General gardening topics

How to plant and grow Buxus topiary and hedges

Last updated on May 9th, 2022

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If you are looking to grow Buxus topiaries and hedges, you have a variety of options at your disposal. Picking the right variety is the first step in growing Buxus topiaries and hedges.

Some varieties, for example, do better at forming thicker fuller hedges, especially those grown as a cube shape while other varieties do best in containers, particularly the quintessential circular topiaries that are often placed on either side of the doorway.

To learn how to plant and grow a Buxus hedge – read our guide here

The Top Sculptured Buxus Topiary to choose from

For smaller, individual ball shapes the Buxus sempervirens balls are the best type. These are also probably the most commonly available Buxus you will find in your local garden centres and nurseries.

If you want a single container with multiple stems that grow outwards, on top of which you will find individual balls, the multi-stem option is what you want, however, these are often more expensive to buy.

There are also standard plants available. These are also grown using the Buxus sempervirens and they grow multiple balls of topiaries at various intervals up a large stem.

Of course, you might want something a bit more unique than that. The Buxus sempervirens cones allow you to grow conical shapes, while the spirals, as the name suggests, allow you to grow spiral-shaped topiary in your containers.

Finally, you can choose to grow your own from a small Buxus bush and trim it into any shape you desire, however, this method does take many years and lots of patience.

How to grow Box Topiaries

The first consideration you need to make is where you are going to position and grow your Buxus. The best place for a box plant is in well-drained soil that is substantially deep but sheltered from bad weather because they can suffer from leaf scorch from the sun as well as during bad winters, which is where the correct method of pruning comes in.

Given the adaptability of the plants, you can pretty much grow them in any area, as long as they don’t stay waterlogged because they don’t like having their feet wet.

They grow well in containers in John Innes potting compost

Buxus plants are quite happy when planted in pots, they do quite well which gives you pretty much all the flexibility you could want for a plant.

In terms of the soil, Buxus plants will thrive in reasonable conditions, they do prefer lime-based soil but aren’t actually too fussy. If you have acidic soil, this will serve the same purposes. If you grow them in pots we recommend using a John Innes potting compost because it’s soil-based and will help to retain the moisture.

Follow along as I show you how to plant Buxus topiary into pots including what soil to use and every step from covering the drainage holes to planting the buxus.

Check out my guide here where I show you how to plant topiary in pots, step by step

They thrive in full sun but will also do well in partial shade

These plants succeed in full sun or partial shade. In the wild you’ll find them growing as an undershrub, thriving beneath deciduous trees, which means they can do well in shaded conditions too.

That being said, they will grow much faster if you give them a higher level of light. This is why so many people opt to cultivate them in containers on either side of their front door.

Once established they are drought tolerant but they do prefer moist soil

Native to Mediterranean climates they are able to withstand severe drought, but only once they are fully established. They prefer moist, well-draining conditions and do not tolerate waterlogged soil. If waterlogged soil is the type you have mix in plenty of organic matter to improve drainage before planting them in the ground.


Once they’re established they are much more tolerant to certain conditions but if you have a newly planted specimen you will need to provide it with extra water during hot or dry periods and attend to their needs, especially when there are strong winds or cold conditions outside.

Buxus that are being grown in containers do not like to be dry and will start to show you they aren’t happy with drooping stems. This is an indication that they need to be watered more frequently, and they require much more water than plants in the ground do.

Long-term Maintenance

Feeding them with a slow-release fertiliser

In terms of food, it’s not necessary to feed a box plant if you’re growing it in your garden directly, but if you are growing them in pots and containers it can certainly help.

We recommend using a slow-release fertiliser. These are often the most convenient way of feeding your Buxus and they can be added to the soil when you first plant them. If there is a shortage of nutrients it will simply slow down the growth of your box plant and you’ll notice the leaves turning a copper colour or developing yellow tips.

At this point, you can always add fertiliser or a top dressing of compost as necessary and you’ll notice that the leaves go back to their uniform, green colour once conditions have improved.

Trim the new growth to form a compact dense habit

The plants naturally grow between April and June quite heavily so in the middle of summer you can trim away the new growth and if they’re in a container, you can easily move the container to a more accessible location to make this an easier process. If you want to increase the size, leaving a few centimetres of new growth each time you trim the plant will help it to increase the size and still maintain a bushy appearance. 

Learn more about how to trim Buxus in our guide here

Replanting potted plants

If you are growing in containers you will likely have to replant your box plant in a new container every three to four years so that the size of the pot can keep up with the size of the root ball. Each time you do this we would recommend using John Innes potting compost.

Once they are in a large pot where it is not practical to pot them on we recommend removing the top few inches of compost and adding some new compost and a dressing of slow-release fertiliser.

Pests and Problems

In this guide, we discuss common buxus problems which include the dreaded box blight but we also look at Volutella blight, box rust and other problems that affect box plants.

It’s important to make sure that your plant has suitable conditions from the beginning. Most pests and diseases only become a problem when a plant is already susceptible, meaning when a plant is already experiencing less-than-ideal conditions.

Pests will go after plants that are suffering from a lack of water or nutrients, just the same as fungal diseases tend to attack when there’s inadequate light or air circulation. Making sure the plant has the right amount of light, soil, shelter, food, and water will help to prevent a great many issues.

That being said, you may still notice small insects attacking the leaves from time to time, in which case you can remove the affected leaves and spray the plant with a pesticide.

Fungal diseases will affect your box plant if you don’t have the right growing conditions. These are best rectified by simply improving the conditions and removing any badly affected areas of the plant. Box blight can be an issue for some and it can be quite serious.

Learn more about box blight in this guide and how you can help prevent and treat it.

Lack of nutrients

You might notice brown or yellow-tipped leaves on your topiary, and this is usually reflective of a lack of nutrients. In which case you can add some fertiliser to help give them the nutrients they need.

Cold wind and frost damage

However, if you have experienced very cold winds or hard frosts, this could be a symptom but rest assured the leaves will turn green up again when spring arrives and the weather gets warmer.

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

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