Buxus hedges help create private spaces in your yard.

How to Hedge With Buxus

by Rob Harris

Buxus, commonly known as boxwood, allows you to create a living fence. This can help you define your space, line a driveway, separate areas in your yard for different uses or grow a maze, if you and your kids have the patience to wait for the boxwoods to grow tall enough. There are many varieties of boxwood available, but Buxus sempervirens, or American boxwood, is ideal for tall hedges while Buxus sempervirens "Suffruticosa," or English boxwood, grows slower and stops between 3 and 4 feet tall. Both thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8.

Map out where you'd like to grow your hedge. This could be a straight line near the edge of your property line to define your yard or it could be a wavy line to add character to an area of your landscaping. Mark the line with a garden hose or spray the line with spray paint.

Measure the line to determine how many boxwoods you need. For most varieties, planting them 18 to 24 inches apart gets them close enough together to allow the side branches to intertwine, creating an impenetrable hedge. Space them about half as far as their estimated full-growth width. For example, if the buxus should reach 4 feet wide when mature, plant them 2 feet apart. Mark your line every 24 inches, or at your desired spacing, and count the marks to determine how many plants you need to create your hedge. Use stakes or large rocks as markers that remain after you remove the grass.

Clear the vegetation in a 2-foot-wide path along your mapped line. Water the area until the soil is soft. Use a spade or shovel to dig up the grass or other vegetation, and add it to your compost pile if you have one. Rake up rocks or twigs.

Dig holes several inches wider than your boxwoods' root balls at each of your marks. Place a buxus in the first hole, then gently spread out some of the roots to ensure adequate contact with the soil. Backfill the hole with dirt. Follow the same procedure with the rest of the plants.

Water the soil under the boxwoods thoroughly. As the soil settles around the roots, backfill with more dirt, if necessary, to create a level surface.

Prune the boxwoods in spring, early summer, winter or late fall with pruning shears; avoid pruning in the six weeks before the first fall frost. Cut the fronts and backs of the plants to maintain the size you want, but let the sides grow so the branches can intertwine. Trim the top to maintain shape only; American boxwoods might grow 6 inches in a year, but the English versions might only gain a couple of inches. When the boxwoods reach your desired height, begin trimming the top more aggressively so the shrubs maintain that height.

Items you will need

  • Garden hose
  • Spray paint
  • Measuring tape
  • Spade or shovel
  • Stakes or large rocks
  • Pruning shears


  • It can take several years for your boxwood shrubs to form a tight hedge. Buying larger plants can speed the process.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images