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Australian Grow Guide: Japanese Box Hedge (Buxus microphylla japonica)

Japanese box plants prefer to grow in a sunny spot in your garden. Although the plant can handle some shade, it should be exposed to at least morning sunshine if you want it to thrive.

If you’ve imagined a lovely box hedge in your garden, consider growing the Japanese box. It will grow happily in full sun and grows faster than the English box. 

It can also reach a height of up to 2 metres, so it’s perfect for screening off parts of your garden. This plant has attractive light green leaves which is why it prefers to grow in the sun.

Japanese box is also suitable for growing along the coast and is relatively drought-tolerant. 

Here’s everything you need to know about growing a Japanese box hedge.

Choosing your ideal location

Japanese box plants prefer to grow in a sunny spot in your garden. Although the plant can handle some shade, it should be exposed to at least morning sunshine if you want it to thrive.

Japanese Box Hedge | Plant care

It’s a good idea to enrich the soil with some organic matter before you plant your Japanese box hedge. This will give the plants some nutrients to help them become established faster.

Japanese box will grow happily in most soil types except those that are highly acidic. If you do have acidic soil, add some lime to raise the pH level of the soil.

In addition, if your soil is heavy clay, you might want to incorporate some gypsum into it before planting to help break it up a little.

How to plant your Japanese box hedge

The first thing you want to do is mark out your planting space. Japanese box plants should be spaced around 30 to 40 cm apart. If you mark out the space first, you’ll know exactly how many plants you will need.

Set up a string line before digging your planting holes to ensure that your hedge will be straight. Then, you can mark out the spacings and buy the required number of plants for your hedge.

Planting holes for hedge | Plant care

It’s a good idea to dig all your planting holes before you actually plant the Japanese box plants. This will make the job much easier and more streamlined.

Here’s how I would do it:

Dig each hole so that it’s as deep as the pot and around twice as wide. Take all of your plants still in their pots, and place them next to each hole.

One at a time, take the plants out of their pots and gently tease out the roots. Place each plant in the centre of the hole and backfill it. Gently firm down the soil around the base of each plant as you go.

Once you have all of the Japanese box planted and the holes backfilled, use the hose or a watering can to give each one a good drink.

You might want to create a little moat around each plant so that the water can drain down into the soil where the roots are positioned.

Finally, I would place a layer of mulch right along the planting space, keeping it a little away from the base of each plant. You can use either bark chips or straw from sugarcane for this.

Young box hedge plants with mulch | Plant care

How to care for your Japanese box hedge

It’s important to keep your newly planted hedge well-watered until the plants become established. This should be done once or twice a week depending on your weather conditions.

Keep up this watering schedule for at least the first 12 weeks as this is how long it may take for the plants to become established.

Once established, Japanese box is fairly drought-tolerant but you should still water your plants if you’re experiencing long periods with no rain.

As your plants start to grow, focus on regular tip pruning as this will ensure denser growth overall. You could do this at least once a month depending on the time of year and how fast the plants are growing.

Box hedge pruning | Plant care

Feed your growing Japanese box plants twice a year in spring and autumn. You can use a slow-release fertiliser such as Dynamic Lifter for this. 

Alternatively, you can use a liquid feed such as Seasol Powerfeed and apply this once every two weeks during the plant’s main growth period.

Problems that you may encounter with your Japanese box hedge

Regular watering, feeding and pruning should keep your Japanese box hedge nice and healthy and thriving.

Japanese Box Hedge 2 | Plant care

However, sometimes things can go wrong, so here are a couple of problems to look out for.

Leaves turning yellow

This is quite common for box plants, especially during late winter. It’s primarily caused by the changing weather conditions.

If this happens to your plants, give them a dose of nitrogen-rich fertiliser in liquid form and you should soon see the leaves turning green again.

Waterlogging

Yellowing leaves can also be caused by soils that are waterlogged. Although Japanese box don’t really want to dry out for long, they also shouldn’t be left to sit in water either.

Waterlogged soils can cause root rot in your plants. To check whether this may be a problem, test the level of moisture in the soil.

If the soil is constantly wet, you may need to dig up your plants and move them to a more suitable spot.

FAQ

How fast does a Japanese box hedge grow?

Japanese box is relatively fast-growing. It can grow up to 70cm in just 3 years.

What is the difference between English and Japanese box hedge?

English box has darker leaves than Japanese box. English box can also be grown in the shade while Japanese box prefers to grow in the sun. Japanese box is faster growing than English box and it is more heat-tolerant.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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