How To Prune Boxwoods


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Boxwoods are popular shrubs in America and across the rest of the world. However, there has been this myth that they’re a nightmare to prune.

Especially when you think about the trend some years back of pruning them into magnificent and wonderful shapes. 

If you want the best for your boxwood then you’ll need to dedicate some time to pruning and this can be an intricate process.

But it’s well worth investing your time as not only will it make the shrub much more attractive, it’ll also make it more robust. 


What Is The Best Tool For Pruning Boxwoods?

Boxwoods can grow pretty tall and pretty wide. At their biggest, you could expect them to reach 10ft x 6ft so you’ll need to make sure that you have equipment that can stand up to the challenge. Fortunately, the modern gardener has access to a wide range of cutting tools so let’s look at what you might need to get the job done. 


If you are pruning a very tall boxwood then you’ll need a tool that will allow you to reach the uppermost parts and that’s where loppers are invaluable. They have long handles so can reach much further up and into the shrub.

In addition to this, those long handles allow for greater leverage which can make pruning thicker or bigger branches much easier.

However, owing to their larger size, you wouldn’t be able to use lopper when shaping or making more intricate cuts. 

Anvil Shears

Anvil shears are a popular choice and have a static ‘anvil’ as well as one blade that closes in on this. Compared to some other types of handheld shears, the anvil shear is a little bulkier so you’ll find that you don’t get as accurate a cut as you would with something like a bypass shear.

That said, they’re excellent for bigger jobs like cutting off thick branches so they’re definitely a tool worth having in your collection.

Moreover, they’ll make light work of boxwoods where there are a lot of diseased branches and you don’t need to worry about precision. 

Bypass Pruning Shears

If you’re only going to buy one tool to prune your boxwoods then bypass shears should be it. These are incredibly popular and operate in a very similar manner to scissors which makes them feel a little less intimidating than the anvil shears. 

One of the greatest benefits of the bypass shears is that they offer a very clean cut with an incredible amount of force and power.

This means they are ideal for slightly thicket branches and won’t cause so much damage to the branch that it cannot recover.

Hedge Trimmer

If you have a very big project on your hands like cutting back a seriously overgrown boxwood or are working with a much larger shrub then handheld tools might not cut the mustard – or the branches, for that matter.

So, in this case, you might need to opt for a powered tool like the hedge trimmer. 

These come in a variety of forms including corded, cordless, and gas powered. There are pros and cons to each of these but they’ll all do a pretty good job of pruning your boxwood. 

One of the biggest advantages to using a hedge trimmer is that you won’t have to exert as much effort and you’ll trim far more in one pass than you would using a handheld tool.

What’s more, you can use these tools for shaping, making them multifunctional.

However, do keep in mind that it can be easy to get carried away when cutting a boxwood with a hedge trimmer. The last thing you want to do is remove too much foliage as this can do more harm than good to your plant. 

When Should I Prune My Boxwoods?

When you should prune your boxwood will depend on several factors. For example, if the plant is less than 3 feet in height then you should aim to trim it either in spring and fall.

Anywhere between April and June and then again between August and October should be fine. You should avoid pruning boxwoods in winter as the plant may not recover in time.

If you have boxwoods as part of a hedge then you probably won’t need to prune them as often as you would for shaped shrubs.

In this case, a single annual pruning in late spring will suffice.

How To Prune Boxwoods

When pruning your boxwood, you should keep in mind that the shrub should ideally taper with the bottom part being wider than the top.

Doing this will ensure that those lower parts of the boxwood receive equal amounts of light, otherwise, they’ll start to suffer.

Depending on what you want to achieve, you might take different approaches to pruning your boxwoods.

For example, if you are trying to cut back a hedge that has grown too large then you’d use a different method to shape a smaller shrub. 

Unfortunately, if your boxwood has gotten out of control, then this isn’t a quick fix. There are people that recommend cutting it right back, almost to a stump but there’s no guarantee that the plant will survive this harsh treatment and you may end up just killing it entirely.

For the best success, you’re going to want to tackle the shrub over the course of a couple of years; we told you it wasn’t a quick fix!

  1. When spring comes around, you’ll need to start by cutting back a few of the branches. Go for about one out of every three branches and begin by removing enough material that you are left with around one foot longer branches than you would like to end up with. 
  2. Over the next few weeks, fresh branches will begin to grow.
  3. The following spring, you’ll cut back the branches you did not cut in the previous year.
  4. By this point, you should be able to cut your boxwood back to any shape or size you like but in some cases, you may find that you need to go another year.

If you’re enamored by the idea of giving your boxwood a unique shape then the good news is that this is more than possible.

Again, you’ll have your work cut out over a couple of years but it’ll be worth it in the end. 

  1. The first pruning will see you pruning your boxwood into whatever shape you have decided on. You don’t need to be very intricate here, it’s fine to go for a general shape at this point. 
  2. Whenever you come to prune your boxwood, it’s important to only remove new growth as you head towards the final shape of the plant. This will ensure that the shrub grows larger but doesn’t lose the shape you chose in the first year. 


Boxwoods are a great choice for any garden but since they can get so big, you need to keep on top of pruning them.

While there is a myth that they’re difficult to prune, this isn’t the case provided that you have the right tools and follow a regimented pruning schedule. 

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