Boxwood question....

BonsaiSteve

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I acquired my first boxwood earlier this year, and pruned, potted and styled it with the help of a local bonsai expert. The leaves have been turning a shade of red in some areas. Is this normal for a boxwood? (it is getting pretty cold up here!) I don't know what species it is, but it was bought from a local nursery and I suspect a common boxwood.

Also, should I overwinter it with my other cold hearty trees? And, does the boxwood lose its leaves or keep them throughout the winter?

Thanks for the help with the noob questions.
 

RyanFrye

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I can only speak to the red that you are seeing........


It is normal, I'm in zone 9 and my box wood's leaves turn red on the tips of the leaves during the cold (it's cold to us ok! :D ). I've never had any ill effects.


Edit: as to it losing its leaves....well, if it does it will only happen once.....
 
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rockm

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Boxwood leaves can turn red or bronze from stress--too much water, a cold shock, too much sun, etc. In most instance, bronzed leaves aren't a real problem. Red leaves are--they are a sign of a larger problem--root rot, mushy soil, roughly treated roots, etc.

Boxwood are evergreen--they do not lose their leaves for winter and there is no reason other than some kind of stress for the leaves to change colors--although they can shed dead leaves from interior shoots, which die back because of lack of light.

Your boxwood will require shelter from the worst cold and wind this winter. It cannot be stored in an area without light. That can be a problem for this species in Northern climates.
 

davetree

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Why is it bad to store a dormant boxwood where there is no/limited light ? Isn't the tree dormant ?
 

Smoke

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Why is it bad to store a dormant boxwood where there is no/limited light ? Isn't the tree dormant ?


Because it is an evergreen shrub, it is not dormant, just slowed down. In temperate climates they grow year round just like my mrytus communus, not to be mistaken for crape myrtle which looses it's leaves. Both boxwood and common myrtle will do poorly in cold temps out of the light. Like junipers, boxwoods can rust over in the foliage when winter comes.

Al
 
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HotAction

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I have two wintergem boxwood (Buxus microphylla) cultivar, that are hardy to my climate. In the landscape they would be covered with snow for most of the winter. How much light should i give them during the winter? The un-heated garage has one window, and I could put them on a shelf to give a bit of light, but the sun only shines through in the morning. I bought them last september, and they spent the winter in the ground covered in snow completely for at least 3 months. They weren't healthy when I got them, but they seem to be doing better out of the ground and into nursery cans. I hope this can shed some LIGHT on the subject.

-Dave
 

davetree

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I am sorry, this has never been made clear to me. I have read both sides of the arguement of whether evergreens need light once temperatures fall below 40 degrees. Should all evergreens then receive light in the winter when they are dormant/slowed down ? How much light do they need ? I have stored boxwood, black pine, shimpaku, hinoki, all types of juniper, in my garage for ten years without any problems. The light they receive is from a north facing window.
 

treebeard55

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... I have read both sides of the argument of whether evergreens need light once temperatures fall below 40 degrees. Should all evergreens then receive light in the winter when they are dormant/slowed down? How much light do they need?...

This has never been resolved to my satisfaction either. (Thanks, Dave, for bringing it up, and not being afraid to look like a noob.)

On the one hand, I would think that once temperatures fall to certain point, metabolism all but stops, and the tree goes into antifreeze mode. So light wouldn't matter.

But I can't help but wonder if they stay green for a reason: do they continue some growth, very slowly, and thus need some energy?

I've read nothing conclusive on either side. Does anyone here know, with reasonable certainty, or at least have more facts to throw into the mix? Thanks!
 

rockm

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You have confused "evergreen" with BROADLEAFED evergreen. Pines and boxwood are not the same. Treating them the same can lead to problems. However, both can tolerate some things. Doesn't mean they really like it much. If you've found a storage solution that works. Go with it.

The arguments over whether evergreens (Pines and junipers) need light during winter is a long one. I don't profess to know either way with them, but I'd suggest that since these species naturally live outside in the light, that any temporary darkness--whether snow induced or whatever, isn't really a terrific thing for them. It's something they may endure (such covering of snow --in the case of pines---may only inadvertently protect them from winter's worst).

Boxwood, on the other hand, are not alpine species. They are from much warmer climates--some are native to Mediterranean climates. Such climates have ample sunshine year round and temps that don't drop drastically below 0 F. That means, I think, that boxwood require some light (storing any plant where it gets direct sunlight in the winter is a BAD thing) during the winter. I've stored my boxwood bonsai under mulch in the shaded part of the backyard with a windbreak for over 15 years. They begin pushing new growth in late Feb.

Lastly, trees are "evergreen" for a reason. They don't just hold onto their leaves in the winter to be pretty. It is a survival strategy aimed at maximizing their resources. They retain their leaves because the cost of producing a completely new crop in the spring is high. Pines and other evergreens are usualy growing in poorer soils and can't afford the biological costs that deciduous trees can in better soils.

There is also evidence that pines can and do photosynthesize during the winter when its warm enough.
 

davetree

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I see what you are saying, it makes sense. I could easily increase the light levels during winter storage, but it seems to be working so far. I am concerned about the long term effects on my boxwood bonsai, however. Anyone else have input on this ?
 

mcpesq817

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I'm curious as to this too. I have a detached garage with a small south-facing window that I used to store my deciduous and evergreens in (including a boxwood) last year (my first winter). Didn't seem to have any problems, but I'm thinking about storing my evergreens outside this year.
 

rockm

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Davetree, you don't say where you are geographically. That info is crucial in providing any guidance on overwintering...
 

davetree

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St. Paul, in the great state of Minnesota. Zone 4, but as we like to say, zone 5 with global warming and here come the Japanese maples !

My trees are wintered in an attached garage, kept between 25-35 degrees, from about Nov. 15th to around April 1st. Around 4 months give or take a week.
 

rockm

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In your area, storing the plants in the garage is probably the best option. It's far to cold in Zone 4 to overwinter containerized boxwood outside. Providing optimum light isn't as critical as avoiding extremely low temperatures.
 

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