Mary Lou Asked
I have some very overgrown boxwoods. I am told that if they are cut back to wood, they will die? Is that true? Is my only option to pull them out entirely?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Mary Lou: Boxwoods (Buxus) are tough, long-lived evergreens. Are your plants healthy? If so, and just overgrown, they will tolerate being pruned back. Depending on the difference between the current size and the desired size, it may take several seasons to accomplish the goal. The general rule when pruning is to only remove one-third of the plant during each pruning session. Late winter is a good time to prune for this purpose.
Thin out some of the inner branches to allow for better air circulation and light filtration. Take back the height by one-third. Dead or diseased branches should be removed regardless of the time of year. As with any pruning job, make sure that your tools are clean and sharp. For more detailed information and pictures on pruning your boxwoods visit: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/ho/ho101/ho101.pdf.
The other option is to remove the existing boxwoods and replace with a variety that reaches a mature size that works in your garden.