How to Plant a Dwarf Boxwood Hedge

dwarf boxwood shrubs

Chiot's Run / Flickr / CC By 2.0

Overview
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $100

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. And unlike the fast-growing boxwood varieties, their stunted nature makes them a perfect choice for a border plant along a garden or walkway that you can see over. Dwarf boxwoods are visually appealing, easy to cultivate, and resistant to most diseases and pests.

When to Plant

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, dry conditions can prevent boxwoods from thriving, and cold temperatures can lead to the death of an unestablished plant. So make sure to choose a planting time that gives the boxwood a chance to take root before seasonal extremes set in.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

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

Materials

  • Peat moss (as needed)
  • Soil conditioner or compost

Steps to Make It

  1. Mark the Hedgerow Line​

    Extend a tape measure along the ground in the desired location for the boxwood hedge. Plan to space the plants around 1 to 2 feet 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.

  2. Remove the Sod

    Using a shovel, form a shallow trench around 2 feet wide below the guide string. Remove the sod in chunks about 4 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. 

  3. Measure the Root Ball

    Figure out the general size 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.

  4. 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 with plenty of room to expand sideways through the freshly turned soil. 

  5. Tease the Roots

    Gently knock each shrub out of its pot, and check to see whether 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 they can resume normal growth once planted. Cut any matted areas with pruning shears, and discard the mat. 

  6. Plant the Shrubs

    Set each boxwood shrub into the middle of its planting hole, and begin to backfill dirt around it with the soil you previously removed. You might want to use amendments, such as peat moss, soil conditioner, or compost, if you have poor soil. To remove air pockets, tamp down the soil as you place the plant in the hole. Then, lightly water the soil.

  7. Mulch the Plants

    Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch to the planted area. Leave an inch or so around the base of each shrub free of mulch to promote air circulation.

sod removed to make way for a line of boxwood shrubs
David Beaulieu

Tips for Planting Boxwood Hedges

Careful measurement prior to planting is key to achieving your desired boxwood layout. Remember to measure the distance between the center of each planting hole, not between the edges of the holes.

When planting, don't worry about damaging matted roots on a root-bound shrub. They are useless in this 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. This can result in poor drainage and lead to plant diseases, such as rot. 

Using more than 2 to 3 inches of mulch can cause the boxwoods to produce shallower roots instead of growing deep into the soil. This means the shrubs will be susceptible to damage during periods of drought. 

Finally, dwarf boxwoods also look great in container gardens. They can be planted in intricate pots and used to create a pathway or garden focal point.