Tips for Cultivating Boxwood Shrubs: A Step-by-Step Guide to Successful Growth


Boxwood shrubs are a popular choice among gardeners who appreciate their elegant and timeless beauty. With their dense, compact foliage and small, glossy leaves, boxwoods add a touch of sophistication to any garden or landscape. Whether you’re planting them as a hedge, border, or specimen plant, boxwoods have a variety of uses and can be easily shaped and pruned to fit your desired aesthetic.

Boxwood shrubs are evergreen, which means they retain their foliage year-round, providing a pop of greenery even in the winter months. They are also relatively low-maintenance, making them a popular choice for busy gardeners. However, like any plant, boxwoods have their own specific care demands that must be followed in order to ensure their health and longevity.

One of the key considerations when growing boxwood shrubs is selecting the right variety for your garden. Boxwoods come in hundreds of different cultivars, each with their own unique characteristics. Some boxwoods are more suitable for formal gardens, with tight, compact growth and symmetrical shapes. Others are better suited for more casual landscapes, with looser, airy growth habits. By understanding the specific qualities of each variety, you can choose the one that best fits your aesthetic preferences and the needs of your garden.

When planting boxwoods, it’s important to select a location that meets their specific requirements. Boxwoods prefer well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. They also thrive in areas with morning sun and afternoon shade, although they can tolerate full sun or light shade. Avoid planting them in wet or heavy clay soils, as this can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases.

Preparing the soil before planting is also crucial for the success of your boxwood shrubs. Dig a hole that is twice as wide and deep as the root ball of the plant. Mix in some well-rotted compost or other organic matter to improve the soil’s fertility and drainage. After planting, apply a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to help conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

Boxwood shrubs have a relatively slow growth rate, especially when compared to other popular hedge plants. It may take several years for them to become fully mature and reach their desired size. However, this slow growth rate also means that boxwoods require less pruning than fast-growing plants. Regular pruning is still necessary to maintain their shape and remove any dead or diseased branches, but it can be done on a less frequent basis.

Another important aspect of boxwood care is fertilizing. Boxwoods benefit from an annual application of a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring. Avoid overfertilizing, as this can result in excessive growth and make the plants more susceptible to diseases and pests.

Propagation of boxwood shrubs can be done through seeds or cuttings. Growing from seeds can be a lengthy process, and the resulting plants may not have the same characteristics as the parent plant. Propagating from cuttings, on the other hand, allows you to create new plants that are identical to the parent plant. Take 4-6 inch stem cuttings from healthy, mature boxwood plants in early summer, dip the cuttings in rooting hormone, and plant them in a well-draining potting mix. Keep the cuttings in a shaded area and mist them regularly to maintain high humidity.

While boxwood shrubs are generally hardy and resistant to many pests and diseases, they can still be susceptible to certain issues. Boxwood blight, a fungal disease, has become a serious concern for boxwood growers in recent years. This disease can cause severe defoliation and even death of the plants. To help prevent boxwood blight, avoid buying plants from unknown or unreliable sources and inspect plants carefully for any signs of the disease before bringing them into your garden.

In conclusion, growing boxwood shrubs can be a rewarding endeavor for any gardener looking to add a touch of elegance and sophistication to their outdoor space. By following the proper care guidelines, selecting the right variety, and understanding the specific needs of boxwoods, you can enjoy their timeless beauty for many years to come.

How to Plant a Box Hedge

Planting a box hedge is a great way to define your garden and create a beautiful, structured look. Box hedges are known for their dense, rounded growth habit, making them a popular choice for formal gardens and borders.

Before you start planting, it’s important to choose the right location for your box hedge. Boxwood shrubs thrive in well-drained soils and prefer a location with full to partial sun. Make sure the soil is slightly acidic and rich in organic matter.

Step 1: Prepare the soil

Start by preparing the soil. Remove any weeds or grass from the planting area and loosen the soil with a garden fork or tiller. Add compost or well-rotted manure to improve the soil’s fertility and drainage.

Step 2: Plant the boxwoods Step 3: Water the plants

Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the root ball of your boxwood shrub. Place the shrub in the hole and backfill with soil, firming it gently around the roots. Space the plants according to the desired hedge height and width.

After planting, water the boxwoods thoroughly to help them acclimate to their new home. Provide regular waterings, especially during dry periods, to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.

Step 4: Mulch and fertilize

Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the plants to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. Use a balanced fertilizer to promote healthy growth, following the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates and timing.

Step 5: Prune and maintain

To maintain the shape and density of your box hedge, it’s important to prune and trim regularly. Prune in late spring or early summer, when new growth has hardened off. Use sharp, clean tools to make clean cuts and remove any dead or damaged branches.

In conclusion, planting a box hedge requires careful attention to detail and following the proper care instructions. By choosing the right location, preparing the soil, and providing regular watering and fertilizing, you can enjoy a healthy and beautiful box hedge in your garden for years to come.

Planting Boxwood Seedlings

When it comes to planting boxwood seedlings, there are a few important steps to follow. In order to ensure the success of these beautiful evergreen trees, you’ll need to choose the right location and prepare the soil properly.

First and foremost, it’s essential to select a planting location that meets the needs of boxwood trees. These evergreens thrive in well-drained soils with full to partial sun exposure. Be sure to check your hardiness zone to confirm that boxwoods are suitable for your area.

Before planting, it’s a good idea to prepare the soil. Boxwoods prefer slightly acidic soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. If your soil is too alkaline, you can amend it with sulfur or peat moss. Additionally, boxwoods benefit from organic matter, so consider incorporating compost or well-rotted manure into the planting area.

Once the soil is ready, it’s time to dig a hole for the seedling. The size of the hole should be slightly larger than the root ball of the young boxwood. Gently remove the seedling from its container, being careful not to damage the delicate roots. Place the tree in the hole, making sure that the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil.

After planting, be sure to water the seedling thoroughly to settle the soil and remove any air pockets. Watering is especially important during the first year while the tree is getting established. However, avoid overwatering, as boxwoods prefer relatively dry conditions.

It’s also worth noting that boxwoods benefit from a layer of mulch around the base of the tree. The mulch helps to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Use a natural mulch, such as wood chips or shredded bark, and spread it to a depth of 2-4 inches. Be sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk to prevent rot.

Once you’ve planted your boxwood seedlings, be prepared for some ongoing maintenance. These trees are relatively low-maintenance, but they do have certain needs. Fertilizing in early spring and again in mid-summer is recommended to promote healthy growth. Additionally, boxwoods are susceptible to pests and diseases like boxwood blight and boxwood psyllid. Keep an eye out for any signs of trouble and take action promptly if necessary.

Overall, boxwood seedlings can be a wonderful addition to any garden or landscape. With their dense, evergreen foliage and rounded growth habit, they provide a beautiful backdrop or can be used to define borders and hedges. They’re also a popular choice for containers, making them a versatile option for smaller spaces.

Whether you’re just starting out with boxwood seedlings or considering buying more mature trees, it’s important to provide the proper care and maintenance. With a little attention and patience, your boxwoods will mature into healthy, green, and vigorous specimens that will enhance the beauty of your outdoor space.

✿ Read More: Gardening Tips and Advice.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.