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Watering Boxwood Shrubs

By Teresa Odle

One reason boxwoods are perfect shrubs is they can handle drought once they've matured in your garden. But regular watering, especially for the first year or two, keeps your boxwoods green, growing and healthy. It's really pretty simple.

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Best Time to Water Boxwoods

The best time to water your boxwood is when you plant it. Make sure to soak the ground thoroughly. And remember that as your young plant gets used to its new home,  it requires more frequent watering than any instructions give you for a mature plant. That means 18 months to 2 years of about 1 inch of water per week (watering once or twice a week, depending on rainfall) until the shrub is firmly rooted in its new home.

Best Way to Water Boxwoods

Drainage is critical for your boxwood. When planting, you should have picked a site and soil that drains well so the roots don't sit in wet soil. The other way to ensure the soil wets roots, but doesn't stay soggy, is to water slowly. Drip systems are ideal, allowing water to seep slowly down through the soil.

If you don't have a drip system, you can substitute a soaker hose (flowing at a low drip). Or simply lay your garden hose under the edges of the shrub and set it to release a slow stream of water. Move the location of the hose from time to time to water roots all around the plant.

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How Often to Water Boxwoods

Once your boxwood is established – about 2 years after planting – you can cut back on watering, assuming your weather and rainfall are normal. Mature boxwoods can handle some drought, just not extended periods of dryness. So, be sure to water regularly enough for your boxwood to stay healthy and grow into the hedge or shape you want. But don't assume adding more water will force it grow more quickly, and avoid keeping the ground or container constantly moist. 

Of course, if you are going through a period of drought, be sure to pick up the watering schedule for your boxwood. The leaves might look fine, while the roots you cannot see are dying of thirst. On the other hand, cut back on watering for your new or mature boxwood if you've had plenty of rain. You also want to give your boxwood some extra water during periods of intense heat. 

Often, if you are over-watering your boxwood, the foliage may turn yellow or wilt. Sometimes the foliage may fade or turn pale compared to usual.

And remember – maintaining a 1-inch layer of organic mulch around your plant and its driplines can ensure its shallow roots stay hydrated but not soggy.

  • 1 inch of water per week for new plants

  • Minimal watering is necessary for established boxwood

  • Ensure soil is well drained

  • Apply 1 inch layer of mulch to retain moisture

  • More water does not increase growth rate