Most boxwood shrubs in Georgia exist near the Atlanta area because there are more formal, estate gardens there. However, boxwoods are very popular hedges all over the United States because they are easily shaped into living fences and borders, and they are evergreen. Unfortunately, many boxwoods are dying from boxwood blight.
What is boxwood blight?
Boxwood blight is a fungus (Calonectria pseudonaviculatum), and it was discovered in the U.S. in 2011. Since then, it has slowly but surely made its way across several states including Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The disease can be killed in hot conditions (7 days at 91 degrees Fahrenheit), but it has persisted because the fungus produces protective structures to survive the heat and wait for conditions to improve.
What does it look like?
Blight initially turns the leaves of the boxwood tan, and they will drop from the plant leaving bare branches. According to the University of Georgia Extension, this is called rapid defoliation.
How does it spread?
Typically, boxwood blight travels via adjacent plants, but it can also be carried by lawn tools, animal fur, shoes, or water. Blight produces spores that are sticky, and they are difficult to remove.
How to prevent boxwood blight
You cannot really prevent boxwood blight. If you don’t have it yet, then your best bet is to not introduce it. Isolate infected or new plants, and monitor new plants for at least a month before planting them in your yard.
The other thing that you can do is consider alternative vegetation for your yard. Japanese holly and inkberry holly perform very much like boxwood if you live in the right planting zone, and they are not affected by boxwood blight.
Boxwood blight is here to stay
It is fairly tragic that boxwood blight is spreading so steadily. Reports acknowledge that it has traveled all the way across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe. This does not mean you cannot protect your boxwoods, but you must be careful.
Introducing new boxwoods, lending yard equipment, or failing to remove infected boxwoods from your property can cause blight to spread, and it loves typical Georgia conditions.
If you are just starting your gardening journey and thinking of planting boxwoods, don’t let boxwood blight scare you away. Boxwoods are beautiful, and their evergreen leaves make them an excellent addition to any landscape design. Just be warned that there is a risk of boxwood blight, and that risk is spreading. If you are diligent, you can make sure it stops at your yard.
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