boxwoods wintergem turning orange

jacqueline5(z8 No. CA)January 28, 2007


Last spring we planted 150 Wintergem boxwoods along the edge of our lawn and walkways with the plan of pruning them into beautiful hedges when they grew up. They did fine through the summer and fall but this winter they have turned a horrible shade of orange, almost an amber color. The leaves are not brittle and don't appear to be dead - yet. Does anyone know what's wrong with my boxwoods?

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I would guess that these boxwoods are not Winter Gem, but some other cultivar of Boxwood that does, indeed , undergo this color change in the winter.

Actually, I've seen Boxwood which had the coloration you described ... and I liked them.

But, of course, they weren't in my landscape ... and I do have a juniper that I wish didn't change color in the fall/winter.

So ... it looks like you have a choice to make. If these plants were installed by a service, ... you could try to get them to take up the Boxwoods that you currently have ... and replace them with the Boxwoods you paid to have installed.

I pray that you can resolve your situation to your satisfaction.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 7:11PM
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jacqueline5(z8 No. CA)

Nooo! That's not what I wanted to hear :-(

Does anyone know what kind of boxwood I might have and how long can I expect them to stay this rusty orange - burnt amber color? Will they return to the pretty green that I bought last spring?

I bought them at HD; thus the mislabeling would not be surprising. So much for trying to be economical and buying in bulk from the big box. My husband dug the holes while the children and I spent an entire weekend planting them. We have heavy clay soil; it was not an easy task. It's going to be hard to convince my "workers" of the need to take them all up and replant...

The dark orange - amber color ruins the look I was trying to achieve. I was aiming for a cool green & white theme -- lots of lush green grass with walks and beds bordered by evergreen boxwoods. The beds are primarily gardenias and white hydrangeas with Mr. Lincoln tree roses and teas for a splash of red drama.

Thank you for the info ageis500, although it wasn't what I wanted to hear I'm grateful for the reply.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 10:53PM
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I'd agree they are not 'Winter Gem' and while mislabelling can occur anywhere, I'd not be the slightest bit surprised with that problem from one of the box stores. The good news in all of this is that they will return to their more typical green coloration in spring (various varieties of box will turn orange/gold/copper in winter). And this change in color is more common in cold weather - a winter without the sharp drops in temperatures you experienced this season may not produce the same discoloration in a more typical winter. The green will return!!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 5:00PM
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I am surprised that some people are assuming the plants were mislabeled. I think you do have Winter Gem. Big box stores buy from large suppliers, and errors could happen, but I don't think that is your case. I have a small row of Winter Gem, also purchased at HD, that I planted early summer of 2005. They went into the winter looking good, and I had winter watered them. All it took was a few days of wind in March of 2006 to do them in. I replaced them and am hoping for the best. The new ones are currently covered with snow!! Hopefully that will protect them from the wind. They are vary sensitive to wind, especially winter and spring wind. Once they are more established, they will do better in the wind, but that first winter can be difficult. Many people recommend wind protection in the form of fabric or other wind block in the spring if your area has a lot of wind. You have a very large number of plants to try something like that.

I would give them a good soaking with water and then keep them watered (not drenched) and hope for the best. You may find that they will lose their leaves, and leaf out again as the days become longer. You will probably have some that will not recover, but that is not unusual for new plantings. As they get a strong root system, they will winter better. Mulching around the plants really helps hold in moisture and keep them happy. Hope you saved your receipt, as HD has a one year guarantee.

If you do end up replacing them, the soil will dig much easier second time around. As a replacement you may want to consider Emerald Gaiety Euonymus. There is a world of info on the web about it.

Dale P

    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 1:46PM
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Dale, 'Winter Gem" is rather well known for maintaining a vivid green color throughout winter (hence the cultivar name), whereas other common varieties of boxwood consistently will discolor with winter cold, turning various shades of orange, copper and bronze. This is quite different from the dry, brownish shades indicated by dead foliage as the result of excessive cold, inadequate watering or wind dessication - the foliage remains quite succulent; it just takes on a winter coloration that many find very unpleasant. It's one of the primary reasons cultivars like Winter Gem were developed - to avoid this winter discoloration.

And a boxwood that loses its leaves for whatever reason is unlikely to regain them - they're pretty much toast - but unless we are misreading the OP's comments, I don't think that's the problem. It would take some VERY cold weather in California to do in bowoods.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 10:00PM
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I am aware that the Winter Gem is supposed to stay greener in the winter. My experience has been that they will wind damage, and it seems more sensitive the first winter. As they establish a larger root system, they do better. My neighbor planted Winter Gem from the same store, and his have done much better due to being in a very protected area.

My small row (10 plants) that had the wind damage had some of the plants that were trying to leaf out again after dropping the leaves. It would have been more like pruning them severely and having new shoots. They would have most likely survived, but would have been way behind. I replaced all of mine, with the hope that this time will be better. I will be home all spring this year to offer wind protection if it is that severe again. Actually, cold is not as hard on the Winter Gem as wind is. The snow on mine is starting to melt, and as the plants are getting uncovered, they look normal for Winter Gem in the winter.
I hope the snow has protected them (and many other plants in my garden that are totally covered) and is not going to cause damage itself.

Dale P

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 4:37PM
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