- Exposure--Boxwoods thrive in full sun or light shade, but they don't like exposed, very windy sites, particularly in winter. They're generally cold hardy everywhere in the South. But if you live in the Upper South, seek out an especially hardy selection, such as 'Winter Gem,' 'Wintergreen,' 'Green Beauty,' 'Green Mountain,' or 'Green Velvet.' As a bonus, these selections also remain green throughout the winter. Many others turn bronze during this season.
- Location--Boxwoods won't grow in the Tropical South, so don't waste your time. In the Coastal South, Japanese boxwood (Buxus microphylla japonica) seems better adapted than other types.
- Nematodes--Common in moist, warm, sandy soils, nematodes are microscopic worms that feed on plant roots. They are a serious problem for boxwoods in Florida, causing large sections of foliage to yellow, wilt, and die. There is no easy cure. To put it simply, if your soil has nematodes, don't plant boxwoods.
So what should you do if your plant is ailing? Some can be saved, while others aren't worth the trouble. For a boxwood 3 feet tall or less, prune back the dead branches to live wood now. Also, open up the center of the plant. New growth will sprout this spring. At that time, sprinkle one or two cupfuls of a slow-release, natural fertilizer, such as cottonseed meal or Plant-Tone 5-3-3, around the shrub, and water it in. Eventually, the plant will fill out.
But if you have a huge boxwood with big dead spots and it's a slow grower such as English boxwood (B. sempervirens 'Suffruticosa'), it's time to face the music. By the time the plant grows back, you'll be pushing up daisies. Replace it with a new one.