Q: What is the best way to prune boxwoods?
A: Electric hedge trimmers are the devil’s tool when it comes to boxwoods. The trimmers are so easy to use, it is tempting to make green meatballs out of your landscape shrubs. That’s exactly the wrong way to keep a boxwood healthy. A healthy boxwood should have leaves growing along the outermost third of each branch. Sheared boxwoods only have leaves on the outer few inches of each branch. If a limb dies, the result is a huge “hole” in the side of the shrub. If the shrub needs its size reduced, only bare limbs are left and recovery is slow.
The best pruning technique is to use hand pruners to take out individual limbs to reduce the size of the plant over a couple of years. If you have a big boxwood, reduce its size by 1/4 this year and remove another 1/4 next spring. Even if your limb removal makes a few holes in the foliage, the nearby limbs will quickly make sprouts to fill the empty spaces.