The Common English Boxwood, Buxus sempervirens, is perhaps the oldest known ornamental plant in western gardens. Boxwood parterres and hedges can be seen in many of the great gardens of Europe and America. In your yard, boxwoods can be used as hedges, as screening plants along borders and accents to your gardenscape. This shrub will grow in USDA hardiness zones from 5 to 8.
This species has a narrow leaf with a slightly blue-green cast and it is actually a small understory tree in its wild form. Boxwoods have been cloned by cuttings for centuries so several distinct growth forms are commonly seen. The “American” boxwood is a tall growing variety that grows up to 15-feet tall and is offered in the nursery trade as “Arborescens.” The earliest mention of imported boxwoods in the colonies was in 1652.
Let’s Get Started
It’s easy to get plenty of new shrubs for free by starting boxwood cuttings. Successfully rooting boxwoods depends on choosing the tips from healthy, vigorously growing plants. Taking greenwood cuttings in early to midsummer catches the stems at just the right stage to give you the best chance of success. Here’s what you’ll need for propagating your boxwoods:
- With pruning shears remove 4″ of new growth. I usually add the cuttings to a plastic bag with a wet paper towel inside to prevent excess water loss from newly cut stems. Choose only healthy plants with no insect damage, no leaf discoloration, or disease.
- Bring the cuttings back to your garden bench and cut them again at the base with a sharp knife. This clean cut will have much less tissue damage and will increase success rates so it is worth the extra time.
- Remove the leaves from the lower 2″ of each cutting and scrape the bark from one side of the stem. Roll the lower end of the cutting in rooting hormone.
- Stick the lower end of the cutting where the leaves were removed about 2″ into the rooting medium. Firm the medium around the stem to make the cutting stay straight.
- Water and cover with a clear or white plastic bag. The bag prevents excess water loss and will again increase success rates. Place in a location with indirect sun. Rooting should take approximately 6 to 8 weeks.
Take a nodal stem-tip cutting from greenwood as you see below. Clone the best most vigorous plants.
Make final cuts at the base using a sharp knife. Strip the leaves from the lower 2″ of the stem. The final step in processing our cuttings is to apply root hormone to the base of each stem.
Transfer to commercial rooting medium since it will be more cost-effective. However, if you want to make your own rooting medium add equal parts of mason sand, vermiculite, and peat moss.
Boxwood cuttings require a more little time and patience and some cuttings may refuse to root altogether, so take more than you think you’ll need. If you are successful, you can always give your extra plants to your neighbors.