Everyone loves shrubs. They add a lot of variety, screening, texture, and color to your home landscape.
A fan favorite is the boxwood shrub. They are evergreen, meaning they stay green all year, and they also provide dense foliage and structure. They are even deer-resistant. You can use them along path edges, to create garden rooms, to hide unsightly areas of your property, or just to add some consistent greenery. These shrubs are also fairly hardy, needing less water than other plants, and they require little maintenance to look good most of the year.
But “little maintenance” doesn’t mean “no maintenance.” Following proper boxwood shrub care is important so you can prolong the life of your shrubs and ensure they look their best.
Let’s look at some tips for how to care for boxwood shrubs so you can keep these hedges healthy and tidy all year long.
How To Care For Boxwood Shrubs
Boxwood shrubs tend to thrive in U.S. hardiness zones 5 to 9, but some cultivars are OK to zone 4. And you can get boxwood shrubs to suit multiple purposes in your landscape – from a couple feet in height to 20 feet tall and ranging in width from 2 to 8 feet.
Boxwood shrub care includes proper planting in ideal locations. During the first year of planting, remember to water boxwoods regularly. These relatively shallow-rooted shrubs also need supplemental watering during hot, dry spells.
Beyond that, shrubs have some basic care specifications:
- Soil – Boxwood shrubs can handle most soil types.
- Light – These shrubs prefer 4 to 6 hours of sun daily.
- Water – Mulch annually to maintain soil moisture levels. Ensure adequate drainage; these shrubs don’t like excessively wet soils.
- Fertilizer – Fertilize in spring with a slow-release fertilizer.
- Pruning – Established boxwood shrubs require little trimming unless they have been trained to grow in formal shapes. Otherwise, prune boxwood shrubs to eliminate stray branches in early spring or early in the growing season.
Seasonal Boxwood Shrub Care
Understanding how to care for boxwood shrubs during each season can help you target adequate maintenance tactics when they are needed most.
How To Take Care Of Boxwoods In The Spring
- Best time to plant – Early spring or late fall is the best time to plant boxwoods. Keep boxwoods away from highly windy areas to avoid winter burn and avoid spots that receive a lot of hot, direct, afternoon sun.
- Fertilize – Apply a slow-release, tree and shrub fertilizer to promote foliar growth for best boxwood shrub spring care.
- Watering – For new plants, water evenly but don’t let the ground get soggy. Proper drainage is important. Water in the morning and target water at the roots and not the leaves to avoid boxwood blight. These shallow-rooted shrubs need more frequent watering during hot, dry spells and especially if planted in containers.
How To Take Care Of Boxwoods In The Fall
- Fertilize – Fall slow-release fertilization can help promote root growth for boxwoods. Never fertilize boxwoods in the summer heat, late in summer, or during winter.
- Watering – Water in late fall (early November) to improve winter boxwood shrub care. This is particularly important for younger plants.
How To Take Care Of Boxwoods In The Winter
In winter, your boxwood shrub care may differ, depending on if you have newly planted shrubs or mature ones.
- Winter protection – After the first frost, wrap young shrubs in burlap to prevent snow and ice damage. Don’t wrap too tightly to ensure airflow. You can also spray boxwoods with an anti-desiccant to protect them from excessively drying in winter winds.
- Watering – Winter care for boxwood shrubs includes 1 inch of water weekly until the ground freezes.
- Mulch – After the ground is frozen, add a winter mulch layer (2 to 3 inches) to maintain soil moisture.
Common Boxwood Threats
While boxwood shrub care is quite simple, there are some threats to watch out for.
- Boxwood decline – This condition causes leaf discoloration, weak growth, and branch dieback. American and English boxwood shrubs tend to be more susceptible to this issue, and poor planting or location tends to be the reason for it to erupt. Prevent boxwood decline by following proper watering, fertilization, mulching, and pruning tactics.
- Boxwood blight – This disease can impact all boxwood species. Symptoms start with light or dark brown leaf spots that turn yellow or brown and then drop. Humid, warm conditions can make this fungus spread faster, as can infected equipment or tools. Prevent this disease by sterilizing pruning tools and avoiding overhead watering. Once the pathogen is detected, remove fallen leaves and soil to depths of 8 to 12 inches to eliminate further disease spread. A certified arborist may use fungicides to treat boxwood blight.
- Boxwood psyllid – This tiny sucking insect looks like a cicada and tends to prefer English or common boxwoods. Insects overwinter as eggs in boxwood buds. Damage is typically aesthetic, but large numbers of these pests can cause defoliation. Prune away infected or injured foliage.
- Boxwood spider mites – These pests feed on European, common, and English boxwoods in cool weather. They remain active through late winter. Certified arborists may need to apply a miticide to manage spider mites.
- Boxwood leafminer – These small flies cause lackluster foliage, as well as weaker overall plants, particularly in colder climates. New leaves will appear with yellow spots in late spring, looking blistered by summer. Certified arborists may use a fertilizer after the leafminer has been controlled with a systemic insecticide that is applied in spring before eggs hatch or just after.
To help prevent all potential boxwood threats, boxwood shrub care includes proper fertilization to promote new growth, improve overall vigor, and enhance appearance, as well as correct watering and pruning practices.