How To Plant Boxwood Shrub [ Full Guide ]

Boxwood shrubs are versatile, evergreen plants that make excellent hedges, borders, or standalone landscape features. Planting boxwood shrubs requires careful consideration of the location, soil preparation, and proper planting techniques to ensure the plant’s successful establishment and healthy growth. This comprehensive guide provides detailed step-by-step instructions on how to plant boxwood shrubs, from selecting the right location to choosing and purchasing healthy shrubs.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Boxwood Shrub

Planting boxwood shrubs involves the following steps:

  1. Choose a suitable location that offers well-drained soil and partial to full sun exposure.
  2. Prepare the soil by loosening it and adding organic matter to improve drainage and fertility.
  3. Select healthy boxwood shrubs from a reputable nursery or garden center.
  4. Plant the shrubs at the right depth, amend the soil as necessary, and provide adequate water and mulch for establishment.

Choosing The Right Location

Before planting boxwood shrubs, it’s crucial to select the right location that meets their specific requirements for optimal growth.


Boxwood shrubs thrive in partial to full sun. When choosing a location, ensure that the area receives at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Insufficient sunlight can lead to sparse foliage and reduced vigor in boxwood plants. Conversely, excessive sunlight exposure, especially in hot climates, may result in leaf scorch or sunburn. Therefore, it’s essential to find a balance and provide the shrubs with appropriate light conditions.

Soil Drainage

Well-drained soil is paramount for the health of boxwood shrubs. These plants are susceptible to root rot if they are planted in waterlogged or poorly-drained soil. To assess soil drainage, conduct a percolation test by digging a hole and filling it with water. Ideally, the water should drain away within a few hours. If the water lingers, it indicates poor drainage, and the soil may need to be amended to improve its structure.

Space And Air Circulation

Space and air circulation are crucial factors to consider when planting boxwood shrubs, especially if using them for hedging or borders. Ensure there is sufficient space between each shrub to accommodate their mature width, which varies based on the specific boxwood variety. Adequate spacing not only allows the shrubs to reach their full potential but also promotes better air circulation, reducing the risk of disease and pest infestations.

Preparing The Soil

Once the right location has been chosen, preparing the soil is essential to create an ideal environment for the boxwood shrubs to thrive.

Soil Testing

Before planting boxwood shrubs, it’s beneficial to conduct a soil test to assess its pH and nutrient levels. Soil testing kits are readily available at garden centers, or samples can be sent to a professional laboratory for analysis. The results will guide the necessary soil amendments to ensure the shrubs have access to essential nutrients and a suitable pH level for optimal growth.

Loosening The Soil

Loosening the soil is crucial to provide an ample space for the boxwood shrub’s root system to establish and expand. Using a shovel or a tiller, loosen the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches. This loosening process reduces soil compaction, improves aeration, and facilitates better water infiltration.

Adding Organic Matter

Incorporating organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, into the soil can greatly enhance its structure, fertility, and moisture retention capacity. Spread a 2-3 inch layer of organic matter over the loosened soil and work it in thoroughly to ensure it is evenly distributed. This step enriches the soil with essential nutrients and promotes microbial activity, fostering a healthy soil ecosystem that supports the growth of boxwood shrubs.

Soil Amendments

Based on the results of the soil test, additional soil amendments may be necessary to address specific deficiencies or imbalances in the soil composition. Common soil amendments include lime to raise pH levels for acidic soils, sulfur for alkaline soils, and balanced fertilizers to provide essential nutrients. Follow the recommended application rates and guidelines provided with the soil test results to effectively adjust the soil composition.

Selection And Purchase Of Boxwood Shrubs

Selecting healthy, high-quality boxwood shrubs is crucial for their successful establishment and long-term growth in the landscape.

Choosing The Right Variety

Boxwood shrubs come in various varieties, each with its unique characteristics, growth habits, and mature sizes. Consider the intended use of the shrubs, whether as a formal hedge, border, specimen plant, or topiary, when selecting the appropriate variety. Common boxwood varieties include Buxus sempervirens (American Boxwood), Buxus microphylla (Japanese Boxwood), and Buxus sinica (Korean Boxwood), among others. Research the specific attributes of each variety to ensure it aligns with the desired aesthetic and functional requirements.

Inspecting The Shrubs

When purchasing boxwood shrubs, carefully inspect the plants to ensure they exhibit signs of good health. Look for uniform, vibrant green foliage, free from discoloration, wilting, or pest infestations. Additionally, examine the root system to ensure it is well-developed, fibrous, and free from signs of root rot or damage. Avoid selecting shrubs with yellowing leaves, sparse growth, or stunted root systems, as these may indicate underlying health issues that can impede the shrub’s establishment and growth.

Purchasing From Reputable Sources

Acquiring boxwood shrubs from reputable nurseries or garden centers increases the likelihood of obtaining healthy, well-cared-for plants. Reputable sources typically provide a wider selection of boxwood varieties, offer knowledgeable staff to assist with selection and care advice, and may offer guarantees or warranties on the purchased shrubs. Moreover, reputable nurseries often adhere to best practices in plant care, ensuring that the shrubs are grown in optimal conditions and receive proper attention before being offered for sale.

Planting boxwood shrubs is a rewarding endeavor that enhances the aesthetic appeal and functionality of a landscape. By selecting the right location, preparing the soil, and choosing healthy shrubs, gardeners can ensure the successful establishment and long-term vitality of boxwood plants. Proper attention to detail during the planting process, including soil testing, soil preparation, and thoughtful selection of shrubs, sets the stage for thriving boxwood shrubs that contribute to a visually stunning and vibrant outdoor environment. With these comprehensive guidelines, gardeners can confidently undertake the process of planting boxwood shrubs, creating a lasting impact in their landscape design.

Planting Techniques

Boxwood shrubs are widely known for their attractive foliage and neat, compact growth habit. With their versatility and slow growth rate, they make an excellent addition to any garden or landscape. Planting boxwood shrubs requires careful planning and execution to ensure their successful establishment and long-term health.

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To successfully plant boxwood shrubs, follow these techniques:

1. Choose The Right Location

Boxwood shrubs perform best in well-drained soils with full or partial sunlight. It is important to select a location that receives at least four to six hours of sunlight each day. Avoid areas with heavy clay soils that retain excessive moisture, as this can lead to root rot. Additionally, make sure the planting site offers enough space for the shrubs to reach their mature size without being crowded by other plants or structures.

2. Prepare The Soil

Before planting, it is crucial to prepare the soil properly to create an optimal environment for the boxwood shrubs to flourish. Start by removing any weeds, grass, or other vegetation in the planting area. Loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 18 inches using a garden fork or tiller, breaking up any compacted soil. Incorporate organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, into the soil to improve its fertility and drainage.

3. Dig The Planting Hole

Dig a hole that is two to three times wider and slightly shallower than the root ball of the boxwood shrub. The root ball should sit slightly above the surrounding ground level to allow for proper drainage. Avoid planting the shrub too deep, as this can lead to suffocation and root rot. The size of the planting hole should accommodate the entire root system without crowding or bending the roots.

4. Position And Plant The Shrub

Gently place the boxwood shrub in the center of the planting hole, carefully spreading out its roots. Ensure that the shrub is straight and upright, making any necessary adjustments before backfilling the hole. Backfill the hole with the soil mixture, gently tamping it down around the roots to eliminate air pockets. Water the shrub thoroughly immediately after planting to settle the soil and ensure proper root-to-soil contact.

5. Watering

Proper watering is essential for the establishment and health of newly planted boxwood shrubs. Initially, water the shrubs deeply, saturating the root ball and the surrounding soil. Repeat this deep watering every 7 to 10 days for the first few months after planting, especially during hot and dry periods. As the shrubs establish, gradually transition to a regular watering schedule, ensuring the soil remains consistently moist but not waterlogged.

Watering And Fertilizing

Maintaining an appropriate watering and fertilizing regimen is crucial for the long-term health and vitality of boxwood shrubs. Follow these guidelines for optimal care:

1. Watering Guidelines

Boxwood shrubs have shallow root systems that require regular watering to stay hydrated. During dry periods or when rainfall is scarce, it is important to water the shrubs deeply. Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to deliver water directly to the root zone, reducing evaporation and promoting efficient absorption. Water the shrubs early in the day to allow the foliage to dry before evening, which helps prevent fungal diseases.

2. Fertilizing Schedule

Boxwood shrubs benefit from regular applications of balanced fertilizers to ensure proper growth and foliage development. Apply a slow-release or granular fertilizer in early spring, just as new growth emerges. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the amount to apply based on the size of the shrubs. Avoid excessive fertilization, as this can lead to weak growth and increased susceptibility to pests and diseases.

3. Organic Fertilizers

If you prefer organic options, consider using compost or well-rotted manure as a natural fertilizer for boxwood shrubs. Apply a layer of compost or manure around the base of the shrubs, being cautious not to touch the stems directly. This organic matter will gradually break down, releasing nutrients and improving the soil structure over time. Organic fertilizers also promote beneficial microbial activity in the soil, enhancing overall plant health.

Mulching Tips

Mulching not only adds an aesthetic touch to the garden but also provides numerous benefits for boxwood shrubs. Follow these mulching tips to optimize growth and minimize maintenance:

1. Mulching Materials

Choose organic mulching materials, such as wood chips, straw, or shredded bark, to create a layer of mulch around the base of the boxwood shrubs. These materials enhance soil moisture retention, regulate soil temperature, suppress weed growth, and prevent soil erosion. Avoid using plastic or synthetic mulches, as they can hinder water penetration and air circulation.

2. Mulch Depth And Application

Apply a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch around the base of the shrubs, extending it to the drip line (outer edge of the branches). Take care not to pile mulch against the stems, as this can promote moisture retention and potential rot. Leave a small gap between the mulch layer and the base of the shrubs to allow proper airflow.

3. Mulching Frequency

Replenish the mulch layer annually or as needed, typically during the early spring. Over time, organic mulches decompose and break down, losing their effectiveness. By adding a fresh layer of mulch, you provide continuous benefits to the boxwood shrubs and maintain an aesthetically appealing appearance.

Pruning And Maintenance

Proper pruning and maintenance practices are vital for shaping, rejuvenating, and maintaining the health of boxwood shrubs. Follow these guidelines for effective pruning and maintenance:

1. Pruning Time

The best time to prune boxwood shrubs is during late winter or early spring before new growth appears. Avoid pruning late in the growing season, as this can interfere with the shrubs’ ability to harden off before winter, potentially leading to winter damage.

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2. Shaping And Shearing

Boxwood shrubs respond well to regular shearing and shaping. Use hand pruners or hedge shears to trim the shrubs, maintaining the desired size and form. Start by removing any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. Then, trim the outer portion of the shrub to shape it. Gradual, light shearing throughout the growing season can help promote denser foliage.

3. Pruning For Air Circulation

Thinning out the interior branches of boxwood shrubs is essential to allow proper air circulation and sunlight penetration. This promotes overall plant health and reduces the risk of diseases such as boxwood blight. Use hand pruners to selectively remove a portion of the interior branches, creating a more open and airy structure.

4. Pruning Cautions

Avoid severe pruning or drastically reducing the size of boxwood shrubs, as this can lead to weak growth and potential dieback. It is better to regularly prune and shape the shrubs to maintain their desired size. Clean and sterilize your pruning tools before each use to prevent the spread of pathogens between plants.

5. Overall Maintenance

In addition to regular pruning, boxwood shrubs require routine maintenance to thrive. Monitor the shrubs for any signs of pests or diseases, such as leaf discoloration, abnormal growth, or lesions. Promptly treat any issues that arise, following appropriate pest and disease management strategies. Regularly check the soil moisture levels and adjust watering accordingly. Keep the area around the shrubs free from weeds to reduce competition for resources.

Planting boxwood shrubs is a rewarding endeavor that can add beauty and elegance to any garden or landscape. By following the planting techniques discussed in this article, ensuring proper watering and fertilizing, using mulching to enhance soil conditions, and employing effective pruning and maintenance practices, you can ensure the long-term health and success of your boxwood shrubs. With their evergreen foliage, compact habit, and versatility, these shrubs are an excellent choice for homeowners and gardeners looking to create a polished and timeless look.

Dealing With Pests And Diseases

Boxwood shrubs (Buxus spp.) are popular for their versatility, evergreen foliage, and compact growth habit. They are often used as hedges, borders, and foundation plantings due to their ability to be easily shaped and maintained.

Despite being relatively low-maintenance plants, boxwood shrubs are susceptible to certain pests and diseases. It’s essential to be aware of these potential issues and take preventive measures to ensure the health of your plants. Here are some common pests and diseases that affect boxwood shrubs:

  1. Boxwood Leafminer: This pest is a small, orange fly that lays eggs on the undersides of boxwood leaves, resulting in damaged and discolored foliage. Regularly inspect your boxwood shrubs for early signs of leafminer activity, such as blisters on the leaves. To control leafminers, prune and destroy infested leaves or apply insecticides when necessary.

  2. Boxwood Psyllid: Psyllids are tiny, aphid-like insects that cause deformations and discoloration on boxwood leaves, resulting in a distorted appearance. To prevent psyllids, keep your boxwood shrubs adequately watered and fertilized. If infestation occurs, consider pruning affected branches or applying insecticidal soap to control the population.

  3. Boxwood Blight: This devastating fungal disease can lead to rapid defoliation and death of boxwood shrubs. Symptoms include dark brown spots on leaves, black streaks on stems, and a white, powdery coating on the undersides of leaves. To prevent boxwood blight, ensure good air circulation around your plants, avoid overhead watering, and promptly remove and destroy any infected material.

  4. Volutella Blight: Another fungal disease, volutella blight causes browning, dieback, and defoliation of boxwood shrubs. Infected leaves may develop tan or brown lesions, while stems can exhibit a reddish-brown discoloration. To manage volutella blight, prune affected branches, improve air circulation, and avoid excessive moisture on foliage.

  5. Boxwood Mites: These microscopic pests feed on boxwood foliage, causing yellowing, bronzing, and a general decline in the plant’s health. If mite infestation is severe, the leaves may develop a stippled appearance. To control boxwood mites, consider using a miticide according to the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure proper irrigation and fertilization practices.

Regularly monitor your boxwood shrubs for any signs of pests or diseases, and take appropriate action as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Propagation Methods

If you want to expand your boxwood collection or replace existing shrubs, propagating boxwoods can be an economical and rewarding option. Here are some common propagation methods for boxwood shrubs:

  1. Softwood Cuttings: Softwood cuttings are taken from the current season’s growth when the stems are still flexible. In late spring or early summer, select healthy stems and remove the lower leaves. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and place it in a well-draining propagation medium such as perlite or vermiculite. Provide bottom heat and mist the cuttings regularly to maintain high humidity. After several weeks, the cuttings should develop roots, and you can transplant them into pots or the garden.

  2. Hardwood Cuttings: Hardwood cuttings are taken during the dormant season, usually in late fall or winter. Select pencil-thick stems from the previous year’s growth and make neat cuts below a bud or node. Place the cuttings in a well-draining medium such as sand or a mix of peat moss and perlite. Keep the cuttings in a sheltered, cool location and mist them occasionally to prevent drying out. In about six to eight weeks, the cuttings should form roots.

  3. Layering: Layering is a propagation method that involves bending a low-growing branch of a boxwood shrub and burying a portion of it in the soil. To layer a boxwood shrub, select a flexible stem near the base of the plant. Cut a small notch in the underside of the branch and apply rooting hormone to the wound. Bury the notched portion in a shallow trench filled with a rooting mixture. Anchor the layered branch with wire or a small stake. Keep the soil consistently moist, and roots should develop within several months. Once rooted, you can detach the new plant from the parent shrub and transplant it.

  4. Division: If you have established boxwood shrubs with multiple stems, you can divide them to create new plants. In early spring or fall, carefully dig up the entire shrub and use a sharp, sterile knife to divide it into sections, ensuring each section has several stems and a healthy root system. Replant the divisions immediately in prepared soil and water thoroughly. Divided boxwood shrubs may take some time to reestablish, so provide proper care and monitor their progress.

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Remember to provide the appropriate conditions for newly propagated boxwood plants, such as a well-draining soil mix, moderate watering, and protection from extreme temperatures until they become established.

Seasonal Care And Protection

To keep your boxwood shrubs healthy and looking their best throughout the year, it’s important to provide them with proper care and protection according to the changing seasons. Here are some guidelines for seasonal care:

  1. Spring: In early spring, inspect your boxwood shrubs for any winter damage, including dead or damaged branches. Prune away any affected areas, making clean cuts just above a bud or node. This will encourage new growth and maintain the desired shape of the shrubs. Apply a slow-release, balanced fertilizer according to the package instructions to promote healthy foliage growth.

  2. Summer: During the summer months, boxwood shrubs may require additional watering, especially during hot and dry periods. Water deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth. Mulching around the base of the shrubs with organic material can help conserve moisture and suppress weed growth. Regularly monitor for pests and diseases and take appropriate measures to control any infestations.

  3. Fall: In late fall, it is advisable to hold off on fertilizing boxwood shrubs as they prepare for winter dormancy. Instead, focus on keeping the soil consistently moist and providing adequate drainage to prevent waterlogged roots. Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the shrubs to insulate the roots from extreme temperature fluctuations.

  4. Winter: Boxwood shrubs are generally hardy, but extreme winter conditions can cause damage, particularly to younger plants. Protect your boxwood shrubs from windburn and heavy snow loads by wrapping them with burlap or using wooden A-frame structures to shield them. Avoid using plastic covers, as they can trap moisture and create favorable conditions for diseases.

Design Ideas For Boxwood Shrubs

Boxwood shrubs are highly versatile, lending themselves to a wide range of landscaping design options. Here are some ideas to consider when incorporating boxwoods into your garden:

  1. Hedges: Boxwood shrubs are commonly used to create formal hedges due to their dense foliage and ability to be easily sheared into shape. Whether you prefer a neat and tidy look or a more relaxed, natural appearance, boxwood hedges can add structure and elegance to your garden.

  2. Borders: Edge your flower beds or pathways with boxwood shrubs to create a defined border that adds a touch of sophistication. Consider using taller boxwood varieties for a dramatic effect and lower-growing varieties for a more subdued border.

  3. Topiaries: Boxwood shrubs are popular for creating topiary forms due to their small leaves and dense growth habit. Experiment with different shapes, such as balls, cones, or spirals, to add visual interest and a touch of whimsy to your landscape.

  4. Container Planting: Boxwood shrubs thrive in containers, making them ideal for patio or balcony gardens. Choose compact varieties that will stay small and consider combining them with other plants, such as colorful annuals or trailing vines, for a striking mixed container display.

  5. Mixed Borders: Pair boxwood shrubs with other evergreens, perennials, and flowering shrubs to create visually appealing mixed borders. Consider using contrasting foliage textures and colors to add depth and dimension to your landscape.

Remember to consider the mature size and growth habit of the boxwood varieties you choose, as this will impact their suitability for specific design ideas.


Planting boxwood shrubs can provide you with a versatile and visually appealing addition to your garden. By understanding how to deal with pests and diseases, learning propagation methods, providing seasonal care and protection, and considering different design ideas, you can successfully cultivate and enjoy boxwood shrubs in your landscape. With their attractive foliage and ability to be shaped and maintained, boxwoods are sure to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your outdoor space for years to come.


What Is The Best Time Of Year To Plant Boxwood Shrub?

The ideal time to plant boxwood shrub is during the early fall or late spring when temperatures are mild and there is ample moisture in the soil.

How Much Sunlight Do Boxwood Shrubs Need?

Boxwood shrubs thrive in partial to full sun, with at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. However, they can also tolerate some shade.

How Often Should Boxwood Shrubs Be Watered?

Newly planted boxwood shrubs should be watered deeply once a week for the first few weeks, then gradually decrease to once every 10-14 days. Established shrubs should be watered deeply every 10-14 days.

What Type Of Soil Is Best For Boxwood Shrubs?

Boxwood shrubs prefer a well-draining soil with a pH level of 6.5 to 7.5. If your soil is heavy or clay-like, it’s recommended to amend it with organic matter such as compost to improve drainage.

How Far Apart Should Boxwood Shrubs Be Planted?

Spacing between boxwood shrubs will depend on the variety and how dense you want your hedge or border to be. For a typical hedge, plant boxwood shrubs 18-24 inches apart. For a fuller look, plant them 10-12 inches apart. However, if using boxwood as a specimen plant, allow for more space between each shrub (3-5 feet).