Extension offers tips for protecting boxwoods from disease during holidays

The Henrico County office of Virginia Cooperative Extension is encouraging residents to take steps to protect their boxwood plantings from a potentially damaging pathogen that could be introduced through decorative holiday greenery.

An accidental exposure to the boxwood blight pathogen could destroy a home’s boxwood plantings and crops as well as spread to neighboring properties. Signs of the disease include brown spots on leaves, black streaks on stems and defoliation.

A Williamsburg resident had to destroy dozens of 60-year-old English boxwoods this year after they became infected through decorative greenery that had been left by a trashcan after a holiday party.

To protect boxwoods from potential infection, Extension officials recommend:

  • Using nonboxwood plant materials for fresh-cut greenery decorations;
  • If boxwood greenery is used, make sure it is not infected with the boxwood blight pathogen. The greenery should come from a vendor’s own production facility or from producers who operate in areas free of boxwood blight or who participate in the boxwood blight cleanliness program;
  • Disposing of greenery decorations by double bagging them after the holidays and immediately taking them to a landfill;
  • Using 70 percent Isopropyl alcohol or Lysol spray brand III with 58 percent alcohol to sanitize all materials that come into contact with holiday greenery and other decorations.

For more information about avoiding boxwood blight, go to ext.vt.edu/agriculture and follow links to the Virginia Boxwood Blight Task Force. Information also is available at (804) 501-5160 or henrico.us/extension.