How to Plant a Dwarf Boxwood Hedge

A Guide for Planting Picture-Perfect Hedges at Home

A row of potted boxwood hedge plants
Chiot's Run / Flickr / CC By 2.0
  • 01 of 06

    Planting Dwarf Boxwoods

    Supplies needed for planting hedges
    David Beaulieu

    Dwarf boxwood shrubs are widely used in formal landscape design. Compact in size, these plants bear dense attractive foliage and are amenable to trimming. They can be pruned into a wall shape or cut to form individual globes. Their stunted nature makes them a perfect choice for edging around a garden or a border along a walkway, as you can see over them, unlike other fast-growing boxwood varieties. And slow-growing, dwarf boxwoods are easy to cultivate, resistant to disease and pests, and make a showy garden addition.

    Related: 10 Best Ornamental Shrubs for Your Yard

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  • 02 of 06

    When to Plant Boxwood Hedges

    As with any perennial plant, boxwoods are best planted in the early spring. If you live in a temperate climate where freezing is rare, early fall also makes a good planting time. However, don't plant boxwoods during the height of the growing season in mid-summer or during the dormancy period of mid-winter. Hot, drought conditions could create a failure to thrive and cold temperatures could lead to loss of plants. Make sure to choose a planting time that gives the boxwood a solid chance to establish itself before seasonal extremes set in.

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  • 03 of 06

    Project Metrics

    • Working Time: 2 hours, or more
    • Total Time: Several years for full hedge formation 
    • Material Cost: Up to 100 dollars or more
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  • 04 of 06

    What You'll Need

    Tools/Equipment

    • Tape measure
    • Stakes
    • Hammer or rubber mallet
    • Rope or string
    • Shovel
    • Scissors

    Materials

    • Several dwarf boxwood shrubs
    • Peat moss (as needed)
    • Soil conditioner or compost
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  • 05 of 06

    Instructions

    How to get hedgerows straight
    David Beaulieu

    Mark the Hedgerow Line
    Extend a tape measure along the ground in the desired location for the hedge. Plan to space the plants about 12 to 24 inches apart (measuring from center to center). Drive a stake to mark each end of the trench, then tie a string from one stake to the other, pulling it taut.

    Remove the Sod
    Using a shovel, form a shallow trench about two feet wide below the guide string. Remove the sod in chunks about four inches deep. Lift each chunk and pound it with the shovel to knock off as much soil as possible. Compost the sod or replant it in another location. 

    Measure the Root Ball
    Figure out the general width of your root balls by measuring the height and width of each pot. (With small, container-grown shrubs, the root ball usually fills the container.) 

    Dig the Holes
    Dig each hole according to the root ball dimensions. The hole should measure twice the width of the shrub's root ball and not quite as deep. This will provide the roots plenty of room to expand sideways through the freshly-turned, rich soil. 

    Tease the Roots
    Before planting the container-grown shrub, gently knock it out of its pot and check to see if it has become root-bound with a thick mat of roots built up along the bottom. If this is the case, free the roots by loosening the outer ones so that they can resume normal growth patterns once planted. Cut any matted areas with pruning shears and discard the mat. 

    Plant the Shrubs
    Set each boxwood shrub into the middle of its planting hole and begin to backfill dirt around it with the removed soil mixed with amendments. To remove air pockets, tamp down the soil as you place the plant in the hole and water the soil lightly.

    Mulch the Plants
    Add two to three inches of mulch to the planted area, leaving one inch or so around the base of each shrub free of mulch to promote air circulation.

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  • 06 of 06

    Tips for Planting Boxwood Hedges

    Remove the sod to make way for the boxwoods
    David Beaulieu
    • Space the planting holes according to your layout and remember to measure the distance between the center of each hole, not between the edges of the holes. Also, make sure the holes you dig are twice the width of the root ball and not quite as deep as the height of the root ball (so that the top of the root ball is not covered). 
    • If your soil needs aeration, add peat moss to your soil amendment protocol. 
    • Don't worry about damaging matted roots on a root-bound bush. They are useless in their current state and need to be cut free.
    • After filling the hole, the root ball should protrude slightly above ground level to promote good drainage. If you dig the planting hole too deep, the base of the shrub's trunk might end up below ground level after the soil settles, resulting in poor drainage which can lead to plant diseases. 
    • Using more than two or three inches of mulch will cause the boxwoods to produce shallower roots instead of growing deep into the soil. This will cause the shrubs to become susceptible to damage during periods of drought. 
    • Dwarf boxwoods also look great in containers and can be planted in intricate pots and used to create a path or a garden statement.

    Related: 10 Landscaping Errors to Avoid