The Q&A Archives: Re-Invigorating Boxwood Shrubs

Question: I purchased an older home with existing boxwood shrubs. The previous owner wasn't able to take care of the boxwoods. The boxwoods have dead wood, what looks like termite damage, and are overgrown. I have removed the dead wood and thinned and cut back the shurbs. I need suggestions on what fertilizer to use, soil conditioning, and anything else that would help to bring back these plants to full health. Thanks. Ben Royston Springfield, VA

Answer: It sounds like you're off to a good start - boxwood do benefit from hard pruning (i.e. 6" deeper than the desired size) just before growth begins in late winter/early spring, as it stimulates a lot of new growth. If the shrub is in dry soil and full sun, water it deeply once per week, less often if the soil retains water well. Give it a balanced (5-5-5) organic fertilizer (Gardener's Supply sells an all-purpose fertilizer in a 5lb or 25lb container - check out for more information). Topdress with a couple inches of compost, too, to enrich the soil. When growth is vigorous, shear the shrubs slightly again in late spring to form the shrub. It may take 2-3 years to get them back in shape, but once they are well filled out again, they will be hardy and require little care.

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