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How to Prune Boxwood for Maximum Beauty

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Welcome to the world of boxwood, where the lush greenery adds charm and elegance to any garden. If you’re wondering how to keep your boxwood in tip-top shape, a little pruning can take you a long way. In our complete guide, we’ll explore the why, what, when, and how of pruning boxwood, ensuring your garden stays vibrant and beautiful. Let’s dive into how to prune boxwood for maximum beauty!

Why Should You Prune Boxwood

Believe it or not, most boxwoods don’t need a lot of trimming. In fact, some slow-growing varieties – such as the Petite Pillar Dwarf Boxwood require little to no pruning.

For other types, avoid over-pruning, allowing your boxwoods to maintain their natural form with some small adjustments. While they appreciate a little annual grooming, too much can do more harm than good. With that being said, correctly timed pruning promotes air circulation, reduces disease risks, and encourages new growth.

Common Boxwood Pruning Mistakes to avoid

  1. Using Electric Trimmers for Wild Boxwoods: Skip the electric trimmers for those messy, overgrown boxwoods with lots of dead stuff inside. Stick to hand tools for a neater job.
  2. Pruning more than you need to: Don’t get too scissor-happy; prune only up to one-third of the shrub at a time. It’s like giving your boxwood a stylish haircut without the shock.
  3. Heavy Pruning While Growing: Hold off on heavy pruning when your boxwoods are busy growing. It’s like letting them enjoy a leisurely stroll before you whip out the gardening scissors.
  4. Using blunt & rusty tools: If your tools start feeling a bit rusty, take a break. Dull tools make messy cuts, and we want your boxwood looking sharp, not shredded. Keep those pruners in top-notch condition.

Best Time to Prune Boxwood

Timing is everything when it comes to boxwood pruning. For optimal results, aim to prune in very late winter to very early spring. Avoid pruning during extreme in temperatures (like freezing cold), as this can actually kill your boxwood. A gentle touch during the right season ensures your boxwoods are ready to put on a show when it matters most.

The Tools You’ll Need

Gearing up for a successful pruning session? Here are the tools you’ll want in your gardening arsenal:

  1. Hand Pruners: Perfect for smaller branches and precise cuts.
  2. Loppers: Ideal for thicker branches that hand pruners can’t handle.
  3. Hedge Shears: Great for shaping and maintaining a neat appearance.
  4. Gloves: Protect your hands from thorns and scratches.
  5. Safety Glasses: Keep those peepers safe from stray branches.

With these tools in hand, you’re ready to sculpt your boxwood masterpiece.

How to Prune Boxwood Step-by-Step

Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of boxwood pruning. Follow these steps for a successful pruning experience:

  1. Begin the pruning by removing dead or damaged branches. Look for those with shriveled brown leaves and easily snapped stems, and snip them off cleanly at the base using sharp pruning shears.
  2. Keep an eye out for signs of boxwood blight as you prune. Brown spots or fully brown leaves and black cankers on stems could indicate trouble. If you spy boxwood blight, consider using fungicides, adjusting the soil, or applying mulch to curb its spread.
  3. Clear out plant debris nestled in the center. Use your hands to gently separate the upper branches, revealing any fallen leaves or broken branches. Make sure to give your shrub a tidy and clutter-free interior.
  4. Let light and air in by thinning. Identify thick leaf clusters or branches that need a trim, cutting down to the main branch using your sharp and clean pruning shears. Trim as far down as you spot healthy greenery.
  5. Tame unruly branches sticking out from the top of your shrub. With pruning shears in hand, gracefully clip off any rebellious taller branches, ensuring your boxwood maintains a leveled and rounded silhouette.

Remember, less is often more when it comes to pruning boxwood. Aim for a balanced, well-proportioned shape, respecting the plant’s intrinsic beauty.


Once we are done with the pruning, there are a few things to do to help the shrub bounce back faster.

  1. Watering: Give your boxwood a good drink after pruning to help it recover.
  2. Fertilizing: Consider a balanced fertilizer to provide nutrients for new growth.
  3. Monitoring: Keep an eye on your boxwood for any signs of stress or disease. Early detection allows for prompt action.

Frequently Asked Questions

When to prune boxwood?

You want to prune Boxwood in the dormant season: late winter to early spring. You can achieve the best and strongest growth if you do it just before the growing season kicks in.

What boxwoods dont need to be trimmed?

The Petite Pillar Dwarf Boxwood is an especially slow-growing variety that rarely needs any trimming. Its maximum height is about 3ft, which makes it perfect for smaller gardens.

How do you keep boxwoods small?

To keep your boxwood small, prune the top narrower than the base. If the base gets enough light, your boxwood will have more horizontal growth.

Should I prune boxwood in the winter?

Boxwood pruning should be done very late winter or early spring, just before the growing season kicks off. Avoid heavy pruning in early winter.

How do I revive a boxwood that has been over-pruned?

To revive a Boxwood shrub, consider cutting it back to the stem. Removing a lot of dead and damaged foliage can give your shrub a fresh start, promoting new, healthy growth.