How and When to Prune Boxwood Shrubs

How and When to Prune Boxwood Shrubs

How and when to prune boxwood shrubs? It does not, if allowed to remain unattended, gradually grow into an unsightly pile in your yard. At the very least, not any more. Clearly, it has outlived its usefulness as a plant at this point.

Boxwood, on the other hand, is a different story: depending on the variety, it can grow anywhere from six to twelve inches per year if given the right conditions.This is slow enough to creep up on you but rapid enough to transform a well-trimmed hedge into a tangled mess before you really realize what’s happening.

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Do boxwoods need to have their branches pruned? Certainly not in every case. However, in order to keep your buxus looking tidy and disease-free, you will need to do some trimming. In addition to that, wouldn’t it be a tragedy if such a beautiful painting was disregarded and used for nothing?

Those of you who have been searching for information on how to prune a boxwood have found the appropriate resource. In this instruction manual, we will discuss the what, when, why, and how of doing pruning on your Buxus.

If you need a reminder, our essay on how to grow and care for boxwoods should help. The following items are scheduled to be discussed:

Why do We Need to Prune Boxwood Shrubs?

It is crucial to understand the purpose behind trimming your hedges before you take sharp instruments outdoors to do so.

Aesthetic Factors

When I look back over old yearbooks and cringe at how messy my hair was in the photos that were taken of me, I am reminded of how important it is to have a proper haircut. Even though boxwoods do not have hair, it is essential to keep them trimmed up in order to create a landscape that looks nice.

Unfortunately, boxwoods almost never grow in a uniform fashion. It’s possible that one side may develop more quickly than the other. While some stems may be able to make a run for it, others would have to stay back. Any structural damage to the shrub might either cause its development to go in the wrong direction or completely cease it.

A horizontal image of a dome-shaped boxwood shrub growing in a park with trees in the background.

To the relief of gardeners everywhere, pruning is a tried-and-true method for taking charge of the overall look of boxwood.

When properly pruned, a Buxus shrub may be shaped into a perfect sphere, a perfectly sharpened block, or almost any other form you can imagine. Topiary artists who are really skilled may even create them to seem like things, animals, or even real humans!

There are instances when the natural growth of plants results in the most beautiful appearance. On the other hand, there are instances when we have to take action and create changes on our own. From a design standpoint, edits to boxwood’s appearance are almost always welcome.

Health Factors

Boxwoods should be pruned for reasons other than aesthetics alone. Additionally, it will minimize the likelihood of diseases as well as bug infestations.

When a Buxus shrub becomes larger, the space between its stems and its leaves becomes less accessible to air. This restricted airflow also makes it take longer for a plant to dry up after it has been irrigated or exposed to precipitation.

This long period of dampness makes it easier for people to get sick because many infectious agents thrive in damp places.

A horizontal image of boxwood hedging in the backyard.

Also, over time, a plant that has been left to grow on its own may have parts that are dead or damaged.

Because these tissues are perfect places for disease to get into a plant, removing damaged or dead branches as soon as they appear may help the plant’s resistance.

Regrettably, infection and infestation are inextricably linked to one another. A plant that is diseased is a plant that is stressed, and insects and other pests are more likely to attack sick plants than healthy ones. It is all too easy for an infestation to follow an illness.

Plant’s Vigor

Pruning is an effective way to increase a plant’s vigor, which is its overall growth rate.

The above-ground branches and the underground roots that make up a plant often develop in a manner that is proportionate to one another as the plant grows. Both of these structures are in charge of gathering the resources that the plant as a whole needs to keep growing and getting better.

A horizontal image of formal boxwood bushes growing in the garden pictured in light evening sunshine.

However, when there is an abrupt reduction in the quantity of shoots via the process of pruning, there is now an imbalance in the ratio of roots to shoots.

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In order to restore equilibrium, excess energy from the plant’s roots is channeled towards the production of new shoots at a higher pace than was previously possible. You want the shoot growth to be improved since this will result in greater rejuvenation and health of the plant.

What Equipment Is Required to Prune Boxwood Shrubs?

It’s possible that you won’t need all of the things on this list depending on the dimensions, dimensions, and quantity of boxwood that you have. However, if you find yourself lacking an item that you need, the garden center near you is there to help you out.

We will provide some recommendations for items that may also be purchased online through reliable affiliates of ours.

You may even be able to get away with borrowing a tool or two from your neighbors if you have a good reputation for not being a freeloader and your neighbors are known to be giving.

Personal Protective Equipment

This is an unquestionably necessary point. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s fine to live a risky lifestyle… However, having all of your fingers and eyes is also a blessing.

When you are pruning, it is quite beneficial to have a pair of gardening gloves that are robust. Your hands will be protected, and you’ll have an easier time maintaining a firm hold on the instruments.

When pruning a Buxus, you should search for gloves that are not only cut-or puncture-resistant but also flexible. Eye protection is another essential item to have, particularly while working with sharp instruments to shape vegetation.

When compared to working on trees, boxwood does provide a less chance of debris flying in your direction, yet this risk still exists. However, there is still a possibility, and it is always preferable to err on the side of caution rather than regret.

In addition to that, I periodically wipe the perspiration off my brow with the back of the hand that is carrying the pruner, and I would hate to accidentally poke out an eye that wasn’t covered. That’s hardly a very interesting tale to explain how I ended up wearing an eye patch, is it?

When you are shopping for eye protection for gardening, you should search for glasses that are anti-fog, anti-scratch, impact-resistant, and/or UV-resistant.

If you, like me, already wear glasses, then safety goggles will provide you with plenty of area for your prescription eyeglasses inside the frame of the goggles.

Hand Pruners

When making tiny, accurate, and detailed pruning cuts, hand pruners are the tool of choice. Even if you don’t plan on doing much pruning, having a dependable pair of hand pruners may make gardening a great deal simpler, making the purchase well worthwhile.

If you have the option, go with bypass pruners. Just like a pair of scissors, bypass pruners have a sharp blade that snucks past another blade in order to complete the cutting action.

This makes it possible to make a precise and clean cut, and it also prevents you from prematurely dulling the blades, which would be the case with alternative cutting processes.

Shears for Hedges

Hedge shears, because of the length and sharpness of their blades, are capable of producing a greater amount of pruning volume per slice than hand pruners.

It is common practice to tilt the blades ever-so-slightly with respect to the handles; this facilitates more comfortable cutting at both low and high angles.

And if you’re lucky enough to get a set with telescoping handles, you’ll be able to trim those annoying Buxus bushes that are located just beyond your reach.

Hedge Trimmer

If the idea of spending the whole day with a gigantic pair of scissors in your hand seems like a chore that you’d rather avoid, you can skip the hedge shears and go straight for the hedge trimmer instead.

The “blade” of a hedge trimmer has two rows of teeth on each side, and the row of teeth on the top of the blade moves back and forth immediately above the row on the bottom.

This makes a line of teeth on both sides that cut around the boxwood. These teeth can cut through untrimmed boxwood leaves like a very loud knife cutting through butter.

As long as they are used the right way, hedge trimmers can cut the amount of time it takes to prune boxwood by a lot.

Hedge trimmers are power tools; therefore, using them properly requires due care and attention to safety precautions. Depending on how loud the device you’re using is, you may also need to wear ear protection while using it.

Hedge trimmers may be powered by gasoline or electricity. However, gas-powered versions are often the noisiest, heaviest, and most powerful of all the available options.

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Electric trimmers either have batteries that can be recharged or need an extension cable to operate. When it comes to electric trimmers, those powered by batteries provide more portability and simplicity of use, while corded versions have more cutting force.


This device is more useful for cleaning up after trimming boxwoods than it is for actually pruning boxwoods. When you prune boxwood, the clippings that you remove will often stay on the shrub itself. This will detract from the groomed appearance that you are trying to achieve.

When the foliage of a boxwood that has been trimmed is given a light combing, the unsightly cuttings may be easily removed from the plant.

However, cleaning up a boxwood after pruning isn’t simply for aesthetic purposes. Keeping your Buxus clear of clipped debris will assist in keeping it healthy. This is because disease-causing organisms find dead plant parts to be ideal entrance sites. even more of a justification to get the rake out of the shed.

Isopropyl Alcohol

Any infections that are present in or on diseased plant tissues may be picked up by instruments when they are moved through the plant.

It is simple for disease-causing organisms to catch a ride on the surfaces of tools and move quickly from one plant to another. Between rounds of trimming, clean your tools to reduce the chance that an infection will spread from one plant to another.

Isopropyl alcohol will kill any infections and clean your instruments. This is a simple way to reach your goal, and isopropyl alcohol is easy to find.

Use a solution that contains 70 to 100 percent alcohol, with the remaining volume made up of water.

Spraying or softly pouring this disinfecting solution over tool blades and teeth are two effective methods for applying it. You may also directly submerge the tainted components of your tools into the liquid and clean them. After you are finished, be sure to remove the solution using a cloth.

Remember to use extreme care while working with isopropyl alcohol since it has the potential to cause burns and irritate the skin.

When to Prune Boxwood Shrubs?

A Buxus plant only needs to be pruned once a year to stay healthy and look nice.

You’ll want to schedule it just perfectly so that it occurs just before the plant emerges from its winter state and begins its first surge of development in the spring. This will ultimately take place in the very early spring or very late winter.

A horizontal image of a gardener pruning a boxwood shrub pictured on a soft focus background.

Pruning may also be done in the late spring, and it can be the best option for people who desire an extremely well-manicured shrub.

If you prune a boxwood later in its growing season, the shrub will not be twisted and distorted by new growth to the same extent as it would be if you pruned it earlier in the growing season. However, the spring flush won’t be nearly as robust.

If you want your shrubs to seem like they were laser-honed, you may achieve this look by doing light touch-up trimming throughout the spring and summer.

However, it is essential to keep in mind that any kind of pruning will put a plant under some degree of stress, so it is imperative that you grow your boxwoods as healthy as possible in order for them to be able to resist all of that suffering.

In the same way that golf courses devote a great deal of attention to the maintenance of their often mowed putting greens, you should also be sure to lavish a great deal of attention and care on your buxus plants if you want to maintain their current shape.

A close up horizontal image of a gloved hand from the left of the frame using shears to trim a boxwood shrub.

It is best not to prune towards the end of summer, in the autumn, or throughout most of the winter.

The act of pruning stimulates new growth, but at this point in the season, there won’t be enough time for the new shoots to become frost-resistant if they are allowed to emerge. These poorly prepared growths are not going to survive well when winter comes around.

The one and only exception to this rule is when you discover sick or dead branches on your boxwood bushes. Take care to get rid of them whenever you find them, regardless of the time of year. This will be of tremendous assistance in the fight against sickness.

How to Prune Boxwood Shrubs

There are several approaches to removing the fur from a cat, just as there are numerous techniques for shaping boxwood. Let’s talk about several approaches for certain kinds of pruning, shall we?

Surgical removal of infected or diseased tissue

Any branches that look dead or sick should be cut off as soon as you see them.

You should prune them down to the point where the sick and/or dead tissue begins, which will most likely take your cuts all the way to the base of the plant. Pruners of good quality are ideal for making cuts this precise and close together.

A close up horizontal image of a gloved hand using bypass shears to snip off stems of a woody shrub.

If you scrape just the slightest amount off the branch with a sharp edge, like your fingernail or the edge of a tool, you can easily determine the point at which the branch is no longer alive.

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If the region just below or on the reverse side of the scrape appears green, then the portion of the branch that was examined is still alive. However, if it is brown, then it is no longer alive.

Thinning the Shrubs

The process of thinning is used to create more space inside a plant, which in turn enables more light and air to reach the internal shoots. This will keep the inside leaves alive and prevent infections from festering that are not visible to the naked eye.

Simply reaching inside the plant and snipping stems at equal intervals throughout the plant is all that is required to thin boxwood.

Remove between two and eight inches of stem with each cut, making shorter cuts for smaller shrubs and longer ones for larger bushes. When cutting stems, be sure to save at least one pair of leaves on each stem for aesthetic purposes.

When you’re finished thinning your Buxus, you should have removed about 10% of its total mass using the various pruning techniques.When seen from a greater distance, the boxwood will seem to have tiny holes through which, upon closer inspection, it will be possible to glimpse the inside of the plant.

Shaping the Boxwood Shrubs

The fun part is shaping, since here is when your creative abilities truly have a chance to show off. But unlike a painter who starts with a blank canvas, you won’t have an endless number of choices here—at least not if you want the boxwoods in your garden to stay healthy.

It is not acceptable to have any kind of shrub in which the lowest branches are clipped to be thinner than the ones that are higher up.

It makes no difference whether they are inverted trapezoids or upside-down pyramids. If the sun’s rays can’t reach the lower branches, the plants at those levels will grow in a way that is uneven and short.

A horizontal image of a formal boxwood garden pictured in bright sunshine with a stone house in the background.

Obviously, if you have prior expertise in sculpting with buxus, you may disregard this guideline and do anything you want. Stick to tried-and-true shapes while you’re just getting started, including wide-based wedges and cones, rectangles and squares, spheres and rounded forms, etc.

To form the desired shape, you need to snip and trim the material until it is in the form you want it to be in. That is the easiest part.

Take care not to remove more than one-third of the plant’s total bulk all at once, and always begin by making shallow incisions. Take a break every so often while you’re working so that you can take in the big picture.

You can always go back for another trim, but you can’t restore the damage that was done if you sheared too hard.

Reducing Expenditures

Imagine that you have achieved the ideal form, but it is just too large. Or perhaps your shrub has grown too far into an undesirable zone as time has passed. In any scenario, you’ll need to prune your boxwood to keep it in check.

A close up horizontal image of a gardener using an electric hedge trimmer to prune boxwood.

Boxwood may be shaped in the same way by cutting back, with the exception that you are not producing a new form but rather simply making it smaller.

The rule of one-third is still valid in this situation; however, you do not have to remove that third of the plant’s bulk in an equal distribution.

When working with huge boxwoods, it is advisable to follow the following procedure: cut a third of the plant off on one side, wait a year, and then perform the same procedure on the other side.

There is no question that a Buxus that has been properly trimmed is its own reward. But well-manicured boxwood hedges are equally appealing to the eyes of observers – and they won’t hinder your home’s value, either.

A close up horizontal image of a boxwood shrub growing in a park pruned into a round shape.

With the help of this instruction, you should now hopefully be able to begin sculpting works of art out of your boxwood.

Be patient, since time and experience are the only ways to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge. If you do mess up, don’t worry about it too much since there’s always next year.

Do you have any questions, thoughts, or personal experiences that you would like to share? Please feel free to add them in the comment box down below; I’d be delighted to read and answer them!