When and How to Prune Buxus Topiary and Hedging

When and How to Prune Buxus Topiary and Hedging

Last updated on November 5th, 2021

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Buxus, otherwise known as box plants can be trimmed into different captivating shapes to add some visual spice to your garden and these evergreen shrubs have dense foliage that is perfect for forming hedges around your property.

To maintain the shape, regardless if you use them for hedging or topiary, requires pruning at least once a year but the key is to prune at the right time to encourage new growth, avoid burning the foliage and reduce the risk of disease such as box blight.

If you have Buxus in your garden and you need an understanding of how to prune them effectively, you have come to the right place. Below is a summary to help you prune your Buxus in the right way and at the right time of year.

Buxus topiary which have been neatly pruned

What is the best time to prune Buxus

Considering the Buxus are evergreen plants, it may be challenging to identify when to prune especially for the inexperienced. The plants need trimming once to four times a year to maintain neat foliage and shape as this is usually why they are grown.

I find it best to trim once or twice a year to give the plant’s new growth time to mature and harden before winter but also large enough to avoid the foliage getting burnt on warm summer days.

For younger box plants still getting established, it is best to trim them between May and August to help the plant focus on growing new growth as there still plenty of time for them to grow new growth that season.

If your plants are already mature, then I recommend giving them a trim between late August and early September as this gives the plant time to recover, harden new growth which is help reduce frost damage as well as the dreaded box blight.

What tools you need to prune buxus

Buxus in general are woody and hardy plants; therefore, you cannot prune them with regular secateurs. What you ideally need is an electric hedge trimmer for larger Buxus or hedges or a good pair of sharp hedging shears, you can even get specialised topiary shears. Just make sure they are extremely sharp to create a clean cut because uneven surfaces can become breeding grounds for pests and diseases.

To prevent plant infections through transfer, sanitising the cutting tools before moving to another plant is crucial. Trust me you don’t want to transfer box blight from one plant to another. You can use Alcohol, bleach, Pine oil, or regular household cleaners to disinfect the shears without spending much.

Something else it may be worth getting is a bucket of water to help clean sap off the shears and maintain sharpness. Make sure to administer clean cuts to prevent the plant from developing permanent wounds susceptible to fungal diseases and other ailments. As long as your just trimming to maintain the shape and use a clear pair of hedging shears everything should be fine.

Pruning Buxus appropriately

Once you have a good sharp pair of shears, it is time to proceed with pruning. Depending on the shape, I find that starting from the bottom and sides eventually working my way up the plant is an easier method. This is because you can keep an eye on the shape and avoid over-pruning. Every now and again I find just standing back can help check everything is looking good.

Keep the shears in a level position to avoid uneven cuts in different places. This especially goes for Buxus possessing intricate shapes. Uneven cuts will distort the plant’s appearance and you will have to wait for new growth to set in to fill the gap. If you do mess it up a little, don’t worry too much as Buxus do quickly fill out again.

Pruning according to different shapes

The beauty of Buxus is that you can shape them into different designs. Spiral, cone, and ball-shaped Buxus are popular because of their architectural appearance. These shapes need pruning from the top working all the way to the bottom. This gives you a chance to manipulate the curves or corners seamlessly.

You cannot be stationary as you prune, you need to move around systematically to ensure you do not miss any sections or ignore diseased branches. Feel free to step back and confirm if you are doing the right thing before proceeding to avoid small mistakes.

Final Thoughts

Pruning Buxus perfectly into different shapes is a little trial and error and is some what of a skill you get better with over time. In fact, you may have to practice for a bit before you can trim them fast and seamlessly. However, worry not; good things come to those who wait. After a few sessions, you would have mastered how to trim your Buxus according to the shape without any frustration.


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