Boxwood is often used as an edging in formal gardens.

How to Propagate a Boxwood

by M.H. Dyer

A classic shrub with tiny, glossy green leaves, a single boxwood (Buxus spp.) beautifies the landscape as a focal point while it's also traditionally used in hedges. Boxwood reaches a height of about 8 feet at maturity, with a similar spread, depending on the species. Most species grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 8, although some tolerate cold winters in USDA zones 4 or 5. Propagate boxwood by taking semi-hardwood cuttings between late summer and late fall.

Cut 2 1/2- to 4-inch lengths of stem, cutting just below a bud or leaf with sharp pruners. Choose semi-hardwood stems on a healthy boxwood shrub. Semi-hardwood stage means the stem tips are actively growing and tender but the base of the cutting is firm enough to snap like a green bean. Wear gloves when working with boxwood because it can irritate the skin.

Pinch the side shoots carefully from the stem, leaving at least two or three pairs of leaves at the top.

Fill a 4- to 6-inch pot with a well-draining potting mixture such as half perlite or coarse sand and half peat moss. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of a general-purpose garden fertilizer into the potting mix.

Scrape a thin sliver of bark from the bottom 1/2 inch of each cutting with your fingernail, then dip the cuttings in rooting hormone either liquid, powder or gel. The wounded areas help the cutting absorb the hormone.

Place four to six cuttings in the pot with the leaves slightly above the surface of the potting mix. Space the cuttings so the leaves aren't touching.

Cover the pot with a plastic bag to keep the cutting warm and minimize loss of moisture. Place three or four stick or plastic straws in the pot to prevent the bag from touching the potting mix. Secure the bag around the pot with a rubber band.

Place the pot in diffused or low light where the temperature is between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If your room isn't that warm, place the pot on top of a warm appliance, such as a refrigerator.

Open the plastic bag twice every week for at least 10 minutes to provide air circulation and prevent rot. Although the plastic keeps the potting mix warm for several weeks, it is critical to check the pots often and water lightly if the mix feels dry.

Transplant each cutting into a 3-inch container when the cuttings are rooted and have healthy new growth -- usually eight to 10 weeks or the following spring.

Spade the soil thoroughly to a depth of 10 to 12 inches to create a nursery bed for the boxwoods. Remove dirt clods and rocks, then rake the surface of the soil smooth.

Plant the small boxwood shrubs into the prepared bed in fall, allowing 12 to 18 inches between each shrub. Pinch the growing tips of the shrubs at least two or three times so the shrubs branch out and create full, bushy growth. Allow the shrubs to mature for three to four years before transplanting them to their permanent locations.

Items you will need

  • Pruners or garden shears
  • Gloves
  • 4- to 6-inch pot
  • Well-draining potting mixture
  • General-purpose garden fertilizer
  • Rooting hormone
  • Plastic bag
  • Sticks or plastic straws
  • Rubber band
  • 3-inch containers
  • Spade
  • Rake


  • Keep children away from boxwood because it is toxic.
  • Boxwood can irritate the skin, so avoid planting it near where people walk or children play.


About the Author

M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.

Photo Credits

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