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How to Cloud Prune Boxwoods – 6 Incredible Tips

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Cloud pruning is a method of pruning trees and shrubs in circular forms that give an illusion of a cloud. Cloud pruning comes from a Japanese pruning technique called ‘Niwaki’, which translates to ‘garden tree’.

Boxwood is an evergreen shrub with dense and vibrant foliage mostly planted for graceful landscaping. Keep following our guide to learn everything on how to cloud prune boxwoods.

Growing boxwood in your garden or any landscape gives it a regal, elegant look. You can use it to make a hedge, plant it along the driveways, create a border, or even add a pair on the entryway. The elegancy of the boxwood depends entirely on how well kept it is.

Therefore, grooming is very important to attain that elegant look and keep it healthy. We have assimilated some great tips for you on how to cloud prune boxwoods.

How to Cloud Prune Boxwoods

Like any shrub, boxwood requires proper grooming and caring for healthier growth and a neater look. If the idea of cloud pruning is lost on you, we are here with six incredible tips on cloud prune boxwood.

Items You Will Need

For pruning, you can use any of the following types of shears.

gonicc 8" Professional Premium Titanium Bypass Pruning Shears (GPPS-1003), Hand Pruners, Garden Clippers.
  • Drop forged body and handles.
  • Quality blade made of Premium Titanium steel with Ultra-fine Polishing Technology.
  • Ergonomically designed non-slip handles are strong,lightweight,and comfortable.
  • Sap groove design to help keep pruning shears from sticking by channeling off sap.
  • Pruners can cut up to 3/4" diameter size tree branches.This may vary depending on tree species.
BLACK+DECKER 40V MAX* Lithium-Ion 22-Inch Cordless Hedge Trimmer (LHT2240)
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE CORDLESS HEDGE TRIMMER - Powerful 40V MAX Lithium-Ion hedge trimmer for hedges, shrubs, and branches up to 3⁄4 in.
  • DUAL-ACTION BLADE - Hardened steel dual-action blade for reduced vibration while trimming
  • EASY TO OPERATE - Lightweight and easy to maneuver with ergonomic wraparound auxiliary handle and integrated vibration reduction
  • RECHARGEABLE, INTERCHANGEABLE BATTERY - 40V MAX Lithium-Ion battery works with all other BLACK+DECKER 40V MAX products

1.     Right Time to Prune Boxwood

The boxwood sprouts and grows very fast starting from May. Even though it may not be as noticeable, it can grow about 6 inches in May. The best time to prune the boxwood bush is during June, and then you can trim it later again in August. This way, you will have a fresh fluffy bush full of loveliness throughout the summer.

Avoid pruning during the winter months. If you prune boxwood in winter, you will be left with nicked branches.

2.     Sterilize and Sharpen the Tools

It is very important to begin with sharpened and sterilized tools. Before you start pruning, sharpen all of your tools and make sure they are not blunt. Sharp tools will give you a clearer and neater cut.

Sterilizing the tools is important to prevent the spread of diseases from one plant to another or cause any bacterial infections. A newly cut plant is exposed to the environment and more susceptible to bacterial infections. Cleaning the tools will prevent this problem.

You can keep a bucket of water mixed with some bleach next to you while you are pruning. It will allow you to clean your tools after cutting and trimming each plant, and if you are concerned about blight, this will prevent it.

3.     The technique of Cloud Pruning Boxwood

Boxwood needs to be pruned just like any other plants and shrubs. Start the pruning by cutting the long, unruly, sticking-out stems. Cut back the boxwood to your desired height using a hedge trimmer or shears.

Now comes the tricky part. Once the cutting and trimming are done, the trickier part is to shape the boxwood in the cloud formation. You can get creative here and shape it however you want. For cloud pruning, avoid big, irregular movements.

For best results, use appropriate tools. For rounder parts of the shrub, use the curved side of the blade. For flat surfaces on the plant, use the straighter side of the blades.

For detailed pruning and shaping, you can also use Japanese topiary clippers. Keep your shears nearby to cut larger, thicker branches so as not to damage the delicate blade of your topiary clipper.

4.     Tidying Up the Boxwood

To tidy up your boxwood, remove all the dead leaves. It would be best to use a blower on the reverse setting instead of clipping off each leaf. It will allow the blower to suck up the dead or brown leaves. It will also remove the layer of old topsoil. So, it is best to add a fresh layer of compost after you are done.

5.     Prevention of Diseases

Ensure that the boxwood receives good air circulation to prevent diseases and blight. It is much better to prevent the diseases from occurring in the first place than to cure them. If you grow thick perennials around the boxwood, or the plants are clustered, it may restrict the air. Ensure good aeration by having sufficient space between plants.

If you notice signs of any diseases, fungus, or blight, resort to a major cutback of the plant to immediately get rid of diseased plants. It will prevent the further spread of the disease.

6.     Do Not Over Care for Boxwood

Boxwood grows well on the hillsides of France, and they thrive without any care. So, if you are growing, boxwood doesn’t kill it by overcaring. Providing extra nutrients may result in lusher bushes; however, the new sprouts will be more susceptible to getting sick.

The only care they need is to add a layer of mulch during winters. You can drench the plant with a liquid solution of seaweed during the months of growth.

Essential Tips to Remember

  • Boxwood is ideal for making low-level boundaries, decorative edgings, or entryways.
  • Boxwood needs to be watered regularly. Since the foliage is very dense, the rainwater does not reach the roots.
  • An unclipped, shaggy boxwood bush is more immune to diseases. Clipping and trimming cause stress to the plant and make the cut leaves more susceptible to diseases and fungal growth.
  • To keep the boxwood groomed and controlled, it is ideal for cutting it twice a year. Cut the boxwood when there is no chance of frost or rain.
  • Spreading a layer of mulch helps retain moisture and keep the roots cool. Lay down at least 2 to 3 inches of mulch spreading across 12 inches from the plant’s body. Do not cover the trunks with mulch.
  • Boxwood grows best in a pH range of 6.5 to 7. You can raise the pH by adding lime or lower it by adding sulfur.

Fundamental Principles for Cloud Pruning

The cloud pruning of boxwood can be divided into four major principles.

  1. Examine the plant which has to be pruned. Understanding the shape, size, and type of the specimen will result in effective pruning. Otherwise, it will lead to a disastrous cut.
  2. Now observe and evaluate the structure of the shrub.
  3. The third step is decluttering. It means to get rid of unruly stems and prune down the shrub to a reasonable size.
  4. Finally, it is time to separate the bushy masses to give them a form of a cloud. Use small bonsai pruners to get a neater look and smooth round shape.


Boxwood makes a perfectly elegant plant for landscaping with luscious green and fluffy foliage and a perfectly pruned cloud shape. It has versatile uses, from making hedges to boundaries or planting them singularly on each side of entryways. You can get creative and prune them in many other shapes as well.

It is sure to bring a certain elegance to your garden. With the year-long fresh green leaves, your garden would never go dull. You’ve now learned how to cloud prune boxwood to spruce up your place and show off your lovely boxwoods.

Share your lush boxwoods and your creative designs and shapes in the comments below.