Backyard privacy, visual distinction, or decoration, what’s your desire?
Boxwoods are an attractive solution whether you need a living year-round privacy fence, want to create a feeling of separation between your front and side yard, or would like to highlight the back entrance to your home.
Boxwoods have been used for generations in gardens and yards to create evergreen hedges, borders, line paths, and even make a formal maze. When regularly sheared, they grow to become lush, neat, densely packed shrubs that have a uniform appearance and make an excellent living screen.
These versatile shrubs can be kept rounded and mounded, used as garden gate sentinels, or planted in several varieties and sizes to create inviting paths for the eyes and the feet. Imagine outlining a trail for wandering through your garden to a secret spot.
Boxwoods are also used in less formal, more casual gardens to create that same separation of spaces without the traditional sheared look.
Shorter varieties can be used to form an edged effect on a garden bed or occupy planters on a deck. Taller varieties can make a beautiful living privacy fence. Boxwood can even be used to create topiary sculptures.
Boxwoods belong to the genus Buxus, and dozens of species and hundreds of cultivars are available, some winter hardy to USDA zone 5 and even zone 4.
Boxwoods Aren’t Cheap
Boxwoods can be ordered from online plant vendors as containerized stock or purchased from a local garden center. But buying dozens of plants at $30 a pop or higher–even for small ones–can get expensive. Larger two or three-year-old shrub prices can range up to one hundred dollars.
Purchasing enough boxwood plants to create that privacy hedge you have been dreaming of can be expensive enough to make you abandon the dream, but don’t give up yet.
While it adds time to your project, growing boxwoods from cuttings is achievable and easy. It just takes a little patience. A couple of boxwoods can provide all the cuttings you need to plant an entire hedge or border’s worth of plants in about a year.
If you have a friend or neighbor with some boxwoods that do well in your area, those plants will make an ideal source for a few cuttings. Take them a plate of treats and offer to grab your cuttings from the back side, where they won’t even notice.
Grow half a dozen boxwoods from cuttings and experiment with your topiary projects for free.
Grow thirty boxwoods from cuttings and save over a thousand bucks on your new privacy hedge.
How To Propagate Boxwoods From Cuttings
Boxwoods are commonly propagated by taking stem cuttings. This method is quick to do, and if you have a ready tray and a healthy boxwood parent plant, you can start or “stick” a couple of dozen cuttings in short order.
You can take cuttings from boxwoods and try to root them at any time of year, so don’t be afraid to give it a try even if you are reading this in spring or fall. If it doesn’t work, you’re not out much, and you had some practice.
The easiest time of year to get boxwood cuttings to root is about a month after the new growth has emerged. Depending on your location, this could be from mid to late summer.
To Grow A New Boxwood Plant By Taking A Stem Cutting
- Take cuttings in mid to late summer, from this year’s new growth that is still green and flexible.
- Select a piece of stem that is about four to six inches long.
- Trim it off with sharp scissors or secateurs.
- Strip all but the top two pairs of leaves off the stem, and make a fresh cut just below a node. The node is the most likely place where new roots will develop.
- Moisten the bottom half-inch of the stem and dip it in a rooting hormone. See the next section for how to choose the right one.
- Fill a small container or pot with a well-moistened propagation mix. Damp sand, shredded pine bark, or perlite all work well, as does a mixture of coconut coir and perlite using a 1:1 ratio.
- Poke a hole in the medium and gently insert your cutting.
- Firm the medium around the stem and place it in a bright location out of direct sunlight. Don’t let your cuttings sit in the sun until they have rooted well and are putting out new growth.
- Cover the cuttings with a humidity dome or a plastic bag. Don’t let the plastic touch the leaves. You may need to use sticks or pencils to prop up the sides.
- In 1-2 months, you can check the progress of your new plants’ roots by gently giving the stem a little tug. If there is resistance, your boxwood cuttings have grown roots.
- Transplant them into small individual pots to grow until they are ready for transplanting. Gallon pots should be sufficient to give them room to grow.
A Note About Rooting Hormones
Rooting hormones, whether powder, liquid, or gel, are available in several different strengths. They are not a one-size-fits-all product. The typical active ingredient or synthetic hormone is Indolebutyric acid (IBA). Some plants are more difficult to root from cuttings than others and need a higher concentration of the rooting hormone. Herbaceous plants commonly need little or none.
Don’t fall into the trap that higher concentrations are always better. Too high a concentration on an easy-to-root plant will inhibit growth or even kill the cutting. In general, herbaceous species root easier and need a lower strength application (if any), while woodier plants root with more difficulty and need a higher concentration.
If your bottle gives the amount of active ingredient as a percent instead of ppm, multiply that percentage by ten thousand to get the ppm of the active ingredient.
Example: 0.1% active ingredient x 10,000 = 1000ppm of active ingredient
Tip: A concentration of between 1,000 and 3,000 ppm IBA is appropriate for softwood cuttings of boxwoods.
Tips For Growing Boxwoods
Once your baby boxwoods have filled out and are ready for their new homes, there are a few tips to help them establish and grow well.
Prune Your Boxwoods In Early Spring
Give your boxwoods any necessary annual pruning in early spring before the new growth starts to flush out. Doing so will encourage green, leafy, compact development and is your opportunity to get rid of any winter discoloration and damaged or dead branches.
Boxwoods Like Well-Drained Soil And At Least Partial Sun
Boxwoods need a site that is moderately well-drained or better. They don’t tolerate saturated soil or frequent ponding and flooding. If your site is a bit wet, consider planting your boxwoods in a raised berm to help with drainage.
If you plant boxwoods in a container, ensure it has adequate drainage and is large enough for them to develop a healthy root system. Don’t leave them in the six-inch pot you were growing them out in.
Buxus spp. enjoy full sun–at least six hours per day. They will tolerate partial sun but may yellow or grow poorly if planted in an area that does not meet their needs.
Boxwoods can be fertilized annually in spring with a general-purpose, slow-release fertilizer.
Mulch Your Boxwood Plants
Mulching boxwoods is key to maintaining the soil moisture, improving the soil, and keeping the weeds and grass down, so your hedge or planting looks its best.
More importantly, mulching keeps you from hitting your boxwoods with the lawnmower deck or string trimmer.
Boxwoods make great additions to your property, whether your style is classic and formal, modern and contemporary, or cottage rustic.
Learning to propagate these versatile shrubs is a great way to get more greenery for your yard and keep some money in your pocket.