How are box hedges planted and cared for?

Written by heidi cardenas
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How are box hedges planted and cared for?
Box hedges are attractive shrubs for privacy screens and garden backdrops. (box hedge image by Edsweb from Fotolia.com)

Hedges are living walls and screens in the garden and landscape. They can enclose an area, be a backdrop for an ornamental garden or structure like a fountain or conceal the foundation of a home or facility. Hedges act as wind and sound barriers and create privacy and security. Oleander, privet, yew and osmanthus are a few of the many shrubs that are planted for hedges, but box, buxus sempervirens, is one of the most popular evergreen shrubs for hedging.

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Bare root or container grown

Shrubs are sold as bare root, container grown or field grown plants. Bare root plants are usually sold by mail order and arrive as dormant plants with little or no foliage and roots wrapped in sacking or plastic without any soil. The bare root plants must be hydrated to prepare for planting and protected while getting established. Container grown plants are actively growing foliage plants in large pots with dirt that are ready to be transplanted to the hedge area and create an instant hedge. Field grown plants are grown in the outdoor environment and are very hardy because they've been growing outside and are acclimated to local seasonal conditions. They are dug up when purchased and can cost more than bare root and container grown plants.

What type of box

English box, Dutch box, Japanese box and African box are among the different types of box available. English box is a medium height box, growing 90 cm to 1.2 m (3 to 4 feet) high with deep green foliage. It is frost tolerant and grows in full sun to partial shade but suffers in prolonged dry heat. Dutch box is a slow growing box with glossy green foliage. It grows very thick and reaches 90 cm to 1.2 m (3 to 4 feet) in height. Japanese box is a fast growing box, with shiny lime green foliage. It grows 1.2 to 1.5 m (4 to 5 feet) high and prefers full sun. African box grows up to 2.7 m (9 feet) high, with thick, dark green foliage. It is very hardy, drought and tolerant of light shade and ideal for foundation planting. All box do best in rich soil with a lot of organic matter and benefit from consistent water but suffer in waterlogged or boggy conditions.

Planting and growth rates

Space box plants 20 cm (8 inches) apart in rich soil. If the area you are plating with box has poor soil, prepare the bed by adding aged manure and organic matter like compost. Top dress the newly planted seedlings with rich compost or aged manure and cover with a thick layer of mulch. Box grows about 15 cm (6 inches) a year with regular care and watering.

Trimming

Don't trim newly planted hedge plants for at least a year to allow the plant to get established, fill out and produce thick growth. Ideally, let them grow until they are the height you want to maintain the hedge and clip just the tops of the plants for the first trim around midsummer. One more light trim in the autumn is enough for the first year's trimming. After a few years of growing in the planted hedge, bigger crowded interior branches asre clipped along with the top trimming in midsummer and autumn.

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