The boxwoods at my new house were planted about a year ago. They are in full...

Asked September 16, 2013, 9:12 PM EDT

The boxwoods at my new house were planted about a year ago. They are in full sun. I watered them about once a week this summer. They were fine until late August when three of them suddenly had leaf-loss and browning. Can they be saved? Should I dig them up or should I leave them to see if they will be able to come back? Thanks so much for any help you can give me on this.

Baltimore County Maryland shrubs boxwood boxwood browning and leaf loss

5 Responses

Since you don't mention any leaf-spotting or other disease symptoms, the problem is probably environmental, i.e. water, soil, sun, etc. The plants roots could have some dieback because of too much or too little water.

Review your watering routine. Early in the growing season, we had a great deal of rain and little evaporation because of overcast days. In late summer we switched to drought. It is possible that early on they were sitting in soggy soils that drowned their roots, or that they didn't get enough water once the drought hit. How much to water varies according to your soil, too. Sandy soils drain so quickly, they require more frequent watering. Clay soil is harder to wet, but once wet they drain more slowly and stay damp longer.

The only way to know for sure if your plants' have moisture in their soil is to stick a trowel or your finger into the soil and feel and look. If the top inch of soil is dry, then water the plants. Get a rain gauge (even a tin can works fine) so you know for sure how much rain your property is getting. Plants like about an 1" of rain (water) a week and don't generally need to be watered once their root systems have gotten well established. But for the first 2 years at least, they need supplemental water when mother nature doesn't provide.
In case watering is not the problem, please take a look at our website publications in the Ornamental section, about planting:
And this one about unusual problems:


Thanks for the good advice. Is there any chance that the boxwoods will come back in the Spring? I don't want to dig them up if there is a possibility that they might improve over the Fall and Winter.

Yes, they come back but they also may lose some of their branches and not look too good. But you can make a decision then depending on how they look (which depends on how much root loss they suffered.) Boxwoods are flexible plants and even if they don't look as symetrical or as dense as you'd like, with selective pruning and time they could be great.

Meanwhile, we forgot to mention that the other good way to check for moisture in the soil is simply to stick a trowel or finger in the soil and see how dry it is. Remember that when you water, the water needs to be enough to get down to the bottom of the root ball.


This is good news. I'll be following your suggestions. Thanks for your help!