How to Plant Boxwood Hedges

Boxwood hedge plants
Chiot's Run / Flickr / CC By 2.0
  • 01 of 10

    Planting Hedges -- Tools and Materials

    Image shows supplies needed for planting hedges. Image is in an article with full instructions.
    Supplies for planting a hedge: shovel, tape measure, stakes, a line, scissors. David Beaulieu

    Dwarf boxwood shrubs often are used in formal landscape design. As dwarf plants, they are compact in size, amenable to trimming and bear dense, attractive foliage. This combination of qualities makes them a solid choice for short, formal hedges.

    Various types of shrubs suitable for hedges are available should you prefer something other than boxwood. Another classic choice for formal hedges is privet shrubs. Many of the tools and materials required for planting hedges are readily available,...MORE usually in your shed or garage, including a:

    • Shovel
    • Rope or string
    • Scissors
    • Tape measure
    • Stakes
    • Soil conditioner or compost
    • Hammer or rubber mallet
    • Spray paint, optional
    • Bag of peat moss, if needed
    • Work gloves
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  • 02 of 10

    Getting a Straight Hedgerow

    Picture showing how to get hedgerows straight.
    Picture showing how to get hedgerows straight. David Beaulieu

    In this example, an area of patchy grass is being replaced with a planting bed. To make the planting bed rectangular, the long sides will be comprised of a fence on one end and a hedge on the other. Start by running a tape measure along the ground to mark the length of the hedge. In this example, you'll end up with 15 boxwoods spaced 12 inches on center. To allow a trench with some room to spare, run the tape measure for 20 feet.

    With a rubber mallet or hammer, pound a stake at each end of...MORE this 20-foot stretch. Tie a string from one stake to the other. To ensure that the hedge trench will run parallel to the fence, measure from the fence by running the tape measure to one end of the string. Note the measurement. Measure from the fence to string at the other end, which will produce parallel lines. If the measurements are not equal, adjust the stakes accordingly. Use spray paint to mark the line so that it will be easier for you to see.

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  • 03 of 10

    Removing the Sod

    Remove the sod to make way for the boxwoods.
    Remove the sod to make way for the boxwoods. David Beaulieu

    To prepare for planting the boxwoods, remove the sod under the guide string, forming a shallow trench about 2 feet wide. Using a pointed shovel, cut the sod out in chunks -- about 4 inches deep by 10 inches wide by 10 inches long -- then pound the soil so that you don't waste any. Dispose of the sod by placing it in a compost bin. If the soil in this area needs aeration, add peat moss. 

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  • 04 of 10

    Measure the Root Ball

    Measure the rootball of the shrub.
    Measure the rootball of the shrub. David Beaulieu

    The "trench" in the prior step is really only a mini-trench. Enlarge it by digging the holes, so that you can plant the shrubs. You'll need to do more measuring first, beginning with each root ball. The planting hole should measure twice the width of a shrub's root ball but not quite as deep. In the case of small, container-grown shrubs, measure the root ball by running a tape measure across the pot, since the root ball usually fills the container.

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  • 05 of 10

    Measure the Planting Hole and Excavate

    Measure the hole for planting and excavate.
    My shrub's rootball is 6", so I make the hole 12". David Beaulieu

    The planting hole should measure twice the width of a shrub's root ball, but not quite as deep. This will provide the roots plenty of room to expand sideways, through freshly-laid, rich soil. These root balls are each 6 inches, so make the holes double that size, or 12 inches wide.

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  • 06 of 10

    Planting the Boxwood Shrubs

    Planting the boxwood shrubs.
    This rootball is root-bound. I'll "tease" it before backfilling. David Beaulieu

    Before planting a container-grown shrub, gently knock it out of its pot and check to see if it has become root bound. If your shrub is not root bound, proceed to Step 7. "Root bound" just means that a thick mat of roots has built up on the outside of the root ball, due to the unnatural constraints imposed by the container. As a result, the roots can't pass nutrients to the shrub. If you plant the shrub in this state, the roots may not break free of this unnatural growing pattern.

    To...MORE free the roots, "tease" them -- loosen the outer roots of the root ball so that once you place the plant in the ground, the roots can resume normal growth patterns. Run a sharp object, such as scissors, along the exterior of the root ball wherever matting has occurred. The sharp object will slice through the matted areas, freeing the roots to grow naturally. Do not worry about damaging the matted roots: They are useless in their current state.

    Set each boxwood shrub in the middle of its planting hole and begin to fill dirt in around it.

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  • 07 of 10

    Drainage for Shrubs and Controlling Soil Settling

    Plant shrubs so as to achieve good drainage.
    It's okay to mound up soil around the perimeter of the planting hole to make watering easier, but don't bury the rootball. David Beaulieu

    To fill the hole, mix the soil you removed with soil amendments, such as compost. The important issue here is how the soil will settle, or compact after air pockets work their way out. Excessive settling will leave a donut-shaped depression around the plant. To remove air pockets, tamp down the soil as you place the plant in the hole and water the soil lightly.

    After filling the hole, the root ball should protrude slightly above ground level to promote good drainage. If you dig the planting hole...MORE 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.

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  • 08 of 10

    Korean Boxwoods

    I selected Korean boxwoods for their hardiness, small leaves and compact form.
    I selected Korean boxwoods for their hardiness, small leaves and compact form. David Beaulieu

    You can use various varieties of boxwoods, but Korean boxwoods, used in this project, grow well in the U.S. Department of Agriculture planting zone 4, which covers some of the upper Midwest and plains states. If you live in a northern region such as this one, shelter your shrubs after buying them but before you are ready to plant them. Make a shrub shelter for your hedges by using this winter-protection procedure.

    Korean boxwoods are compact, growing to 2 feet tall by 3- or 4-feet wide at...MORE maturity. Korean boxwoods are full-sun plants and should be watered regularly throughout their first growing season. If you plant them in early spring, hold off on fertilizing and pruning until June. Use a slow-release fertilizer.

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  • 09 of 10

    Spacing the Hedge Shrubs

    Space the hedge shrubs to the desired distance apart.
    Space the hedge shrubs to the desired distance apart. David Beaulieu

    In general, space any variety of hedge shrubs 12 to 18 inches apart. If you are planting them as specimens instead of as hedge shrubs, however, give them much more room, spacing them about 4 feet apart.

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  • 10 of 10

    Picture of the Completed Boxwood Hedge

    Mulch the hedge to keep down weeds, shelter the roots from heat, and conserve water.
    Mulch the hedge to keep down weeds, shelter the roots from heat, and conserve water. David Beaulieu

    Mulch your boxwood hedge. Boxwood shrubs have shallow roots so mulching will protect the plants' roots from the blazing sun and help retain moisture in the soil. Apply only 2 to 3 inches of mulch, and leave an inch or so around the base of each shrub open to promote air circulation.

    Using more than 2 or 3 inches of mulch will cause the boxwoods to produce shallow roots instead of growing deeper into the soil. This will cause the shrubs to become more susceptible to damage during periods of...MORE drought. Learn other benefits of applying an appropriate layer of mulch in this landscape mulch FAQ, and find out about trimming hedges in this tutorial.