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How To Prune Korean Boxwoods (Complete DIY Guide)

How To Prune Korean Boxwoods (Complete DIY Guide)

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Willie Moore
Latest posts by Willie Moore (see all)

Korean Boxwoods (Buxus Sinica var. insularis) make excellent hedges. Not only do they require little maintenance, but they also add a touch of elegance to any landscape. However, to keep your Korean Boxwood looking its best, you’ll need to know how to prune it correctly.

You can prune your Korean Boxwoods by gathering the necessary equipment, identifying dead or dying branches and removing them, thinning, and shaping the plants. The focus is to use the right equipment and procedure that won’t damage or kill your boxwoods.

In the rest of this article, I’ll take you through the process of pruning your Korean Boxwoods. I’ll also discuss when to prune these plants to avoid damage. Let’s get started!

1. Gather the Necessary Equipment

The equipment you use to prune your Korean Boxwood is a crucial safety consideration. You’ll need to use the right tools for the job to avoid damaging the plant.

Some consequences of using the wrong equipment include:

  • Ragged cuts: Using blunt equipment produces rough cuts, which are dangerous for the plant’s survival. You need sharp equipment for clean cuts that are easy to heal and facilitate the plant’s growth (source).
  • Incorrect size: Using equipment that is the wrong size for your plant can cause damage. For instance, you risk damaging the plant if the equipment is too big. On the other hand, if it’s too small, it won’t be able to cut through the branches.

You’ll need the following equipment to prune your Korean Boxwoods:

  • Bypass pruning shears: They use a scissor-like action to cut through the branches. They are suitable for branches with diameters not exceeding ¾ of an inch.
  • Loppers: They have long handles that create more leverage to reach and cut thicker branches. They are ideal for branches whose diameter exceeds ¾ of an inch.
  • Pruning saw (optional): They are more powerful for pruning thicker branches.

Apart from the above equipment, you need other safety gadgets like gloves, rags, and tarps.

It’s recommended to sterilize all the pruning equipment before using them. Sterilizing these tools prevents the spread of diseases from one plant to another (source).

2. Identify Dead or Dying Branches

Dead or dying branches are risky for any growing plant. Such branches are susceptible to diseases and pests, which can spread to the rest of the plant (source).

You can identify these branches by looking for the following signs:

  • Lack of leaves: The branch has no leaves, or they’re all dried up.
  • Brittle texture: The branch is dry and breaks easily when touched.
  • Discoloration: The branch is either too light or dark in color.

If you’re unsure whether a branch is dead or alive, you can use a scratch test to confirm.

How To Do a Scratch Test

You can use a thumbnail or a sharp knife for this test. Here is the procedure:

  1. Scratch a section of the branch using your thumbnail or a sharp knife.
  2. The scratched area displays the cambium layer.
  3. Inspect the cambium layer’s nature.

The branch is alive if the cambium layer appears greenish and moist (source). Otherwise, the branch is dead if the cambium layer is brownish and dry.

3. Remove Dead or Dying Branches

After identifying the dead and dying branches, you should remove them by cutting them at the point where they connect to the main plant. Use bypass pruning shears for small branches and loppers for larger ones.

Here are a few things to consider when cutting dead branches:

  • The position of the shears: You must position the pruning shear correctly to produce a clean cut. It’s recommended to hold the shears upright for a good cut.
  • The angle of cut: An excellent pruning angle should range between 45 and 60 degrees for the best results (source).
  • The cut location: You should cut on the branch collar for the plant’s safety. The branch collar is the swollen area where the branch meets the main plant (source). Cuttings should be about ¼ inch above this area.

4. Thin the Plant

Thinning your Korean Boxwoods helps increase air circulation and allows more sunlight to reach the inner parts of the plant.

You should start by cutting back on crossing and rubbing branches. These are the ones that grow inward and touch other parts of the plant.

It’s also best to remove any suckers. Suckers are new shoots that appear at the base of the plant or on the trunk. They compete with existing branches for vital nutrients, ultimately weakening the plant.

You should use bypass pruning shears to cut these suckers at their point of origin.

Finally, inspect the plant for overgrown limbs. These limbs will take over your boxwood if you don’t cut them back. You can use loppers to cut these branches.

Remember to make your cuts at the branch collar for safety.

5. Shape the Plant

Everybody has a preferred shape and form when it comes to backyard boxwoods. After pruning, you should apply intricate or topiary designs to achieve your desired aesthetics.

You can use any of the following pruning methods to shape your boxwood:

  • Shearing: This is the most straightforward pruning method. It involves cutting back all the sides of the plant evenly using hedge shears. The result is a uniform and squared-off look.
  • Thinning: This advanced pruning method involves selectively removing specific branches to create the desired shape. The result is a more natural look.
  • Notching: This is another advanced pruning method similar to thinning. The difference is that notching removes the wedge-shaped bark piece above the bud, creating a notch-shaped depression.

The Right Time To Prune Your Korean Boxwoods

Timing is a crucial consideration for the efficient healing of your boxwoods after pruning. It’s recommended to prune these plants in spring when they are actively growing. The plant recovers quickly from the pruning stress when you prune in spring.

Pruning in late summer and early fall can be devastating for your boxwoods. This is because the new limbs will not have hardened before winter. Therefore, the plant can be damaged by frost.

Frost and winter cold can also damage newly pruned branches. For this reason, it’s essential only to prune the diseased, dead, and dying limbs during this time. All other pruning should be done in spring.

Final Thoughts

Pruning your Korean Boxwoods is essential to encourage plant growth, remove diseased or damaged branches, and improve air circulation.

Remember to use the proper pruning tools and techniques for the best results. It’s also essential only to prune these plants in spring.

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