May 15, 2024

A significant insect issue has affected boxwoods in several areas of Michigan, resulting in a quarantine for these plants. This quarantine has recently been expanded to include more areas of Michigan. If you have boxwoods on your property or were hoping to integrate boxwoods into your landscape design, you may wonder how this quarantine impacts you and your landscaping. Your landscaping professionals are always available to help you with the health of your plants, but some basics are essential to understand.

Close-up of a blue gloved hand with a box tree moth caterpillar.

Understanding the Issues Affecting Boxwoods

Boxwood shrubs were recently affected by a quarantine in Michigan. A new invasive insect pest – the box tree moth – had been discovered to have destroyed nearly 75% of European boxwoods. When a box tree moth infestation was found in November of 2022, a quarantine of all boxwood shrubs was implemented to attempt to control this invasive species. This quarantine impacted shipments to and from nurseries and prohibited transporting boxwoods from the quarantine areas into other areas. However, purchasing and planting boxwood within and outside the quarantine areas were allowed if the plants did not cross the quarantined areas. Plants within the quarantine areas have unique tags with a nursery license that show their origin and any treatments and they were allowed to be removed after planting.

Boxwoods were also identified as carriers of a boxwood blight disease; without proper treatment, the disease can spread to other healthy plants. Boxwood blight is a serious fungal disease that can attack and quickly defoliate boxwood plants. While fungicides can protect healthy plants, they cannot cure infected plants. Infected plants can spread the disease to other plants unless they are removed. Spores from this infection can be viable for up to five years, so quickly identifying and remedying any problems from boxwood blight is essential. In Connecticut, the losses were significant for nurseries and home landscaping, and Michigan is now facing a similar situation.

Latest Developments in Boxwood Health

Transporting boxwood out of quarantined areas into non-quarantined areas is still prohibited, and it is essential to talk to your landscape experts about ensuring that your boxwood plants are healthy and safe. If you discover an issue with an existing boxwood, you should contact your landscape professionals to ensure it is properly documented and treated.

If you have boxwoods on your property, monitor them for both signs of disease or infestation. Water boxwoods are used at the roots to ensure that spores are not spread, and pruning equipment is sanitized between plants.

New varieties of boxwood, including the “New Gem,” “Freedom,”, and “Independent,” are considered resistant to the boxwood virus and invasive box tree moths. These varieties can be purchased and planted with no risk to the area. In addition, now that treatment options are available, two seasonal applications of the treatment can be administered to keep the plants safe. As these stems and branches are often used in decorative arrangements, ensuring that any greenery made from boxwood has been tracked and treated is vital.

Is it Possible to Obtain Boxwoods?

The short answer is yes; it is possible to obtain boxwoods at this point in the boxwood quarantine as long as

  • The boxwoods have not been transported out of the quarantine area (boxwoods can be purchased and planted within the area only).
  • The boxwoods in the quarantine areas have been treated.
  • Reporting guidelines have been followed, and tags with the nursery license have been included for transport with proper monitoring guidelines.

Alternatives to Boxwoods

If you are having difficulty obtaining boxwoods or simply want to avoid the species until the blight is remedied, there are a few alternatives that can provide a similar aesthetic appeal without the risk of infestation.

  • Holly – several varieties can be beautiful in landscaping settings. It is essential to have both male and female plants, as both are necessary for flowers and berries. English Holly can now graft male and female plants, producing vibrant and attractive berry growth.
  • Japanese Holly and Inkberry – this holly can get broader and taller than boxwoods and comes in evergreen (Japanese) and deciduous (Michigan inkberry) options. These holly will need to be pruned to keep their shape.
  • Euonymous – low mounting creepers and climbers that can provide excellent ground cover.
  • Mugo Pine – this plant does best when drainage is not a problem and can be kept short and round or tall and narrow.
  • Rhododendron, Laurel, Peiris, and Azalea – these plants are evergreens and prefer shady areas and acidic soils.
  • Juniper – many different varieties in both upright and shrubs. The color of junipers and their fragrance makes them very desirable.
  • False Cypress – is available in many different colors and heights.
  • Numerous Other Options – Your landscape professional or experts at your nursery can provide you with many deciduous and evergreen shrubs that can be used as a substitute for boxwoods if you are concerned.

Boxwoods are a beautiful addition to any landscape design, but it’s essential to know that the plants you bring to your property are safe and healthy for the environment. Although advancements in treatment have made boxwoods accessible again, many different alternative plantings that can provide a similar aesthetic appeal without the risk of insects or disease. Your landscaping professionals can guide you toward a healthy landscape design for your property.

Secure Your Landscape’s Future: Partner with Twin Oaks Landscape Today!

As the boxwood pest management landscape evolves, ensuring the health and safety of your plants is paramount. With Twin Oaks Landscape by your side, you’ll easily navigate these challenges.

Our experts stay up-to-date on the latest developments, providing the knowledge and solutions you need to protect your boxwoods and maintain a vibrant landscape. Whether it’s identifying signs of disease, implementing preventive measures, or exploring alternative plantings, we’ve got you covered.

Don’t let uncertainty overshadow your landscaping dreams. Trust Twin Oaks Landscape to safeguard your outdoor sanctuary and guide you toward sustainable solutions.

Contact us now to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards a resilient landscape that stands the test of time!