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Selectively Pruning Boxwoods: What to Know

Boxwoods are one of the most popular ornamental plants around. They add neat, full flashes of green to residential and commercial landscapes across the country, and they’re fantastically hardy—even in the winter months. Boxwoods require little maintenance compared to other shrubs, but they do need regular pruning to grow healthfully. This time of year is ideal for pruning boxwoods, and many landscaping companies—including Roanoke Landscapes—provide pruning services for Boxwoods during the winter. Boxwood pruning is an ongoing process, usually done in steps. Here’s how the professionals handle it:

Pruning a Boxwood

Selectively Pruning Boxwood

The Roanoke Landscapes crew layering a boxwood.

Though some landscapers shear boxwoods into tidy and uniform shapes, shearing can cause congestion and stall new growth. Selective pruning is the preferred method for controlling old growth and encouraging new growth both inside and outside of the plant. Selectively pruned shrubs may look less formal than sheared shrubs, but what they lack in uniformity they make up for in health and longevity.

Selective pruning is done in layers. The process starts at the innermost layer of the plant and slowly builds outward to the outer most layer. To start off, use a pair of pruning shears and parse through the inner most layer of the plant, watching for areas where growth is particularly thick. Prune stems by cutting off growth right above a “V” notch or right below where there is a lot of leaf growth. Don’t go overboard with your cuts—selective pruning is just that: selective. You should cut sparingly, and only cut areas where existing growth is congested. The ultimate goal is to help layer growth and open up the plant so that new growth will have room to proliferate.

Working in layers, move slowly from the deep underbelly of the shrub to the outer most layer, continuing to prune areas that are congested with leaves, bugs, or other kinds of debris. Ultimately, your cuts should be fairly inconspicuous compared to the overall density of the shrub. You don’t want your boxwood to have bald spots, you just want to air it out a little bit—removing some existing density and giving it a more organic shape overall.

Repeat pruning in layers until congested areas are opened up sufficiently. For a visual how-to, check out this YouTube clip from CTSCAPER:


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