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When to Prune Boxwood – With Tips on How to Do So

Did you know that there are more than 70 species in the boxwood family? These slow-growing evergreen shrubs grow best in zones 5-9 and add style and flair to your lawn or garden. Boxwoods need little maintenance. In most cases, you can maintain the beauty of your plants by pruning only once a year! But what is the best time to prune boxwoods.

When to Prune Boxwood?

Prune in spring once the boxwoods are established. This is the time to shape your topiaries or guide the natural shape. You can also lightly shape or do touch-ups through mid-July if necessary. But heavy pruning in late summer or early fall won’t allow time for the new limbs to harden before the colder temperatures arrive.

If you live in the northernmost part of the plant’s hardiness range, new growth is particularly vulnerable to “winter bronzing.” Be sure to protect your boxwood with a burlap wrap or other protection during its first few years.

There is one exception to the pruning timeline: immediately remove diseased or dead branches. Do this regardless of the season.

Boxwood Pruning Tips

  • Before you start cutting, decide what you want to achieve. Whether you want to thin, shear, or restore growth, you need a clear vision before you start.
  • A good rule of thumb is to avoid removing more than ¼ of the plant during the pruning season. Factor that it when you make your boxwood plan.
  • Make sure you have the right tools for the job! Boxwoods can grow to be as high as 10’. So you’ll need different tools depending on the size of your plants and how you intend to use them.
man pruning small boxwood shrub with shears

Tools You May Need to Prune Boxwood

Depending on the age and size of your boxwoods, you may need a small set of tools to keep them looking good.


Anvil Pruning Shears

This style of handheld tool operates using a single blade that closes down against a flattened edge or an “anvil”. Anvil shears are for limbs up to ¾” in diameter. These are not the best choice for precise cuts or tight fits because they are larger than the option below.

Bypass Pruning Shears

These handheld shears have stainless-steel blades that use a scissor-like cutting motion. The lower cutting surface is shaped like a hook. It pins the branch against the blade, giving you a clean cut. Bypass pruning shears are best used for branches up to ¾” in diameter.

Hedge Trimmers

man trimming large hedges with hedge trimmer

The long, oscillating blades found on any type of hedge trimmer allows the user to prune large areas of the boxwood with a single stroke.

Use caution with this tool! You may make too large of a cut, which may be difficult to hide if you are looking for a particular shape.

You can create almost anything at all with a sharp-bladed hedge trimmer!


lopper pruning shears

Use loppers when you need to reach high or difficult to access areas. The long handles give you the leverage needed to cut boxwood limbs that are greater than ¾” in diameter.

Loppers are not meant for precise cuts or for shaping work. They are a bulky workhorse tool to help you with the hard work. Loppers are found in both anvil and shear style products.

How to Prune Overgrown Boxwood Shrubs

To prune overgrown boxwoods, Start by removing the dead branches. These are the branches that have shriveled, withered, or brown leaves.

Then, pull the remaining branches apart. Remove any debris, such as grass, weeds, leaves, or broken branches that may be taking up space inside. The center of the boxwood needs light and good air circulation to stay healthy! Thinning out your shrub, or removing any limbs that are growing faster than the others, will also help with airflow.

Then, when it is time to shape, you can prune the shrub in the way that best fits your goals or your aesthetic.

How to Shape Boxwood Plants

Looking for even more information about these beautiful, versatile plants? Check out these fun articles about creating popular shapes!

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