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How to trim an overgrown boxwood

Updated February 21, 2019

Buxus is the horticultural name for boxwood plants. These shrubs are common landscaping plants in yards and parks. Boxwoods prefer full sunlight in fertile soils. Boxwoods make good hedge plants as well as individual central shrubs in the landscape. Like many types of shrubs, regular trimming and pruning helps to keep boxwoods healthy and attractive.

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  1. Remove any dead or broken branches from boxwoods as soon as you discover them. Use sharp pruning shears to cut the damaged portions slightly within the healthy growth, removing the entire affected portion. Disinfect your pruning shears between each cut by dipping them in a bucket of solution that contains one part of chlorine bleach and nine parts water. This helps minimise the spread of disease.

  2. Thin out thick foliage to allow light and air to reach the inner growth. Early winter is the best time to perform annual thinning of boxwoods, although you can perform this task any time of the year. Grasp an inner branch and cut about 6 inches off the tip of the twig. Cut about 10 per cent of the outer branches in this manner, spacing your cuts evenly throughout the boxwood shrub.

  3. Shape boxwood shrubs beginning three years after planting. Create the desired shape by cutting about half of the amount of branch length you intend to remove. Keep the bottom slightly wider than the top to encourage even sunlight exposure. Work your way around the shrub, making these shallow cuts along all the outer vegetation. Stand back and view the shape and appearance of the boxwood shrub or hedge. Clean up the outline by removing additional lengths of branches that extend beyond the desired shape.

  4. Stand back and view the shape again to make sure it looks uniform from all angles. Prune the entire shrub or hedge down to the desired size by taking the same amount of length off all the branches. This helps you create an initial shape that is even and balanced, rather than trimming too much from any one section.

  5. Tip

    Prune the boxwoods at least once each year to maintain the desired shape.


    Remove the trimmed vegetation from the area around the boxwoods. The dead clippings are a prime target for fungal and bacterial growth, conditions that can spread to the living shrubs and cause illness.

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Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Bucket
  • Chlorine bleach

About the Author

Laura Wallace Henderson, a professional freelance writer, began writing in 1989. Her articles appear online at Biz Mojo, Walden University and various other websites. She has served as the co-editor for "Kansas Women: Focus on Health." She continues to empower and encourage women everywhere by promoting health, career growth and business management skills.

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