If you have boxwood shrubs, you may have noticed that they are turning brown this spring. It’s happening all over Johnson County and the Kansas City metro area, say local lawn and garden experts:
If you have boxwood shrubs, you may have noticed that they are turning brown this spring.
It’s happening in Johnson County and the Kansas City metro area, say local lawn and garden experts: boxwood leaves are turning brown and brittle, leaving unsightly, diseased-looking spots on the normally green foliage that adorns the landscape of many homes.
The Post spoke to Dennis Patton, a gardener at Johnson County Kansas State University’s Research and Extension Office, to find out why this is happening so frequently right now — and what Johnson Countians can do to potentially revitalize their shrubs.
Why are my box trees dying?
Mainly, Patton said, the fairly hardy box trees are drying up or drying out because of the drier than normal winter we’ve just experienced.
Box trees don’t shed their leaves in winter like other deciduous plants, making it harder for them to retain moisture in colder temperatures – especially when combined with wind and reduced rainfall or snowfall.
People who’ve gotten a little overzealous with the ice melting ahead of winter snowfalls might notice a similar drying out, Patton said. Because boxwoods are often used as hedges near driveways and sidewalks, ice melt is washed or swept into the ground, causing damage to the roots, he said.
Could pests be a problem?
Insects called box leaf miners and a leaf disease called volutella blight are two other potential problems for box trees in Kansas City, Patton said.
But he warns that although boxwood blight shows up frequently in Google searches, the disease isn’t widespread in the Kansas City area, meaning your boxwoods browning may be caused by something else, Patton said.
How can I revive my boxwood?
First, boxwood owners need to identify the problem in order to tailor the solution. If the tan is concentrated near the sidewalk or driveway and the back of the boxwood is green, it is more likely that winter ice melt application caused the damage.
Those who need help identifying the problem can call Research and Extension’s garden hotline at (913) 715-7050, Patton said.
In general, however, Patton recommends pruning the dead parts of the plant. This opens up the boxwood and lets in more sunlight, which can encourage new growth next year, he said.
Another option is not to shear boxwood too hard, Patton said. The more green leaves there are on the plant, the better chance there is for photosynthesis to properly work its magic, he said.
What if that doesn’t work? Should I just plant new box trees?
Sometimes there’s nothing to do but start over, Patton said.
If you’re on the fence about planting new boxwood, Patton said now is the best time to make the leap. Planting new box trees in the spring allows the root system to settle in for at least a month before the hot summer weather hits, he said.
Boxwood can be found in almost every nursery in the greater area, Patton said.
What do I have to do after planting box trees?
Boxwoods aren’t “plant-it-and-forget-it” plants, Patton said.
Though they can withstand sun, shade, heat, and even drought, they’re not indestructible, he warns.
Patton suggests watering boxwoods every two to three weeks during the summer when rainwater is not being soaked up.
To avoid future dehydration from potentially dry falls and winters, he said give box trees a good final watering in September or October to keep them wintering.
key quote: “Kansas City just isn’t an evergreen area, so we don’t have a lot of evergreen options — especially ones that stay a little smaller (in) height and width,” Patton said. “Boxwoods are still a good solution to our evergreen needs, in my opinion.”