Guide to Pruning Your Boxwood Hedge

The boxwood is a broadleaf evergreen. These shrubs are well-suited for pruning into formal shapes. Depending on the species, the natural shape of the boxwood may be spherical or more upright and slender. Boxwoods can also vary in height, depending on the species and cultivar. Some boxwoods only grow to a foot in height and some can grow up to 20 feet in height if left unpruned. A boxwood tree is easy to grow and needs very little care other than pruning.

Pruning Tips
Boxwoods have earned their place in formal gardens thanks to their ability to withstand pruning. They're also ideal for topiary. Before you begin, understand how the pruning process works. The goal is to train your boxwood into the desired shape, not to try and impose the shape on the plant. Letting your boxwood get unruly and then pruning it won't work. You'll need to delay growth in some areas and encourage it in others to get a full and proper shape.

If you want your boxwood hedge to have a formal look, use stakes to mark the height and sides. This will help you have a perfect cut. Once you reach the correct dimensions, stakes may not be necessary if you've got an accurate hand with your shears.

The boxwood is a slow grower. Make small cuts when pruning, taking off about one to two inches at a time. Don't panic if you make a mistake. Boxwood has growth buds, so if you do cut too deeply, the foliage will grow back next year, but you won't get boxwood flowers in these areas. 

Start pruning by removing any dead and decaying wood and plant matter from the hedge. This should be done aggressively in the spring, then throughout the rest of the year as needed.

Getting the Right Shape
When pruning the sides of the boxwood, do not prune straight up. The bottom should be a few inches wider than the top, up to six inches for larger plants. This not only looks good, but it allows the bottom branches of the shrub to receive the recommended amount of sunlight. A wider bottom also helps to prevent weeds from growing and helps to keep the soil moist.

Trim the top of the boxwood hedge so it is level. This will leave a square edge from the top to the side, which can look bare. Slightly round the edge from the side to the top, and this will give the boxwood hedge a fuller look.

Don't trim off everything at once. Cut a little bit, then a little more. This way, if you cut too deep in one area, you have enough foliage to level the cut out to make it even. After each cut, stand back to check your work. It is easier to see if you made an even cut if you look at the hedge from a distance.

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