Beware the Boxwood Blight: What you can do to protect your boxwoods from the disease

Can you believe there’s only 39 days left until the official start of spring? While we might not be out of the woods with winter just yet, it’s never too early to start thinking about spring planting.

Here in Virginia, we are all fond of our beloved boxwoods. The ornamental evergreen is a lawn and garden staple because of its versatility and timeless appeal in both formal and informal settings. As we change seasons though, you’ll want to take a close look at all your plants and shrubs, especially boxwoods.

Why? Beware the Boxwood Blight.

Boxwood Blight thrives in the warm, humid conditions of Central Virginia summers. The disease often leads to rapid leaf loss and dark streaks on the twigs and stems of the Boxwood. Photo courtesy of Rutgers University

This fungal disease first made its way to Chesterfield County in 2013, according to the Chesterfield County Extension Office. Since then, it has continued to steadily spread through spores that are transported through fallen boxwood leaves, birds and other animals as well as gardening tools, among others.

The warm, humid conditions in central Virginia creates a friendly environment for the fungus, so you’ll want to look for the following signs when examining your boxwoods:

  1. Elongated dark streaks on twigs and stems
  2. Large diffuse leaf spots
  3. Leaf defoliation

You’ll also want to use basic prevention techniques, such as avoiding overhead watering, disinfecting pruners and tools and never using infected material as compost, to eliminate the risks as much as possible.

If you find the fungus on your boxwood(s), you’ll want to carefully remove the diseased portions and apply a protective fungicide to the healthy parts of the plant. For newly-planted boxwoods, it’s better to be safe than sorry – remove and replace the whole plant – and feel free to send a sample to the Chesterfield County Extension Office for further analysis. For additional information you can find them online here.