Job Suggestions for Box in Spring

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Spring is a wonderful time of the year. Bulbs are coming into flower, fat buds on the trees are about to burst and herbaceous perennials are tentatively nudging their way out of the soil.

Box (Buxus) is also one of the early risers and new growth may already be appearing if the weather warms. But it’s not too late for a few Spring jobs. Here are some suggestions:

Moving or re-potting box.

Best to move box in late winter/ early spring, when the plants are semi dormant and there is still plenty of moisture in the soil. Re-potting can be done later but avoid doing this is in warm, sunny weather as the roots can dry out quickly and damage the plant.

Box Ball Planting
Box Ball Planting

Hard Cutting and Shaping

Box can be hard cut back to old wood. This stimulates new growth and the box should recover quickly – one of the reasons why the plant is so good for topiary. Renovation work like this is useful to reshape box and is best carried out in early Spring, when the risk of hard frosts has passed.

Reshaping Box Balls
Reshaping Box Balls


Mulching provides a good environment for healthy root growth, which in turn leads to healthier, stronger plants. Mulching also retains some of the moisture in the soil that has built up over the wet winter months, helping the Buxus to cope better with the drier conditions of Summer. Mulch can be a good compost, leaf mulch (not much nutrient content) or a product such as Strulch.

Strulch Mulch Strulch Mulch


Spring is a good time to apply a slow release granular feed around the base of the plants, giving the new growth a helpful boost of nitrogen. Vitax Buxus Feed and Topbuxus Grow both work well. Best to apply the feed after the risk of hard frosts has passed as new growth can suffer in very cold conditions.

Start applying a foliar feed nearer the end of Spring. I like to use seaweed extract or Topbuxus Health Mix. Add to water and spray on to the leaves of the box. Continue to do this every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season (May to September).

Vitax Buxus Feed Vitax Buxus Feed

Caterpillar check

Box tree caterpillars can over winter on box plants and Spring time is when they emerge and begin munching on the box leaves. Check the Buxus carefully as the caterpillars are often well hidden within the plant. Dispose of any caterpillars when found to prevent them becoming moths and creating the next generation of this destructive pest.

box tree caterpillar
Box Tree Caterpillar (photo credit: Victoria Bailey)

Box blight

The weather is starting to warm up but Spring can still be wet. This is the perfect conditions for fungal growth so be vigilant for blight outbreaks. An area of blackening foliage is often a good indicator of blight. Spray this area as soon as possible with a fungicide such as Provanto Fungus Fighter to prevent the blight from spreading. If caught early then there is a good chance the box will recover. But always keep an eye on your box plants as the blight may return in the Autumn.

Fungus Fighter Plus Fungicide for box blight

By James Todman

Topiary Specialist based in The Cotswolds, UK.

20 replies on “Job Suggestions for Box in Spring”

We lived in zone 2, but moved to zone 5. I planted a box last year, it made it thru the winter. I’m super glad to know there’s fertilizer for them, thanks for this post.

Thank you James for the info. I live in Texas and some of my boxwood have sections that are brown and dead. Should I cut these out leaving sometimes 1/4 of the plant gone. And will the fill in with new growth

If the boxwood is dead (twigs are brittle and snap easily) then no point in keeping and it would be good to cut them out. This will give room for the healthy growth to fill in. I would also try and find out why some of the boxwood has died as this is no usual. Maybe a pest or disease problem that can easily be remedied.

I have exactly the same problem in Sydney Australia. Our climates are similar. It is so frustrating. I cut out the dead plant but it usually never fully recovers. Good luck !

Hi James, I’m in southern Ontario, Canada, and planted a box knot garden last year. Because of nurseries being closed, I can’t get any specialized products. I was going to mix lime with leaf mold, rake back the wood chip mulch, sprinkle that at the base of my box plants and rake the mulch back in place. Good idea? Bad idea? If good, could you give me an idea of the ratio of lime to leaf mold – thank you very much, and love your newsletter and seeing your work on Twitter!

Hi James, Thanks for getting back to me. I was adding the lime because I read that box liked it – can’t remember the source, sorry, but I’d made a note of it. So I take it you’d recommend simply mulching with the leaf mold? Thanks again! Sandra

Buxus likes a neutral soil pH of 6.5 to 7.5 If your soil is acidic then adding lime will help reduce this. But if not, then I would recommend just using the leaf mold.

Hi James, love all you do! My hedges got badly attacked by the caterpillar last year but I started spraying early this year and so far all good! I have quite a lot of new leaf, is it ok to trim this now? If so, how long should I leave it until the next cut?

Thank you

Johnny Turnbull

Good morning James, I love your posts on Instagram. Can I buy your products for boxwood from Italy? In the meantime, I need to treat my plants against box blight. Can I use the fungicide I have at home, or do I need something specific for box blight? Thank you very much.

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