Caring for Boxwood

The care information provided in this section represents the kind of practical advice is available for all the plants in this web site if you subscribe to the monthly customized newsletter Yardener’s Advisor.

Watering Boxwood
Littleleaf boxwoods need watering only when they are first planted, during a drought, and in the late fall just before the ground freezes in the winter. Because of their shallow roots, boxwoods can suffer moisture stress if they don't get a last good drenching before winter sets in. For information on products see the file on Choosing Watering Equipment

Fertilizing Boxwood
Boxwood is considered a heavy feeder. Every spring sprinkle a handful of general-purpose fertilizer on the surface of the soil around the base of the boxwood. Serious gardeners sometimes follow this up with a monthly snack two or three times during the season. They sprinkle a half handful of granular fertilizer on the soil around the shrub or spray a dilute solution of liquid fertilizer all over its foliage. This is not required, but it helps keep the boxwood healthier. For more information see the file for Fertilizers

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Boxwood's surface roots prefer cool soil conditions, so it is good to spread a 2 to 4 inch layer of chopped leaves, wood chips or other organic material on the soil at the base of the boxwood. Keep it about 6 inches from the stem of the shrub to avoid stem rot and possible rodent damage. This mulch will keep the soil moist and should solve most serious weed problems. For winter, increase this to 4 to 6 inches to protect the shallow root system. Do not mulch with whole leaves because they mat together, preventing water from soaking into the soil. For more information see the file on Using Mulch

Boxwoods can be trimmed or pruned to almost any desired shape. Prune specimens only for specific purposes, as their natural growth habit is attractive. For a shaped hedge, pinch the leading growth of young plants to stimulate more branch production. Shear mature plants in late spring to maintain shape. Prune the bushes from the top down, inside to outside. Cutting lightly into last year's wood encourages denser foliage. The shrub can be cut drastically if necessary to repair any winter damage, but do it in stages--don't remove more than a third of the height or breadth of a boxwood shrub in a single year. Remove all dead twigs and debris, especially from the center, where fungus disease can start. For more information see the files Pruning Shrubs and Choosing Pruning Tools.

Winter Protection for Boxwood
Boxwoods tolerate normal winds, but suffer from exposure to constant or hard winds. If shrubs are exposed to the winter sun, screen or cover them but allow some air circulation. Protect exposed plants with burlap or evergreen boughs. Spray shrubs in late fall with an anti-transpirant spray to help protect foliage from winter winds and cold damage. Where heavy snow and ice are common, tie branches loosely together or build small A-frames over the shrubs. See the files on Winter Protection For Plants and Plant Protection Supplies