Boxwood Blight: Be careful when using boxwood holiday greenery in your home and landscape

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You can help prevent the introduction of the destructive boxwood blight by taking some important steps this holiday season. Please be aware that it is possible for the boxwood blight pathogen to be introduced to landscapes on infected boxwood greenery used for wreaths, holiday roping or decoration. Boxwood blight is difficult to control once established, so, the most important means of control is to avoid introduction of infected plant material.

What is Boxwood Blight?

  • Boxwood blight is caused by a fungal pathogen which causes leaf spots, stem cankers, defoliation, and death of boxwoods. It is very difficult to control.
  • The disease was first found in South Carolina in 2016 in both a nursery and a landscape setting. It is not thought to be prevalent in our state.

What to do if you purchased Boxwood wreaths or other decoration?

  • Carefully inspect the boxwood greenery for the characteristic symptoms of leaf spots, leaf browning, black streaks on stems, and leaf drop. Immediately dispose of any suspicious items.
  • Boxwood should be double-bagged in heavy duty trash bags and taken to the landfill.
  • Inspect your vehicle and property for stray boxwood leaves and stems to make sure you don't leave any infected material behind.
  • Be aware that the pathogen's spores may travel on clothes or pruners that come into contact with infected boxwood.
  • Monitor all nearby boxwood plantings for symptoms of the disease for several months.
  • Do not put diseased plant material on the curb for city pick-up.
  • Do not compost infected boxwood on-site or at a composting facility.

The importance of preventing the introduction of this disease into landscapes with healthy boxwood plantings cannot be overstated. Please help keep our boxwoods safe this holiday season.

Boxwood leaf spots.Boxwood leaf browning.Boxwood blackstreaks on stems.
Photo left and center by Kelly Ivors.

If you suspect your boxwood has boxwood blight, please contact your local Clemson University Cooperative Extension office and they can assist you in submitting a sample to the Clemson Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic and offer additional control recommendations.