When to prune new boxwood hedge?

lcohen(5)May 16, 2006

Friends, recently planted 5 winter gem boxwoods in zone 6. Some people have told me to let the plants establish for a year before pruning, some say to prune soon to promote growth (planted them about 6" apart and hope to have a unified hedge when mature). I have already seen some new growth since I planted them about a month ago.


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Pruning is used to control size or shape. Pruning does stimulate growth, you often see 3 or more new shoots emerging from the cut so it would make them more bushy. However, as you've seen, the plant will put out new growth on it's own.

I would not prune them unless you need to correct the growth.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 7:20AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Six inches apart? That sounds awfully close. OTOH, if it's the usual typo and really six feet, will these really get that big?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 7:55AM
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saypoint(6b CT)

I thought that sounded close, too. I planted some hedges of Green Velvet almost two years ago, they are supposed to get about 3 feet wide, so I planted them 2.5 feet apart. They're growing nicely, have nearly doubled in size and will be touching, I think, by the end of this season.

Here's a link to what I think is the proper way to trim boxwood. Shearing is OK, but is not the best way IMO unless you want a very tight hedge or topiary.

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 8:18AM
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Thanks everyone - as they are slow growers (and are not in the sunniest spot) and I wanted a dense hedge I was told to plant them 6".(they were about 28" when I planted them).

Wow,saypoint - how big were your green velvets to start? I thought they grow 2-3" per year?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 2:55PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

Do you mean the holes for planting were 6" apart, or the foliage was 6" apart? Mine were one gallon containers, IIRC, and have fluffed out beautifully, they must be happy where I put them. I'd say they put on more like 4-5 inches per year since planted. I don't shear them, just snip off the stragglers that stick out, and a little snipping to encourage bushy growth.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 3:46PM
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Sorry, I meant the folliage was about 6" apart when I planted them. Yours look great saypoint. I absolutely love the color of the wintergems and the green velvets. My neighbors who planted other varieties are jealous :)


    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 4:05PM
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Bump- the 'ideal' time to prune a boxwood is early winter, so says the link provided.
I just noticed that mine is in terrible need of thinning, and is not greening up like it's supposed to. Makes sense since this is its 3rd year at our place. Any clues what would happen if I did it NOW? Here's a pic:


    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 2:26PM
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GKelly9787(Z5 IL)

Here's my boxwood story. I'm in zone 5 and had really ugly, scraggly potentellas (sp?) for foundation shrubs--YUK! Pulled them out and planted my favorites--boxwoods. I think they were winter gems. Anyway--novice that I am I planted them too close to the house, too close to each other and two years later HATED the way they looked. Some were healthy but dwarfed and not getting any bigger, some were crooked (still trying to figure that out) and some were HUGE!

To make a long story short, last fall I dug them all up (not for the weak as this was a chore and a half!) rearranged them and let me tell you they are all growing very happily in their new spots this spring. Now I have to attempt to prune them so I better go read that article!!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2008 at 7:27PM
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I just planted a hedge of green velvet boxwoods (30 of them.) They were in 3 gallon containers and measured about 18 inches across. I planted them 30 inches apart (from one center to another) but now I am worried.... They were pretty wild (straggly branches here and there) so I snipped the wild ones off to 'clean them up' a bit. I did this right after planting them. Will they be ok? I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now that I'm sitting here reading about pruning and the "right" time to do it I'm hoping I didn't mess up royally :(

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 10:44PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)


It sounds like you only did minor pruning. If so, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Even if you pruned them quite a bit, they'll probably be fine. Heavy pruning right after transplant might set the plants back a little. You can really get by with light pruning just about any time of year except maybe for late summer when new growth wouldn't have time to harden off before winter.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 2:10PM
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I just planted two boxwoods this spring. They are currently about 2-2.5' in diameter and stand approximately 2ft high. I'm wanting the grow them into a rounded form. My question is...when should I begin pruning them? If now, how much pruning should I do and what would be the best approach to take to achieve the rounded look I'm going for?

Any help would be greatly appreciated...

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 2:53PM
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I've read up on the subject quite a bit since last year's planting... Maybe others will have different advice, but if it were me, I'd leave them be for the season. Once Spring comes and they put their first shot of new growth, you can prune them.... early June is what was recommended to me.... giving them enough time to really grow a bit, and then prune them up which will encourage more growth later. Shape them a little at a time---eye it up and then step back and look.... prune a bit more.... just clip the stem right above a node.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 9:10PM
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Ok, two years ago planted a hedge of Green Gem boxwood. Planted them so they touched, they were already decent size at the time, maybe a little over 1 foot tall and wide. Big mistake. Huge.

This year, they were not happy, had some browning either due to winter damage, retarded root growth, or lack of water. Take your pick, could be any reason, we neglected them last year due to other priorities. We also had them too close to the retaining wall, could have been root exposure. In any case, we were being impatient and planted them too close.

We dug them up, a chore, but the burlap was still intact - the roots hadn't even established. We removed one from each row to allow more room for growth. We also added compost to the soil. Normally, I would not prune any plant at planting time, but these had so many dead branches because they were packed so tight, we had no choice. So, we trimmed them down to a low hedge.

I would say, space them properly if you can, you will be rewarded in the long run. In my experience, in my zone, Boxwood have done fairly well for me as far as growth rate, and I have clay soil. I have some in shade, some in most full sun, and aside from my overpacked hedge, they've all done wonderfully. In other words, they will grow faster than you might expect.

Ideally, in future years, it is appropriate to prune/hedge boxwood in mid june, no later than mid July to give them time to harden off before winter.

Also boxwood like to go to sleep for the winter with wet feet - I run a soaker hose mid November - this is the last of the moisture they will receive. I protect mine from the sun with pine sprigs in the winter months, or burlap works fine, and I spray them with wilt pruf in November after watering to help the foliage retain moisture.

I have Green Velvet - love it, nice mound shape.

Green Gems are more compact, they have done well for me.

I also have green mountain, takes to shearing/hedging well, but will also grow into a nice upright form if left to grow naturally.

My Green Velvet, on the north face of my home reached a nice mature height going on the fourth year - BEAUTIFUL. I have planted two more, for a set of three. Love them.

Water daily for the first two weeks after transplanting, then weekly until well established, for the first two years.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 12:40AM
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A little off-topic, but I noticed your aside about the burlap. Honestly, you should never plant in burlap. It takes a long, long time to break down (think 5+ years, even longer in cold climates or dry soils), and makes, for example, amending the soil around it with compost a waste. You might as well be planting it in pots. And by the time it DOES break down meaningfully, your plant is probably rootbound (the primary and secondary roots can't get through the burlap, though the tertiary (feeding, fine roots) usually can. This means plants can usually survive for a few years, but they won't do as well, and then the lucky ones will have come through the ordeal OK and THEN thrive. But why put them through it?

Anyway, just throwing that out there. You see this all the time on TV shows and so on, but it just is not a good idea.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 2:24PM
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I plantted small boxwoods last april 2010. the ones in my sheltered postage stamp townhouse lawns survived the winter. Just clipped off a few crisy branches. They are not in a hedge, just standing free for filler. The ones I put outside my fence in the alley are brown and crispy. Is there any way to rejuvenate them and have them grown new branches and leaves or do I throw them away?

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 2:28PM
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