Boxwood Bonsai Care [Buxus sempervirens]

When you look at a Bonsai tree, what are some features you would like to see? Thick branches? nice fibrous root system? hardwood? rough barks? Well, you are not alone, those are some of the qualities I look for in a Bonsai tree too. But unfortunately, not all the trees that can be used for Bonsai have all those qualities: many of the trees are partially provided with those qualities, while only a few are an embodiment of all.

The Boxwood Bonsai tree is one of the few with these fine features, and here in this article, I will be providing useful information on how best to cultivate as well as some basic facts about this incredible tree, so read on for full details.

SpeciesBuxus sempervirens
Average Height5.00 to 15.00 feet
Average Spread5.00 to 15.00 feet
Origin CountriesWestern Asia, Southern Europe and Northern Africa
Flower Bloom TimeApril to May
TypeBroadleaf evergreen
SunlightFull sun to Medium Light  

Boxwood Bonsai History

The history of Boxwood Bonsai dates back to 1913 when it was seen growing on a standard Boxwood as a witch broom by a man (name unknown). The man ( owner of the Boxwood) then plucked 10 cuttings from the small tree and planted them for about 10 years. When he died, the ownership of the Boxwood tree (new) was transferred to a nurseryman who owns a nursery near a town called Kingsville in Maryland U.S.A. The tree was later named after the town Kingsville Boxwood.

As at this time, the commercial value of the Boxwood tree was still very low until it got the attention of Bonsai enthusiasts in 1960. To the surprise of many, one of the original 10 cuttings remain till 1975 when it was given out to the National Arboretem as a donation. Before the donation period, it has already been cultivated at the nursery stock and it took them several years before they were able to successfully train it to become a perfect Bonsai.

Can Boxwood be Bonsai?

Yes, you can use Boxwood for Bonsai but not all species can be used. The most commonly used type of Bonsai is the European and Chinese Boxwood.  Boxwood has some special features which make it one of the best Bonsai specimens there is. They have naturally stunted growth, small leaves, and they have a slow growth habit.

There are close to 70 species of the Boxwood tree with varying growth habits. Check with any garden centers close to you what whatever variety best suits your taste.

Boxwood Bonsai scientific name

The scientific name of Boxwood Bonsai is Buxus sempervirens.

Boxwood Bonsai care

Just like every other Bonsai tree, the Boxwood Bonsai also require some extra attention before it can be successfully wrought into the perfect Bonsai style of your desire. But unfortunately, they exhibit slow growth and may take a little extra time before you start seeing results, therefore, patience is an essential factor that needs to be practiced alongside other care requirements that will be discussed shortly.

Boxwood Bonsai Temperature

Boxwood plants prefer a semi-shady area where it can be get everything it wants (weather) in moderation. In the forest, you will see this tree growing under canopies. This is because they have highly sensitive leaves that can burn when exposed to excessive sunlight. Therefore, there must be placed under a temperature of about 50°F. Also, they are tolerant to cold temperatures and will survive temperature levels of -40°F.

Boxwood Bonsai fertilizer

A Boxwood Bonsai needs to be fertilized at least once every 2 weeks around spring until fall during its growing season. You can make use of organic liquid fertilizer like the fish emulsion fertilizer. Also, you can make use of chemical fertilizers, just make sure it is diluted to half its strength before application.

Boxwood Bonsai pruning/trimming

Although Boxwood Bonsai are naturally miniaturized and have small leaves, you need to prune them regularly throughout the year before they can conform to the Bonsai pattern you want. You should heavily prune your Boxwood Bonsai around mid-spring when new growths are starting to emerge.

Boxwood Bonsai - shaping and wiring

How to prune Boxwood Bonsai

  1. Male a solution from the mixtures of 9 parts of water to 1 part of bleach.
  2. Clean your tool with the solution then rinse and dry. Make sure they stay cleaned before moving from one branch or leaving to the other.
  3. Cut off any infected branches or leaves you to find on the tree by cutting off the limbs at the bottom.
  4. Check every part of the Boxwood Bonsai to see if they have the right shape and appearance. If they do, you can maintain the style by heading the branches and selectively removing non-conformist branches or leaves.
  5. Every branch that grows parallel to the limb or crosses the main trunk should be removed.
  6. Slightly trim branches growing too close to each other to create space between them so that air can get through to the inner part of the tree. This will help to prevent pests and diseases infection.
  7. Trim back any leggy growth extending beyond the trained shape of the style. You can pull out the branches so that you can easily locate where to cut.
  8. Cut off only a leaf cluster, so that the stem does not become exposed.

Boxwood Bonsai repotting

Boxwood is a small tree, but they usually have strong roots, therefore, repotting is an essential part of Boxwood Bonsai care. This will prevent them from becoming root-bound which could be detrimental to their growth process.

When to repot a Boxwood Bonsai

A Boxwood Bonsai should be repotted at least once in two years when it is still young (6 years and below) and every 3 – 4 years. Although you can repot your Boxwood tree any time of the year (they are not fully dormant) but you should repot during spring or fall.

Boxwood Bonsai pests and diseases

Unlike Wisteria bonsai and some other Bonsai that are resistible to most pests & diseases, Boxwood is prone to diseases like, Boxwood mite, Boxwood leafminer, Boxwood, Psyllid, Nematodes, Box blight, Root rots, and scales.

You can get rid of any infection caused by any of these pests by using a pesticide, but in a more extreme case, it is advisable to see a professional Gardner for better the best recommendation.

Boxwood Bonsai soil

Boxwood Bonsai trees, especially the Kingsville species grow best when cultivated on loamy-sandy soil. This is because this type of soil can retain enough water to keep them moist while also preventing them from becoming waterlogged. Apart from that, it must also be able to retain fertilizers and have good aerating qualities. This is because when the Boxwood tree is at a developmental stage, lots of water is required.

Boxwood Bonsai watering

A Boxwood tree must be watered very well during summer; although they can tolerate dryness to some extent, the dryness must not be for a long time. Also, must ensure you don’t overwater the plant. The ideal pH level for a Boxwood tree is between 7 to 8. A level that can be easily achieved by watering the tree with good quality tap water.

Boxwood Bonsai sunlight requirement

Boxwood Bonsai must not be placed where it will be exposed to full or direct sunlight; it must be partially shaded. During winter, you can put them in a cold greenhouse to protect them against extreme cold.

And as for the Chinese Boxwood, it can either be placed indoors or outdoor for adequate sunlight during summer; but the best is to take it out with a little shade. During winter, it can be taken to a cool room with a temperature level of about 50°F or 10°c with enough light.

Boxwood Bonsai styles

The Boxwood Bonsai is an attractive piece of nature that can be shaped to any Bonsai style of your choice; whether it be twin-trunk and group or informal upright style. Just make sure you have all it takes for a normal Bonsai styling.

There are about 70 types of Boxwood Bonsai around the world: but our focus here will be on 4 major types (the Japanese, Chinese, Kingsville, Harland, and the Korean Boxwood). Check below for details about each of these Boxwood species.

Japanese Boxwood Bonsai

The Japanese Boxwood Bonsai also known as a little-leaf Boxwood is characterized by its small, shimmering green, and leathery leaves with large evergreen shrubs. This particular variant is among the few species that are cold-hardy, easy to grow, and generally immune to pest and diseases infections. They can grow to be enormous shrubs if left untampered with, but if grown as Bonsai, they are usually trimmed into small topiaries.

Kingsville Boxwood Bonsai

The Kingsville Boxwood Bonsai is one whose care requirements are modest and just a little portion of everything to grow. Although they have a natural tendency to grow wider, rather than tall, when used as Bonsai, they can be trained to take the normal upright stance. When grown as a Bonsai, they are best grown in a big pot because even though they might have a stagnated upper growth, their root balls grow faster than most other members of the Boxwood family.

Harland Boxwood Bonsai

The Harland Boxwood is also an evergreen shrub that originally came from Guangdong province, China, Hong Kong, and Hainan Island. A typical Harland Boxwood thrives best in clay, sandy, and loam soil. And can be grown in either partial or full sun. Just like the Japanese species, it is also disease tolerant than most other Boxwood variants but it is less cold-hardy in comparison to the Japanese Boxwood.

Chinese Boxwood Bonsai 

The Chinese Boxwood Bonsai is a deciduous tree with a unique quality of retaining its leaves as well as its color throughout the year including winter. It can grow up to 12 feet if cultivated with the appropriate soil, sun, and temperature. What also makes Chinese Bonsai special is that they can be easily customized to different sizes and shapes by mere pruning. Furthermore, its shimmering leaves and its puny flowers it one of the most desirable trees for Bonsai. The clustered flowers of the tree forms canopy that protects the top as well as the bottom of the plant from direct sunlight during summer.

Korean Boxwood Bonsai

The Korean Boxwood is an evergreen shrub with broadleafs and can grow as tall as 2 feet. Just like Kingsville, they tend to grow wider as opposed to the usual upright position as they mature. And also boasts of an open-branch structure. Its leaves also grow to firm canopies with thick branches. The tree is known for the varying color it displays throughout the season. They usually have dark green leaves during summer, but bronze when shaded during winter. They are also cold-hardy and can survive the severe winter cold.

Is boxwood indoor or outdoor?

Boxwood trees can be raised as either indoor or outdoor plants, but it is best to alternate between the two. You can keep your Boxwood tree indoor for some days but you should also take it out to bask in the fullness of the atmospheric condition outdoor.

When a Boxwood as well as some other Bonsai tree is kept indoors for a long time, they tend to suffer from precipitous illness due to lack of exposure to enough sunlight and overexposure to dry atmosphere; a condition that must be avoided except for some few conditions. You can raise your Boxwood indoor-only if you can maintain its requirements for sunlight and water.

How to make Boxwood Bonsai

It is best to plant a Boxwood tree between fall to the beginning of spring. Check below for information on how to go about the process involved.

Making a Boxwood Bonsai
  1. Make a hole big enough that can contain the shrub with the shrub slightly above the ground level.
  2. Make a hump around the bottom of the base of the tree to re-direct water to prevent waterlogging.
  3. Make sure you plant the shrub in well-draining soil to prevent root rot as well as other diseases they could be vulnerable to when they are stressed.

Then follow the care requirements as provided in this article.

Why is my Boxwood Bonsai turning yellow

There are many reasons why your Boxwood Bonsai may be turning yellow or brownish. It may be as a result of the following reasons.

  • Extreme case of Nematode infestation.
  • Root rots.
  • Lack of proper irrigation.
  • Aging.
  • Insect infestation.
  • Damage caused by winter.

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