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Boxwood Care



While the most familiar forms of boxwood are English (Buxus sempervirens) and Dwarf English (Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa'), there are about 90 species and over 150 different cultivars known, exhibiting a wide variety of forms and foliage. Boxwood can be used in many different ways due to its many varied forms, such as prostrate, globe, half-erect, weeping, columnar and pyramidical.  There are also interesting variations in size and foliage. Some of the ways boxwoods can be used are as foundation platings; to seperate or screen areas; to provide background for other plantings; to provide framework for a  formal graden; to outline a terrace, walkway or parking area; for planter boxes; and as topiary or specimen pieces. Boxwood is also used for bonsai in its dwarf form.


When selecting the right boxwood for the job it is important to note tha particular sun and shade characteristics of a particular form as well as its maximum size, growth characteristics and hardiness. Most boxwoods are slow growing but strive to achieve their mazimum height and widtch over time (anywhere from 2 x 2 feet to 15 x 15 feet) While trimming is recommended and greatly improves the beauty of boxwood, it's important not to fight against the natural growth habit of a variety.


Selecting A Site

Boxwoods are adapted to a wide range of light conditions. They tolerate heavy shade but will grow in full sun if the roots are in a good soil environment. Boxwoods should only be plated in well-drained soils. Never plant them near downspouts or in any area that stays wet. In general, boxwoods should be planted in a somehwat protected, semi-shade location for best year round performance. The following is a list of site traits to consider:


Aciditiy:  Boxwoods peform best at a pH of 6.5 to 7.2.

Drainage: Good drainage isimportant. To determine if the soil has proper internal drainage, dig a hole one foot in diameter and a foot deep. Fill the hole with water. If th ater is not gone within one hour, the site is not well drained. 

Exposure: Boxwoods do best if they have partial sun during the growing season. However, during winter thesite should offer protection from sunshine and wind. Plants exposed to continual direct sun in winter will have reddish-brown or yellow leaves due to rapid temperature changes. Windy sites  in winter will cause the boxwood to lose water faster than it can be absobed. This will also cause reddish-brown discoloration of the leaves. Boxwoods planted close to the south or west sides of buildings often experience winter bronzing. English box is more resistant to this than Japanese box.

Soil Texture: A loamy soil, which has narly equal portions of sand, silt and clay, is ideal. A sandy soil generally doesn't have sufficient water-holding capacity. Heavy clay soils often lack good drainage, whic results in the roots being constantly wet, reduing available air. When the clay soil does dry out, it is quite hard, inhibiting root growth. To correct heavy clay soil, first add organic matter to create pore space for proper root development; then add fine pea gravel to improve the structure and plant in a slightly elevated berm.

Root Competition: Competition for water and nutrients from nearby trees, shrubs, and turfgrass should be avoided. Ideally, the site should be free of root competition. The roots of many plants will reach out as far as the drip line, some much farther. Site conditions can be modified by appropriately increasing water and fertilizer applications to compensate for the loss due to root competition. An effective long-term solution involves transplanting the boxwood or the interfering plant.


The majority of boxwood roots are near the soil surface. Because of the extensive lateral root system, boxwoods should not be planted too deeply or in locations that restrict the spread of roots. Root development will be stunted if growing too near the foundation of a house, sidewalk or other barrier.

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