Are my boxwoods worth saving?

abruyerMarch 19, 2014

Hello all!
I'm hoping that I can get some advice on our boxwoods. We just purchased our home in August. Along the front of the home, beneath the front window, there is a row of boxwoods(about 6 of them). They are all approx 3.5ft tall. I'm debating whether I should just pull them all out or if they are salvageable The issues they have are....
1. They appear to have been pruned badly for a long time. They are very dense on the outer edges and only have an average 3-4 inches of green into the bush. The inside is just bare branches.
2. One of them is completely dead and its one of the center I just pull it and pull the others in to fill the gap?
3. They all have yellowed considerably over the winter on the tips. Is this normal for boxwoods? This has been such a rough winter.

Do you think that they can be saved? Are they worth saving? What steps do I need to take?

I appreciate any advice! Thanks in advance!

This post was edited by abruyer on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 21:36

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You are correct about the bad pruning. Plants should never be pruned by removing just the outer growth. Whenever a plant is pruned, it encourages growth at the cut point. That is why all of your growth is at the end of the branches and there is none in the center.

Improper pruning will also result in damaged edges as leaves are cut resulting in brown/yellow edges.

A good pruner will 'pluck-prune'. You must do each branch individually. Cut each branch at a different depth. This will encourage growth at many levels of the plant.

I would try this method and see how they look in a few months. You will be surprised at how well plants respond to proper pruning, especially boxwoods.

However, if they look 'scalped' with branches showing through because their is not enough foliage, I would give them a year to grow new foliage and recover a bit.

The yellowing, if caused by the winter, should grow out.

If the one plant is dead, remove it. Whether the others will fill in depends on their variety, (how big they ultimately grow) and how far apart they are spaced.

I would recommend patience. It sounds like your plants have been improperly cared for and then hit by this horrendous winter. Boxwoods are remarkably resilient if cared for properly.

My daughter just bought a house with boxwoods that have been 'pruned' to within an inch of their lives. I have given her this same advice.


Professional landscaper who will do away with all electric hedge trimmers when I am made king of the world.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 3:30PM
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Thanks Linda. Do you think it would be possible to transplant the bushes on either side of it to fill in gap a bit?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 3:46PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i cant see your pic ... did you remove it????

but it usually isnt worth the effort to move overly aged ... plants ...

nor do i know where they are located ...

ANY shrub can be renovated ... which is a 2 to 4 year project ...

and my usual point is.. that if this is right out the front door .... i would suggest you rip them out.. and make your own mistakes in planting ...

if they are out on the back 5 acres ... and who would plant boxwood out there??? .... then it might be an interesting project if you were inclined to learn about the process ...

the first lesson i learned.. after i left my parents house ... was to kill EVERYTHING... that required a once or twice per year shearing .... and 2 years after i left them ... they had me kill theirs too.. since i was the free labor ...

as you are removing them... just focus on that as being the last time you will ever be having to deal with them ... ever... lol ..


    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:34PM
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Large, established plants are difficult to move successfully. If you really want something to fill in, try to find a larger plant of the same variety to plant in the gap. It will look odd for a while as it will be healthy as compared to your other ones. If it were me, I would wait for a while to see if your others are going to recover and then fill in the gap. If you plant a healthy one and your others do not do well, you will be stuck with an odd Boxwood and another problem to deal with.

When trying to match a variety, take a small branch to a good nursery for help in ID'ing. Boxwood varieties are very similar but there are differences which would become evident in your group planting.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 12:48AM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

abruyer - I'm just going to differ a bit from whitelacey's statement 'Plants should never be pruned by removing just the outer growth'. The fact is that some shrubs can be trimmed this way and that is why they are frequently used for hedges and topiary. Box is a prime example of a shrub which can be clipped repeatedly. But it needs to be kept healthy to endure this treatment. If your boxwoods are bigger than you want you could reduce them a lot. Then give them some slow release fertiliser and/or a good dose of compost. Thereafter they can be clipped once they have started into new growth. They may need a second trim later in the year. You say yours are in full sun and if so they must have adequate moisture at the roots.

If you want freeform shrubs, obviously, ignore this information and just treat them with normal rejuvenation pruning.

Box is really easy to grow from cuttings so if you want matching replacements and are patient that is a possibility. I've grown a lot of plants from cuttings and all are now several years old and are kept clipped into either balls or cones. I have a very tiny garden behind an old house. I know the formal style is not for everyone.

Here is a link that might be useful: Looking after box

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 5:28AM
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Hm. Lots to consider.
They are indeed right next to the front door which is why I am so tempted to pull them out. However, I'm then left with a VERY bare front......I suppose you have to start from somewhere though.

Any suggestions for replacements? Something that will fill in fairly quick but stay under 3-4ft. I like the natural/cottage garden look. The house faces west but like I said it gets shady in the heat of the afternoon since there is a large maple in front. I'm not sure why my brain is hitting such a block on this one.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 2:40PM
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