Q: I am the fortunate recipient of five, count ’em five gorgeous mature (4′ x 4′) boxwood shrubs from a neighbor’s landscape. I love boxwoods, but have never owned, nor cared for them. Can you tell me what I should do when planting and caring for them to ensure their continued success?
A: You are indeed fortunate. Mature boxwoods cost a fortune. The only entity more fortunate than you that I know is Leona Helmsley’s dog.
So here’s what a boxwood needs to thrive.
1. Full or part sun
2. Fertile soil containing a good amount of organic matter, such as sphagnum peat moss, chopped leaves, or composted manure. Good drainage is a must! If you plant in heavy clay near a downspout or where water sits after a rain, Leona Helmsley’s dog will soon be even richer than you are.
3. Go easy on the fertilizer — a boxwood growing in good soil doesn’t need much. I recommend spreading a cup or two of slow-release, organic fertilizer, such as cottonseed meal, around the perimeter of each plant in spring. That’s it.
4. Prune or shear as you see fit — boxwood takes pruning well. But don’t prune after August. If you prune any later in te year, you may spur new growth that won’t harden off in time for winter and be killed.