Our boxwoods are quite large – too large for the space they’re in. I meant to cut them back last summer but never got around to it. Is it too late to prune them now?
Most boxwoods don’t require regular pruning unless you’re keeping them sheared in a formal garden space, but if you need to control the size of the shrub, now – or late winter to early spring – is actually the best time to do the job.
Rather than shearing it back to a smaller size, though, consider the more precise process of thinning the shrub to control its size. The editors of the Mid-South Garden Guide, a hefty volume originally published in 1954 by the Memphis Garden Club, include an extensive description of the care of the boxwoods, including best practices for pruning these traditional landscape shrubs.
Begin to reduce the size of an old shrub by removing 6” – 8” of growth over the entire plant, and thin down into the interior stems to a point where new growth is visible, they suggest. Is some cases, it may be best to do this in stages over a two- or three-year period.
To thin the shrub, reach inside the plant with a pair of loppers or pruning shears to remove some of the older and longer limbs back to a branch point or to the main trunk. This reduces the overall size of the shrub, but it also produces a healthier plant by opening up the interior to more light and air circulation. The more flexible stems won’t break as easily under a heavy load of ice or snow.
In general, boxwoods do well in good, well-drained soil and light or dappled shade. They do best where they receive plenty of moisture all year.
Garden event in Middle Tennessee: The annual Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville kicks off for a stylish weekend Feb. 3 – 5, 2017. This year’s keynote speaker is acclaimed interior designer Nate Berkus, and the four gardens promise to be spectacular. The story in The Tennessean.