My boxwoods look like they are dying. They are green on top and on one side, but dead, dry limbs at the bottom are falling off on the side facing the patio. Should I prune them? The shrubs are 30 years old.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Ann in Massachusetts: Boxwoods (Buxus) are a great low-maintenance evergreen that can tolerate sun or shade. It is difficult to say what is going on with your evergreens not being able to see them, but when we see dieback of foliage it is related to winter burn, insect, or disease issues. There are a few different insects that like boxwoods but in most cases they are not detrimental to the plants. Have you noticed any insect activity or anything abnormal about the foliage? From what you described it does not sound like winter burn since this typically occurs at the tips of the foliage.
You should take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Office for the horticulture agent to look at. They will be able to tell you if the problem is insect/disease or environmentally related. For now, go ahead and remove the foliage that does not look healthy. Make sure to dispose of all foliage that you remove, do not leave it on the soil around the plants. Boxwoods are pretty tough plants and if the root system is healthy, more than likely they will be just fine. Be sure to keep them watered if Mother Nature does not provide sufficient moisture. Even older, established plants require additional moisture during hot, dry periods.