There is a new, devastating disease in our area known as Boxwood Blight. This disease is caused by a fungus and is a serious, aggressive, and destructive disease affecting boxwoods. It was originally introduced into the US in Connecticut and has spread to Virginia, first reported in Carroll County in 2011.

This disease was identified in 2016 at the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace in Staunton, Virginia. The Birthplace worked to remove all the affected plants and for the last two years appeared to be successful in stopping the spread of the disease. However, late this summer several properties near the Birthplace began showing signs of stress and leaf loss on the boxwoods in the landscape. These plants were tested and confirmed to have Boxwood Blight.

Boxwood Blight is spread by spores which attach to leaves, cuttings, clothing and anything else that comes in contact with the affected plant. The spores are also spread by being splashed onto the plant when it rains. The experts at Big O believe the disease was spread into these landscapes by animals such as squirrels, deer and more.

Fungal disease flourish in wet, rainy, high humidity conditions and this disease is no exception. This seasons heavy rains contributed to the spread of the disease providing the best condition for an epidemic outbreak.

All boxwood varieties are susceptible to this disease but especially the English Boxwood and the common American Boxwood are highly susceptible. This disease progresses rapidly once it infects the plant and there is very little that can be done at that point. There is currently no cure for the disease. This means the best option to preserve your boxwoods is prevention.

Boxwood Blight Prevention

Prevention includes keeping the spore away from your plants which can be very difficult. Be very careful this time of year about the greenery you use for Christmas decorations. Make sure they do not include boxwood clippings from plants not on your property. Stay clear of other landscape boxwoods to prevent introduction of the disease. If you have landscape companies working on your property, insist that they disinfect their tools before they come to your property.

If you see signs of leaf spot, leaf loss or decline, call for an inspection and assessment. You can also send samples to Virginia Cooperative Extension service for analysis.

Big O Tree’s Recommendation

Our team recommends to remove and dispose of all affected boxwoods. This includes the removal of all brush, dropped leaves, stumps and roots to reduce the risk of spreading of the disease. Bag debris and take to the dump to prevent further spread of Boxwood Blight. Do not keep the brush on your property if you have other healthy boxwoods you wish to preserve. Do not plant boxwoods back in the area that are not resistant to the disease.

If you have healthy boxwoods in your landscape you wish to preserve, preventative fungicide treatments through out the growing season may help. We recommend these treatments be applied every 2-3 weeks when temperatures are above 60 degrees and rain is in the forecast. These treatments are affective but will become costly over time. You will need to make some critical and difficult choices about the future of your landscape.

This is a new, aggressive and deadly disease which is going to radically change Virginia landscapes. The speed at which this disease spread in Staunton and the devastating results has been shocking. This is going to be one of the worst disease issues in the landscape we have ever seen.

Contact us if you would like to have your plants inspected and a program developed to treat. Big O Tree and Lawn Service is equipped and skilled at treating plant diseases. Our team of experts are staying at the forefront of this disease!