Transplanting Mature Boxwoods

April 18, 2008 | By | Comments (70)

08 04 boxwoods 7 Transplanting Mature Boxwoods
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.

Good luck,


  1. Equipment Boxwoods – John Oliver Fitness Blog

    […] Transplanting Mature Boxwoods | Southern Living Blog – 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 … […]

    March 4, 2016 at 7:22 pm
  2. Steve Bender

    Leave them in your holding area until the move. Put the plants up against each other and cover the root balls with ground bark mulch. They should be fine until January.

    September 26, 2012 at 11:20 am
  3. Christianna

    I live in Cincinnati OH and just dug up about 50 boxwoods out of my previous home to bring my babies with me to my new home. The issue I have is that I’m renting now and moving again in January. I planted them in a shaded holding area for now. Do I need to wrap the root balls or put them in plastic containers with a specific kind of soil mixture to make sure they make the transplant again? Some are 8 years old and some are 4/5 years old.
    Thank you for your help.

    September 24, 2012 at 9:54 pm
  4. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    All I can say is congratulations and you’re lucky to be living in the Pacific NW. If you dug up boxwoods like that anywhere else, it would have been curtains for sure.

    June 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm
  5. Gregg

    I’m back after moving most of the boxwoods to make way for the barn. I moved half in Nov, and half starting again in Feb. I ended up cutting the top 10+ feet off and had trouble getting a good rootball as I was using a backhoe. I found digging a trench on each side and then using the bucket to push them sideways was the best way to keep what I could of the rootball, but in the end there wasn’t much left. All the time I thought I was wasting my time planting the mostly bare stocks (over 2″ thick), but to my great surprise and pleasure those bare stocks are now covered with starts springing out everywhere. They aren’t pretty, yet, but soon they will be flush and make for a beautiful 6′ border along my curved driveway. They seem to be hardier than anticipate, at least here in the NW! Thanks for encouraging me to keep them. It was a ton of work but well worth it.

    June 26, 2012 at 1:03 am
  6. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    I applaud your effort, but think it’s all for naught. Ripping a big boxwood out of the ground in this heat will most likely kill it. Applying root stimulator won’t do any good.

    June 21, 2012 at 2:45 pm
  7. franklin

    I came across a mature 6’x6’boxwood that had just been pulled out of the ground using a rope and a truck to . It had no root ball and it took me 36 hrs to dig the hole and get in the ground. The roots were gone on one The base and collar are in good shape.I have watered every day since planted and bought root stimulater today (10% phophhate)to be diluted in a 1 gallon can.Unfortunately the bottle says in should be applied before soil is covering roots.How often can I apply? Can I burn the roots with over application.Should I have bought the 45% for vegetables phosphate? I know its a gamble .Im trying to save this old beauty but Im not going to dig it up again to apply the solution.Please advise

    June 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm
  8. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    If you plant them in a rather open spot so that all sides of the boxwoods get sun, foliage should eventually grow on all sides. Anything that’s dead you should prune off now. Be very careful about transplanting now in this warm weather, because the shock might kill them. You need to disturb the roots as little as possible and make sure the rootball doesn’t break into pieces. And water, water, water.

    May 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm
  9. Waylon

    Sorry I miss typed some I hope you get what I’m saying!

    April 30, 2012 at 8:25 pm
  10. Waylon

    I Live in TN and I recently acquired some very large Boxwoods I pulled up from someones home and i’m trying to transplant them. The problem i’m having is that some problems. They butchered one the top and back side they lined a wall. I have new growth just in the front where the eve of the house shaded the top and back so they are one sided. What can I do to my soil to progress the opposite side because I will be transplanting them in full sun.Do I trim the dead looking side during transplant or should I wait? transplant or wait

    April 30, 2012 at 8:22 pm
  11. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Boxwoods like good drainage, so plant them so the top of the root ball is about a half-inch above the soil surfaced and then cover it over with mulch.

    April 30, 2012 at 7:52 am
  12. ed

    Grumpy, I’m planting some winter gems and green mountain boxwoods next week. Should they be planted level with the surface/grass or should the root be above ground level by a few inches? Thanks. ed in Long Island, NY

    April 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm
  13. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    If they are healthy, they could be worth between $500 – $1,000, but that’s just a guess on my part.

    April 16, 2012 at 10:23 am
  14. Doug H

    I have two very large boxwoods that we need to have moved. We would like to sell them but don’t know how much to ask. Both boxwoods are about 7 feet tall and about 8-10 feet in diameter. Any guess as to how much they would be worth?

    April 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm
  15. Jane

    GG and Gregg:
    I’m curious how the transplants have fared. I recently moved into a home that has also has monster boxwoods that were planted in a giant L shape right smack in the middle of the back yard. I think they must have initially been a border or something around a flower bed, but 60 years later they’re now over 8 feet tall and wide, and I have about 130 feet in length that make up the two segments of the “L.” I really want to try and move these things closer to to the border of the property so that they don’t break up the yard the way they do. What kind of equipment and manpower would I need?
    I live in northern Virginia, just outside of DC.

    February 27, 2012 at 1:14 pm
  16. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    I’d wait until March and see how the ones you’ve already dug do.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:13 pm
  17. Gregg

    OK Grumpy. I have an update after trying to move the over-sized bushes. I have moved 8 of the 60 or so bushes, and because of the tight quarters, I’ve found that I can only get a root ball of about 18″. I’m building a barn where they sit so they have to move but I don’t know that I can get enough of the roots for them to survive. Also it is late November now. I know you said October was best, but the barn will be built in April so it is now or March. Any suggestions based on my update? Thanks!

    November 21, 2011 at 2:34 pm
  18. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Those are huge boxwoods, but well worth saving if you can. They’re worth a lot of money. I would say you need root balls at least 3 feet wide. Before digging, wind rope or twine in a spiral around the branches to lift them out of the way and make digging easier. Hope you have help lifting the root balls!

    November 8, 2011 at 11:15 am
  19. Gregg

    I just bought property with 180′ of 12′ tall 8′ wide Boxwoods, unfortunately they are where my barn is going to be. I have a tractor so I can dig around them but given their size just how big a “root ball” will I need? I’m guessing the roots are pretty spread out. Seattle WA

    November 5, 2011 at 11:28 pm
  20. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    I would wait until October to try moving them. The soil should be moist and the weather cool. You probably have to dig about a foot deep. Here’s a link to a story that walks you through the whole transplanting process: Good luck!

    September 15, 2011 at 2:27 pm

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