ken and Carol,

    I can’t wait to hear more about your son-in-law’s bonsai as it develops! I haven’t taken propagation cuttings from Azara. They do put on quite a bit of growth each season once they get going, so I agree that you should have a lot to work with. Keep in touch & let us know how your Azara garden continues to grow!

  10. Sheila Ben on

    I have had an Azara growing in my Northamptonshire England for about 7 years on west facing fence the garden is in sun most of the day in summer excellent flowers for 5 years but 2 years ago in autumn it developed a black wilt on the leaves. I removed all traces of wilt on plant and on ground.
    A garden expert! said it was because we had had such a dry summer, to feed it with seaweed solution which I did, it appeared to recove, last summer was one of the wettest on record in this region, still the problem came back it now looks just as before with black leaves dying off————–any sugestions please
    regards Sheila

  11. Garden Mentors on

    Shelia, Thanks for writing in. It’s really hard to say what’s happening. Is it losing interior leaves or apical (tip) leaves or both? Is it happening only seasonally or all year long? Is it happening on areas with a lot of sun exposure? I don’t know that I’ll be able to answer what’s happening even with this detail. It may be that you need to bring in a certified arborist to take a look.

  12. Georgi Ann Sidel on

    I have an Azara tree that is at least 20 feet high, right next to my front porch/walkway! It is quite the specimen! This spring/early summer, though, it is dropping a ton of yellow leaves so I hope it is okay. It gets western sun only in the morning. I”ve pruned it nicely. It gets water. Wish I could send you a picture. 🙂

  13. Garden Mentors on

    ours loses some interior leaves every year after the bloom in early summer. They turn yellow and drop. Even evergreens lose some leaves. If the leaves are on the interior of the tree rather than on the tips, it’s probably just part of the plant’s growth. But, without seeing the tree in person, we can’t say for certain. Good luck!

  14. Robin Bell on

    This info on yellowing leaves is very reassuring. Our fairly new and somewhat spindly Azara took on an impressive amount of growth this spring but is now showing a fair bit of yellowing on the internal leaves, so it’s good to know this is normal. Nevertheless,as we’re having a rather dry summer here in England I’ll be giving it some extra watering. And encouraging talks, of course. ?

  15. Laura Joshel on

    Can this azara be pruned to be maintained more as a large shrub? If so, how to do so without damaging it

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