Boxwoods are great plants to use to creating a formal garden look. They (Buxus) have been used throughout gardens across the world to make formal hedges, accents, boxwood standards, evergreen backdrops, and more. When you plant boxwoods in your home landscape you can use the same landscape design concepts to enhance your home garden. The problem is that buying enough boxwoods to create big formal hedges, labyrinths, and formal borders can be very cost prohibitive for the home gardener. This is where propagating boxwoods from cuttings can be an extremely useful skill!
If you go to a garden center to buy a boxwood plant a small one is probably around $10-$15. If you need 20 plants for a hedge line you are now looking at $200 to $350 for the plants. What if you could pay $0? Sounds a lot better doesn’t it? The caveat for this is you are sacrificing time for saving money. It may be an extra year before you have plants large enough to put in the ground. Patience is required!
Boxwoods will root easily from a simple 4 to 5 inch cutting in a standard rooting medium like sand, peat, peat/sand, peat/perlite, or even potting soil. It takes about 4 to 6 weeks for roots to form. Rooting hormone may speed the rooting along but isn’t absolutely necessary.
To propagate boxwoods from cuttings select healthy cuttings that are about 4 to 5 inches long. Remove about half of the leaves from lower half of the boxwood cutting. After you have stripped the leaves from the cutting put the stripped end into a moistened potting medium. If you want to use rooting hormone you can, it may speed the process up a little and increase your success rates. Use rooting hormone before putting into your propagation medium if you are wanting to use it. (Here’s a link to some rooting hormones Am. Aff.)
There are a couple ways you can go from here both of which can be successful. It all depends on what you can do most easily in your garden.
Misting Boxwood Cuttings
Misting systems for cuttings are highly effective at producing good rooting for a number of plants. I’ve never incorporated a system into my plant propagation. Mostly because the outside hose bib has always dripped and I never wanted to leave a hose on for long periods of time. That’s obviously a silly reason since I should just fix the faucet!
Why does misting help with propagation? Misting is effective at rooting cuttings because it prevents the key reason that cuttings fail: transpiration. Cuttings lose water through their leaves and if the air is filled with moisture already less of it escapes the plant and the leaves continue to have plenty of water to support the plant.
If you have a misting setting on your hose nozzle you can use that to water the cuttings and keep them in the shade. The most important thing is not to allow the cutting medium (boxwood or otherwise to dry out).
Covering the Cuttings
The other method for rooting cuttings is to cover them with a container that will keep the humidity high around the leaves. Cover the cuttings with a clear plastic container or a plastic bag. (called a cloche). The key to success with covering is to periodically remove the covering to give the cuttings fresh air and lower the humidity. Too high of a humidity level can encourage fungal issues.
How to Propagate Boxwoods from Cuttings
For these cuttings I chose to leave them outdoors under the shade of a tree and hand mist them daily. If your situation allows you can setup a timer to mist the cuttings. Below is a video I put together describing the process. If you enjoyed the video please subscribe to Growing The Home Garden on YouTube.
After your Boxwoods Have Rooted
Getting roots is really just the first step toward successfully propagating the boxwood cuttings. The next step is encouraging some really strong growth from the beginning. Go ahead and transplant the cuttings into a good soil mixture. I’ve used a combination of peat/wood chips/compost effectively in the past.
Fertilize the cuttings in a way to encourage growth with a high nitrogen fertilizer. As always I recommend fertilizers that feed the soil and allow the plant to take it’s nutrients from the soil. Every fertilizer with have an NPK ratio which stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Those are three of the most important elements for plant growth. Pick a fertilizer that has a nitrogen level around 10
Pruning the tips of the cuttings as it grows will encourage your boxwoods to become bushier. Every time you cut the apical bud (the stem tip) you trigger the auxins to push growth to the side branches and create new apical buds. The more you prune the thicker your plant gets. Every couple weeks come back to your baby boxwoods and pinch the tips back. You can use this technique on any plant you want to encourage more side branching growth.
It will take your plants about a year to be large enough to plant in a formal hedge row of some kind. These will still be small plants but once established boxwood shrubs grow very quickly. Continue to trim the shrubs to create new side growth and your boxwoods will fill in fairly fast.
Propagating a hedge row from boxwood cuttings will take longer but if you have the time you can save the money!