Question of the Week: March 3, 2022

“What should I do about my boxwood plants’ browned tips outside my store?”

This is freeze damage. It happens frequently with the original Japanese boxwood Buxus microphylla japonica.

It’s of relatively little harm to the plants other than killing their tops back by that 1-2 inches. If you take hedge trimmers to them you can nip off the frozen tips and have them looking fairly normal within a few minutes. It also gives you a chance to even their growth up if you have several plants and get them off to a similar start. (I prefer not to prune mine into formal globes or cubes, although that’s absolutely a matter of personal choice.)

Follow the trim up with an application of all-nitrogen, lawn-type fertilizer (no weedkiller component). Water it all deeply and your plants will get off to a quick start.

Showing similar damage, this photo was posted on my Facebook page. There are live plants hiding behind all that dead tip growth.

Japanese boxwood also has a habit of turning bronze in the winter even if it doesn’t have this kind of freeze damage. It loses its attractive bright green leaf color.

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To avoid both of these issues you might switch over to one of the more cold-hardy types if you plant more boxwood in the future. Go for cultivars like ‘Green Beauty.’ They are far less likely to show it.

Even ‘Green Beauty’ boxwood will suffer a bit of freeze damage. I have these plants in my own landscape and this winter knocked back a few of their tips. No big deal.
Posted by Neil Sperry
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