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Monday, 6 October 2008

Brown leaves on Box plants, How to treat Box Blight

Boxwood  (Buxus) are wonderful evergreen plants to formalize the edge of a border with a low hedge or grow into a larger shrub to make topiary shapes. Terracotta pots placed on your Terrace or Patio look fabulous especially containing carefully clipped box balls and topiary triangles.
There is however a virulent fungal disease which can do great damage to Buxus. This results in browning leaves and bare patches and as more of the Box plants become infected, great dead chasms of skeletal branches opening up in the centre of the plant or hedge. It spreads by fungal spores attaching themselves to the leaves especially in humid conditions.

There are two main strains of box blight present here in the UK.  Volutella Blight (Volutella buxi) is best identified by the pink and white clusters of spores on the underside of leaves. It infects box usually through damaged branches and especially when box is clipped. It can spread quickly when conditions are warm and humid and spores can remain active in fallen leaves even over winter.  Cylindrocladium buxicola is the other common fungal blight to be found in the UK. Again it will decimate box plants and quickly spread in moist conditions. It is identified by dark spots appearing on the leaves with white/grey almost mildew like fungal spores on the underside of leaves. Unlike Volutella, Cylindrocladium can penetrate buxus without the need of clipped or damaged stems. It's spores too can survive the winter infecting new growth or replanted box in the Spring.
If you are about to purchase new box plants the first line of defence is to make sure you purchase disease free stock. If you are not sure about them it might be worth keeping them in quarantine away from other buxus in your garden for a few weeks.
Don't compost clipped leaves burn them even if there are no symptoms present
Remove and burn plants that have identifiable symptoms.

Obviously It may be undesirable or not practical to remove hedges or much loved topiary so the next line of defence is chemical. There are a number of products available to the amateur gardener, I will list a couple below:
Bayer Garden produce a Fungicide which helps treat Box Blight. The product is a concentrate so you will need a suitable sprayer to apply the mix. It is a Systemic fungicide, that it to say the products works through the plants system treating and preventing infections from the inside out.

Another good product on the market is the Top Buxus health mix
This comes in a dissolvable tablet form helping to prevent infection and be a curative for your Box plants feeding them for rapid regrowth. Again this product is best applied with a sprayer like the one above. For prevention

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