How to Prune a Boxwood

What You'll Need
Loping shears
Garden scissors
Hedge/garden clippers
Pruning shears
Pruning saws

Buxus or the boxwood shrub is among the sturdiest of evergreen garden shrubs. It is an ideal household shrub, needing minimal maintenance. Boxwood shrubs are often used for landscaping the backyard. A well-pruned boxwood shrub helps to create natural borders around the garden in the form of hedged, green beds. Pruning boxwoods isn't difficult if you follow the simple instructions listed below.

When to Prune?

Boxwoods are grown mainly for their green foliage and not the seasonal flowers. Further, timing the pruning in accordance with the seasonal bloom may lead to overgrown shrubs. Try to prune heavily before the growing season begins, usually before spring. During the growth period, prune regularly but lightly. Ornamental pruning, such as clipping, can be carried out throughout the year, except during winters.

How to Prune?

There are many approaches to boxwood pruning. You should have the basic information about each pruning method to select the one that is best suited for your boxwood spread.

Ornamental Pruning

In order to shape boxwood shrubs and prune it for landscaping purposes, you need to clip regularly. Such minimal pruning ensures that the shrub retains the desired shape and doesn't spread excessively. Shrubs that are heavily pruned tend to grow wildly, often spreading horizontally in an unmanageable manner. Therefore, you should clip small amounts of the shrub during every pruning session. Always use lightweight loping shears for this purpose. Garden scissors or regular pruning shears are not meant for shaping a shrub. Some parts of the shrub may need to have a denser growth for creating a particular shape. You should clip these parts more frequently.

Seasonal Pruning

Mature boxwoods, shrubs that are more than three-seasons old, need heavy-duty pruning. This form of pruning is required besides the ornamental clipping discussed above. There are two basic approaches to handle pruning of mature boxwoods:

1. Stage-wise Pruning

A single, intense pruning season creates unwanted stress on the shrub. It leads to creating too many sliced branches that become vulnerable to infections. The strength of the stem may also be compromised. Therefore, pruning in stages is recommended. Don’t prune the core of the shrub: the basal and the middle part of the shrub should be left untouched. You should concentrate on pruning the surrounding foliage. You can use regular garden shears for this purpose. If the outer branches have become too thick, you can use heavy loping shears.

2. Top-heavy Pruning

In this method, a large portion of the shrub’s vertical growth is pruned-off in a single session. This helps to eliminate a substantial amount of foliage and multiple growth points are created around the basal stem. This type of pruning needs larger, pruning saws that can cut through thick stems. However, this method has too many problems. The large number of cut sites attracts garden pests. The exposed canopy allows excessive moisture seepage.

Remember the following tips when pruning your boxwood shrub:

Hedging Care

For creating sharp-angle boxwood hedges, you should prune with hedge clippers. Ideally, you should shape your hedge before the flowers appear on the shrub. During the flowering period, restrict your pruning. For creating straight-lined hedges, stake the shrub and prune along the stake’s edges.

Inducing Growth

If you want a certain part of the shrub to have denser foliage, its growth density will have to be encouraged. For this, pinching branches is recommended. After pruning that area, pinch the tips of the young branches. This induces faster blooming and thicker foliage development.

You should be mindful about some common pruning mistakes:

Winter Pruning

It can prove extremely damaging to the shrub. Winter pruning can cause moisture seepage within the sliced edges of boxwoods. This eventually leads to fungal infections.

Lower Shrub Health

Ensure that your boxwoods aren't top-heavy, such as a shrub with thick, upper foliage and narrow basal growth. The dense, upper foliage often tends to cut-off light to the basal foliage. This causes the brown, weathered look among many mature boxwoods. Keeping a slightly wider base helps to resolve this issue.