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Boxwood: Plant Healthcare Recommendations for Great Britain and Ireland


A Technical Report from The Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories

Boxwood is a genus of about 70 species of evergreen shrubs and trees found in habitats ranging from rocky hills to woodland in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Central America. Boxwood (Buxus sempiverens) is the aristocrat of formal gardens. Dwarf varieties, known as English boxwood, are extensively used as edging, hedges, and foundation plants. The larger varieties, known as American boxwood, are used as screens, foundation, and formal plantings.

Cultivation
Boxwood performs best in partial shade but will tolerate full sun. Soils must be well drained, organic, slightly acid to neutral pH and fertile. The shallow root system is intolerant of moisture extremes and competition with turf and other ground covers. A light layer of mulch benefits root development. Boxwood roots extend far beyond the edge of the crown. Soil disturbances such as compaction, cultivation and construction must be avoided in the plants vicinity. On exposed sites, boxwood is very sensitive to foliage desiccation especially in winter.

Pests and Diseases
Boxwood is susceptible to a number of pests and disorders. Foliage feeding pests include psyllids, spider mites, and leaf miners (American boxwood). Phytophthora root rot, a fungus disease, is a leading cause of premature decline and death of boxwood. Root rot develops primarily on wet, poorly drained soils, which aids growth and infection by the fungus. Boxwood also is very sensitive to root feeding nematodes. These microscopic worms possess stylets that puncture root cells and remove their contents. Nematodes can severely stunt root growth and predispose plants to winter injury. Plants stressed by root disease, winter injury, or other factors are prone to canker diseases that cause branch and stem dieback.

Recommended Monitoring for Boxwood in Great Britain and Ireland

Timing Treatment
November-February Remove leaves from the centre of plants where they tend to collect. Prune out winter damaged branches. Thin crowns as necessary. Sample for nematodes, Phytophthora root rot, soil nutrient levels and pH if decline symptoms are evident. Apply horticultural oil to suppress psyllids and mites.
March-April Apply treatments if nematodes are present. Fertilise and amend pH based on soil test reports. Apply fungicide soil drench if Phytophthora root rot is present. Monitor for psyllids, mites and leaf miners. Treat as required. Excavate mulch from root collars and add mulch to root zone as required.
April Monitor for psyllids, mites and leaf miners. Treat as necessary. Inspect irrigation and soil moisture levels to reduce water stress and prevent root disease.
May Monitor for spider mites, treating if required. Inspect irrigation and soil moisture levels to reduce water stress and prevent root disease.
June-July Re-apply fungicide drench if Phytophthora root rot is present. Monitor for spider mites and treat as necessary. Inspect irrigation and soil moisture levels to reduce water stress and prevent root disease.
July-August Monitor for spider mites and treat as necessary. Inspect irrigation and soil moisture levels to reduce water stress and prevent root disease.
September-October Apply mulch to root system as required. Fertilise and adjust pH as specified in the soil test report. Erect burlap barriers to protect against desiccation on exposed sites. Apply irrigation as necessary to ensure adequate soil moisture before the soil freezes to minimise winter injury. Apply spray oil if desired to reduce the level of sucking insects and leaf miners next year.

Note: Boxwood should be thinned annually by removing small branches in the outer crown to allow light and air penetration to the centre. Boxwoods that have been properly thinned should have growth along their entire stems. Dead branches should be removed when detected.




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