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How to Shape Boxwoods — Like a Pro

How to Shape Boxwoods — Like a Pro

Who doesn’t want glossy green, perfectly shaped Boxwood shrubs in their garden? As much as it looks good and is fun, having well-shaped and healthy Boxwoods is not an easy feat to achieve. 

It will take a long time for Box shrubs to get established and grow big enough to be pruned to shape. But even when they’re big enough, you can’t just stroll down the garden with your shears and cut them to any shape you like.

There’s much more to Boxwood shaping than that. 


How to Shape Boxwoods?

The best time for Boxwood pruning is Spring and early Summer. Remove dead or diseased foliage first. Thin the foliage by removing one or two overgrown stems. Start gently trimming the outer foliage and bring the shrub to the desired shape. Try to trim all parts of the shrub for it to look good. 


Rules for Boxwood Shaping

Following proper pruning practice is an essential part of caring for Boxwoods. The first and foremost thing to consider when shaping your Boxes is the time of pruning. 

Boxwoods respond best to pruning in Spring and early Summer. Pruning should never be done in late summer or fall because the new, delicate foliage will not withstand the cold temperatures when winter comes. 

The outer foliage acts as a protective layer for the plant. So, Winter pruning is also not recommended because it exposes the core of the plant to cold winds and frost. 

Another important aspect is where to cut plants when pruning. This is where thinning comes in. Thinning cuts are when you cut branches right from where it joins the main trunk.

Dense outer foliage on Boxes stops much-needed light and air to reach the inside of the plant. Thinning opens up the foliage a little to allow air and light to come in. 

Removing dead, diseased, or damaged foliage should always be the first step when pruning boxwoods. Unhealthy foliage only drains precious energy from the plant. 

You should only use sharp and sterilized tools and wear protective gloves while pruning. 


How to Trim Boxwoods Square?

Shaping Boxwood shrubs into square or rectangle hedges is a bit easier than shaping them into a round shape. First, measure the height and width of the unpruned bush. 

Decide the height, width, and length you want your Boxwood hedge to ideally be. Making this decision before you start pruning is always better.

Using a string as an outline is the perfect guiding tool for shaping your Box into a square shape. 

Place a pair of stakes on both sides of the bush and drive them into the ground to stand firmly. Tie a tight string between the stakes that will determine the height and width of the hedge. 

Repeat the same step but this time, place the stakes on the rear and front of the bush. The string tied in this case will determine the length.

Enclosing your Boxwood in a grid of strings in this way will form a perfect guide for you to trim off any foliage that sticks out of the string boundary. 

Use an electric hedge trimmer to start cutting the sides of your hedge gently. Take care not to make invasive cuts and scrape the foliage gently as it comes into shape. 

Always seep the trimmer from down to up. Using an electric trimmer in the opposite direction, you will dangerously chop into the branches.

If the hedge is high, use a ladder to access the top of it and gently trim it to the desired height. Again, use the strings as your guides to keep the hedge balanced.  


How to Trim Boxwoods Round?

Usually, we start growing and shaping Boxwoods from when they are little. When pruned to a rough ball shape initially, Boxwoods will grow into an irregular ball shape.

When the bush has reached the desired diameter, you will only have to remove the uneven stems sticking out of the bush. 

Let’s talk about shaping a big Boxwood bush into a round shape. Achieving the perfect ball shape can be hard so it is better to use a guide to prune off the excessive foliage.

Use a strong carton or cardboard sheet and cut out a semi-circle shape. The semi-circle should extend from the bottom of the Boxwood ball to its top. 

The diameter of the semi-circle you cut out of the carton will be the same as the diameter of your Box bush. So, cut out the diameter you would like your bush to be.

Fit the bush into the cardboard semicircle and start cutting off the branches that stick out of the circular shape. Using an extra pair of hands is recommended as it can be a tough job for one person. 

Go around the bush, and once you’ve completed one rotation, you will have a good-looking Boxwood ball. 

It’s possible that your Box doesn’t look as good if a lot of foliage has been pruned off. Wait for the new growth to sprout, do a second gentle pruning, and voila! 


Boxwood Shaping Tips

Gently pruning a Boxwood to shape when it is freshly planted will go a long way. It enables the plant to grow in the right shape. 

Removing some of the foliage also helps reduce the transplant shock on the freshly planted Boxes. 

Whenever you shape Boxwoods, try to prune all parts of the shrub. Even if some parts do not need pruning, gently scrape off some foliage. 

Regularly trimming off foliage from each part of the plant stimulates dense and vigorous growth, which in turn makes your Boxwood shrubs look their best. 

Moreover, when growing Boxwood as ornamental bushes, you want them to grow quickly so they can be shaped as desired as quickly as possible. 

Feed the slow-growing bushes with regular doses of Boxwood fertilizer to promote faster foliage growth. 

When trimming Boxwoods, very thin branches and single leaves fall to the ground. This plant matter is hard to sweep or rake up from the ground afterward.

It is a good idea to spread a sheet around the shrubs to catch the pruned foliage. This will make the cleaning up process a breeze rather than having to pick up tiny leaves manually from here and there. 

After you’re done with the pruning, shake the Boxwood plants well so that the removed foliage does not remain stuck in the branches and between other foliage. 


Frequently Asked Questions about Boxwood Shaping


What is the best pruning tool for shaping Boxwoods?

Electric hedge trimmers are by far the best tools for Boxwood shaping. They take the hard work out of pruning work and you can shape your bushes just by sliding the trimmers over the foliage. 


How hard can I prune Boxwood shrubs while shaping them?

It is not advised to remove more than 2-3 feet of plant growth at a time. While regular shaping does not require you to cut more than this limit, you will have to prune carefully when shaping a largely overgrown bush.