Are your box trees suffering from blight? Learn about the symptoms, causes and most effective ways to treat blight to help keep your garden looking great and your box trees healthy.
It’s disheartening when you have invested money, not to mention blood, sweat and tears, into your garden to find that your glorious box trees have come a cropper thanks to a not-so-friendly caterpillar.
Caterpillars do not cause the disease. They spread it, so we can’t totally lay the blame at their door – in this blog, we will investigate the causes of box blight, how to prevent it, and what to do if your boxes are under attack.
We will share some expert knowledge and make informed suggestions so that you can reduce the chances of spreading this unsightly disease to any healthy plants and what to do if the worst comes to the worse and you need a robust alternative.
Box blight is the common term for Calonectria pseudonaviculata and Calonectria henricotiae, a fungus; the fungus causes the blight.
Blight first appeared in the UK in 2007 and is most active during wet weather. It is usually spread by spores carried on the wind, but caterpillars also spread the disease when they feed on infected foliage.
They then move to any healthy plants spreading it further as they go about their business. Since 2007 there’s been a blight pandemic; it is unlikely that this disease has passed your garden by.
Unfortunately, preventing the spread is difficult once your Buxus balearica plants have been infected with the disease. The good news is that Box blight doesn’t kill roots, so diseased plants don’t necessarily have to be dug out if you take recommended action in time
The best way to safeguard your planting from box blight is to create the right environment for healthy growth. Here are a few tips:
1. Clean Up – Spores can remain viable on fallen leaf litter for at least six years, so remove all infected plant material from your garden and burn it or dispose of it in the bin (not compost).
2. Prune Regularly – Pruning is essential for keeping box blight at bay. If you see any discoloured foliage, prune it away and burn or dispose of it immediately.
3. Improve Drainage – Good drainage is essential for healthy plants, so ensure your soil isn’t waterlogged.
4. Once pruned, avoid overhead watering. Only water at the roots to discourage fungus growth.
Sadly this is not a short-term answer, and introducing healthy gardening habits won’t encourage your box hedges to grow back any faster. If you’re a box hedge enthusiast, then you might consider treating your plants with chemicals or fungicides, but again this is not a cure, only treatment after the caterpillar has bolted, so to speak.
If you thought box blight was the only thing that could affect your plants, we are here to tell you, you’re wrong. Buxos or Box, B. sempervirens, Buxus balearica and B. microphylla plants have many enemies.
Box trees are not resilient plants and are susceptible to many other diseases and insect attacks, including to name a few:
– Volutella blight
– Box rust
– Macrophoma candollei (Macrophoma leaf spot)
– Phytophthora root rot
– Box sucker disease
– Mussel scale or Lepidosaphes ulmi
– Eurytetranychus buxi (red spider mite attack)
Not only that, these diseases are not exclusive; when you’ve got rid of one, you could find you have three or four others to tackle.
Unfortunately, preventing the spread is difficult once your Buxo plants have been infected with the disease. Many gardeners believe that using a fungicide or insecticide is the only solution. However, this isn’t necessarily true and can damage the ecosystem in your garden.
If you have time and are dedicated, you can introduce a natural box blight enemy to control your problem. However, this may not be the answer you think it is because the blight enemies are not great garden guests, and it may be like asking the Hell’s Angles to usher your daughter’s wedding – more trouble than it’s worth.
The natural enemies of blight caterpillars are wasps and Asian Hornets – see what we mean! It’s like taking a mallet to crack a cob nut; unnecessary.
The answer might be to forgo your Buxos altogether and invest in a blight-free shrub, such as Ilex Crenata (Japanese Holly Hedge). This member of the Aquifoliaceae family provides evergreen glossy foliage with an attractive shape, plus it’s robust and resilient to disease.
The great thing about Ilex Crenata is that it looks similar to Buxos but isn’t susceptible to blight. You could also introduce a range of other plants to your garden, such as Begonias, Sedums and Viburnums, that can provide colour and texture all year round – with no blight worries!
If you’re worried about box blight or other diseases affecting your garden, contact Planet Turf’s experts for advice. Our team of gardeners provide a range of gardening services, including garden maintenance and pest control, to help your shrubs, plants, and trees stay healthy all year round.
We also install and maintain artificial grass, a great alternative to natural turf if you want a low-maintenance lawn that looks beautiful all year round – no matter what diseases affect your garden. Read more here.
Contact us to learn how we can help keep your garden healthy and thriving and, more importantly, free from disease If you live in Kent, Dartford or Greater London.