How to Plant A Boxwood Shrub

When planted right and in the right spot Boxwood shrubs are exceptionally easy to grow and care for. 

Boxwoods are used so much in landscape design for good reason: they have so many uses in landscapes and gardens. Boxwood shrubs are an ideal for use as accents or in straight or staggered pattern in home foundation plantings and landscape borders.  or as backgrounds, hedges, specimens and in containers or pots. While most often used for formal hedges, specimens can be sheared into shapes such as cones and pyramids, globes, spirals, squares and other geometrical shapes. If you're looking to create a theme garden, boxwood shrubs are perfect for use as clipped or sheared hedges in formal gardens and dwarf varieties make nice border-edgers in herb gardens, such as knot gardens.

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know regarding planting a boxwood...

Cultural Preferences

Soil Preferences

Boxwood aren't too picky about soil type but a well-drained soil is essential. They prefer a sandy loam. As with so many other types of ornamental plants, constantly soggy or wet soil can cause root rot and other harmful plant diseases. So make sure to plant them in a well-drained site!

How To Test Soil Drainage  

If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your Boxwood, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and is a caution you need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.

Soil pH

Boxwood grow best in a slightly acid to slightly alkaline soil ranging between 6.5 to 7.5 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. 

How To Test Soil pH  
Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing Boxwood, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.

Light Preferences

Boxwood grow well in full sun to part shade. In areas with warmer climates, boxwood might appreciate a little shade or filtered sun during the hot, mid-afternoon hours. A minimum of 6 hours direct sunlight is recommended for best foliage density.

Planting Boxwood In The Ground

Scroll down for container planting instructions

Step 1
Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and as deep as the height of the rootball of your Boxwood plant. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.

Step 2
Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area you might need to mix in a soil amendment to the native soil removed from the planting hole. When planting Boxwood in dense clay or poor quality soils it is beneficial to thoroughly mix in some good organic matter such as sand, bagged top soil, and/or a good planting mix at a 25-50%  ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in very sandy or quick-draining soil mixing in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost will help to retain moisture in the soil. When planting in fertile, loamy, well-drained moist soil there is no need for adding a soil amendment.

Step 3
To remove your Boxwood from the container it was growing in, firmly grasp the base of the plant and gently try to lift and remove it from its container. Be careful not to damage your plant. If the root ball is stuck in the container either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and gently pound on the side of the container to loosen the root ball. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. If root bound, you can spray the sides and bottom of the root ball with a stream of water from a garden hose. This usually helps to wash away some soil from the exterior of the root ball making it easier to loosen roots.

Step 4
If you are planting in well-drained soil set your Boxwood shrub in the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at or just slightly above ground level to allow for settling. If your soil is moderately drained, meaning it drains slowly after rain, the top of the root ball should be 2 to 3 inches above ground level, as shown in illustration below. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height. 

NOTE: If the soil is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet) take measures to improve drainage or select a different plant species tolerant of wet soils. 

Step 5
After setting your Boxwood in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. If you are planting the root ball higher than ground level, as shown in the illustration above, taper your soil mixture gradually from the top edge of the root ball to the ground level. To avoid suffocating your plant, do not put any soil on top of the root ball.

Step 6 (Optional)
When planting your Boxwood in a site far away from a water source and in well drained soil, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a water retaining berm (catch basin) that is 2 or 3 inches high around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need for hand-watering. The berm can be removed after a growing season or two.

Step 7
Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted Boxwood with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development, reduces plant shock, and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.

Step 8
To conserve moisture and to suppress weed growth, apply a 1 to 2" layer of aged, shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area. Avoid using freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your plant as this could cause the bark to rot.

Planting Boxwood In A Container

Boxwood growing in pots appreciate a moist, but well-drained soil. Constantly soggy soil can and often will cause root rot or other harmful or deadly plant diseases. Therefore, we recommend a well-drained container with drainage holes, and a quality potting soil or potting mix, or a 50/50 combination thereof, for planting. Optionally, you can also add some pumice or perlite (maybe 20%) to the soil mixture to help with drainage.

Choose a container with drainage holes at the bottom and one that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 6-12 inches or more in width than the root ball of your plant. 

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the foliage colors of your Boxwood, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.

Container Planting Instructions

Step 1
Before filling your container with the soil mix, we suggest lining the interior of the pot with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming clogged with roots and soil. Gravel at the bottom of the pot doesn't work well as roots can grow through it and clog drain holes.

Step 2
To remove your Boxwood from the container it was growing in, squeeze the sides of the pot to loosen the root ball and then gently try to lift and remove it from plant from its container. Be careful not to damage your plant when removing. If the root ball is stuck in the container it is best to use a snipping tool to cut the container away. After having removed the plant from the container you can use your fingers or other tool to loosen some feeder roots just around the surface of the root ball.

Step 3
Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set your plant in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit approximately 1" below the rim of the container.
Step 4
Backfill with your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.

Step 5
Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more soil mixture if settling occurs during watering.

Step 6 (Optional)
Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips or sphagnum moss to soil surface to help conserve moisture. Stone mulch can also be used.

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