Planting a Box Hedge

How to Plant a Box Hedge box

Box (Buxus sempervirens) is a tough little shrub. It is a genuine native of the British Isles (Ireland excepted) and has comfortably weathered colder winter than any of us are likely to see again. It is also one of the relatively few hedge plants that is genuinely happy in shade, and once established Box can survive in very dry ground indeed (less happy where it is wet). Box grows relatively slowly - just a very few inches each year which makes it a perfect choice for a low hedge or edging to a border, and its incredibly dense growth and evergreen foliage make it an ideal subject for topiary. You can see our Box hedging.

All in all a Box hedge is a pretty sound choice. But it would be a much better one if your box hedge was properly planted.

Start with the plants - bare-rooted box hedge plants establish very fast and are much more economical than container grown stock. Bare root plants need to be planted between November and March. Outside those months, container grown is the only way to go.

Prepare the ground well; a box hedge left undisturbed will still be around in a couple of hundred years (and looking good). You will help it stay the course by digging the ground over well. Remove weeds, stones, roots and the like and incorporate loads of well-rotted compost or horse or farmyard manure. Masses of good organic matter is one of the secrets of a healthy box hedge. Add a bit of blood fish and bone as well (available at any garden centre, Homebase, B&Q etc) but follow the instructions on the pack.

Assuming you are planting bare root Buxus, ensure the roots are well wetted. We always suggest taking a bundle of box (30/40 cm plants are usually in 10's while 15/20cm plants are in 25's) out of the parcel they were delivered in and putting the roots in a bucket of water. Cut the string holding the bundle together. As the soil is soft, it is easy enough to make a hole for each plant, but we think it quicker to take out a trench just a little wider but no deeper than the roots.

A Box hedge is closely planted - 5 to the metre is ideal, and it is much easier to get even spacing by putting plants into a trench than by digging holes. Use a line to make sure they are planted in a straight row and space the plants at exactly 20 cm intervals - uneven spacing shows up for years afterwards. Plant in a single row - there is absolutely no need to plant Box in a staggered double row, it is just twice as expensive. Firm the plants in well, making sure that the finished soil level is the same as it was when they were lifted (you can see a "high water mark" on the stem of the plant which shows where the soil was previously). Never plant them too deep.

If you are planting container grown box, ensure the top of the compost in the pot is level with the surrounding soil, otherwise plant pot grown box as you would bareroot plants.

Do not be tempted to trim the plants when you have finished. Leave them alone and let them establish before giving them gentle trim in late May. After that, we would recommend only clipping your box hedge in December or January on a day when it is not freezing. Doing this allows the wounds to heal well before fungal spores (which attach through damaged plant tissue) become active.

Water well, sit back and watch them grow. 

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