Boxwoods with dead leaves and branches are a common sight around Cincinnati this year. This is an unusual circumstance for a plant that has been a reliable champion of the residential and commercial landscape. So what gives? What is wrong with boxwoods?
Unfortunately, there are many issues plaguing boxwoods this year – some surging problems, such as Volutella Blight, while others have been hanging around for a while (insect issues from Boxwood Leafminer and Boxwood Pysllid). Yet another problem, winter injury from drought and extreme cold temperatures, was unprecedented. Such widespread winter damage on boxwood has not been seen recently. Will it happen again? Time will tell.
So what to do?
Before taking action it should first be determined what is the cause of the problem. Damage or die-back on any one plant could be the result of one problem, or could be the consequence of several problems. Review the resources listed at the bottom of this blog and then choose one of the following paths to identify the problem(s) and choose the appropriate management strategy:
- Bring samples, photos, and descriptions of your plants to a local independent garden center, such as White Oak Gardens, and ask for advice.
- Hire a certified arborist to visit and evaluate your plants in person. There are many great local companies that do this.
- Send samples of your plant to a lab for scientific evaluation. This process can take weeks or months. However, the lab analysis findings will tell you exactly what the problem is, or is not.
After determining what the problem(s) is/are with your boxwood, you must next decide how to fix the problem. This could involve one or more of the following: treating with an insecticide; removing dead or infected parts of the plant; drastically cutting back the entire plant; or removing the plant entirely. If the appropriate action for your boxwood is to trim them back, how will it look? Are you okay with having a plant in your landscape that is less than impressive until it grows back or is it time to remove the plant and try something else in its place?
Diversifying plants in your landscaping is a good thing.
The boxwood problems of this past year is a case in point. Using too much of one kind of plant in your landscape can increase insect and disease problems. To the casual homeowner, this becomes a problem when it becomes an eyesore. Unlike boxwoods, other evergreen plants in the Cincinnati landscape did just fine this past year. That is not to say that someday they won’t have their day in the sun when it comes to problems.
So should we give up on boxwoods?
At this point, no. However, if you decide to replace your boxwood(s) with another type of evergreen plant, here are some great options:
- Mr. Bowling Ball Arborvitae (Full sun to part sun)
- Dwarf Norway Spruce (Full sun to part sun)
- Tater Tot Arborvitae (Full sun to part sun)
- Dense Spreading Yew (Full sun to full shade)
- Gold Cone Juniper (Full sun, upright)
- Franky Boy Arborvitae (Full sun, upright)
Additional Boxwood Resources:
- Boggs, Joe. Re-visiting Volutella and Browned Boxwoods. Buckeye Yard & Garden Online. 7/17/2023. https://bygl.osu.edu/index.php/node/2198
- Boggs, Joe; Amy Stone; Ashley Kulhanek. Box Tree (Boxwood) Moth Confirmed in Southwest Ohio. Buckeye Yard & Garden Online. 6/26/2023. https://bygl.osu.edu/node/2183
- Boggs, Joe. Bad Looking Boxwoods. Buckeye Yard & Garden Online. 3/3/2023. https://bygl.osu.edu/node/2102
- Send plant samples for evaluation to C. Wayne Ellett Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic (PPDC): https://ppdc.osu.edu/