wikiHow to Preserve Boxwood Cuttings

Boxwood, which is referred to as 'box' in the United Kingdom, is an evergreen shrub that is used as a decorative landscape element in many countries across the globe, and whose leaves are particularly popular as components of wreaths and other floral arrangements. To create floral or foliage arrangements that will last year round, or even longer, many people enjoy preserving boxwood cuttings by allowing them to soak up a dye and glycerin solution. The process is easy; read on at Step One to learn how.


  1. Image titled Preserve Boxwood Cuttings Step 1
    Select your boxwood cuttings. Using your own boxwood shrub, select multiple branches that are in good condition, and carefully cut them off with a sharp knife or garden shears. Keep in mind that you can preserve many cuttings at once, so don’t be afraid to select multiple branches that meet your decorative needs.
    • For the best results, you should treat the cuttings as soon as they have been cut. Morning or early evening are the best times to cut the stems, as the temperatures are cooler than the rest of the day.
    • The cuttings can be any length or size; if you’re using the cuttings for a project, you can adjust the size after they’ve been preserved.
    • Only use high quality cuttings, as the treatment will not hide or remedy blemishes such as discolored spots or dried leaf margins.
  2. Image titled Preserve Boxwood Cuttings Step 2
    Choose a container for the glycerin solution. Find a container that you can use for several weeks to preserve your cuttings in. Make sure to choose a plastic or glass container - never metal - that is tall and narrow. Choosing a tall and narrow container will allow for the stem to be immersed in a greater depth of the solution without needing a large amount of it.
    • Ensure that the container is clean by rinsing it properly before using it. If the container isn't clean, residual bacteria or debris can clog the boxwood cuttings' stems and prevent them from absorbing the solution.
  3. Image titled Preserve Boxwood Cuttings Step 3
    Make the glycerin solution. The glycerin solution requires a few ingredients: glycerin, hot water, citric acid, and floral dye. The former three ingredients will combine to preserve the boxwood, while the dye will help the plant to retain its natural color. If you prefer, you can leave the dye out and the boxwood cuttings will turn a golden hue. This can be left alone or spray-painted over the top of once the cuttings are completely preserved.
    • In a small jar or glass, mix 1 tsp. of concentrated dye to 1/2 cup (4 oz.) of hot water. Stir continuously until the mixture is dissolved. Set this dye solution aside.
    • Put 2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) of warm water into a half-gallon (2 L) mixing container.
    • Stir in 1 cup (8 oz.) of glycerin. Stir vigorously, but don't create air bubbles.
    • Add 1/2 tsp. of powdered citric acid and stir until it is dissolved.
    • Stir in the dye solution you prepared earlier.
  4. Image titled Preserve Boxwood Cuttings Step 4
    Put the solution into the container. Weigh the boxwood cuttings. For every ounce (28 g) of cutting you wish to place in the container, pour 1 fluid ounce (29.5 mL) of glycerin solution into the container. You can pack many boxwood cuttings into a single container, so long as you have plenty of the glycerin solution for it all.
    • Using the correct amount of solution will ensure that the cuttings will be flexible and don't bleed. Bleeding is when the glycerin and dye run out of the stems and leaves after being exposed to high temperatures.
  5. Image titled Preserve Boxwood Cuttings Step 5
    Prepare the stems of the cuttings. Re-cut the end of each stem before placing it in the solution, by cutting off approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm). Then, use a mallet or hammer to crush the ends of the stems. When placed in the solution, the crushed ends will absorb more (therefore preserving the cuttings faster) than the stems of boxwoods that are simply cut. However, if you don’t have time/the ability to crush the ends, regular cuttings will still absorb the glycerin solution just fine.
  6. Image titled Preserve Boxwood Cuttings Step 6
    Place the cuttings in the container. Following your previous measurements, place your cuttings into each specified container. Make sure the stems are bunched loosely together in the container to allow for the maximum and equal absorption of the solution. Ensure that the air can circulate around each individual leaf to allow for the best possible absorption of the glycerin while water evaporates from the leaves.
  7. Image titled Preserve Boxwood Cuttings Step 7
    Leave the cuttings in the solution. Now it’s time to play the waiting game; leave the cuttings in their containers for 2-3 weeks, or until all of the solution has been absorbed. When the cuttings are ready, they will be glossy and flexible to the touch. If you did not add dye to your glycerin solution, the boxwood cuttings will also be a golden color.
    • For best results, create an environment that has an air temperature of between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 and 23.8 degrees Celsius), has a medium humidity, good air circulation, and is light but not in direct sunlight.
  8. Image titled Preserve Boxwood Cuttings Step 8
    Remove the cuttings from the container. When all of the solution has been absorbed, remove the cuttings. If there's any excess solution on the stems, rinse it off carefully. Place the cuttings in a warm, sunny, and dry location for 3 to 5 days. This will allow the remainder of the water to evaporate and bleach the leaves until their final colors are revealed.
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    Finish drying the cuttings. To complete the drying process, hang the cuttings upside down in a dark, dry, and warm place for 2 to 3 weeks. After this, they should be preserved for an indefinite amount of time. Use them in a wreath-making project, put them in a vase, or use the leaves for your next craft.


  • Look for spray paint in hues close to the color of natural boxwood for an easy way to add color to your preserved cuttings.

Things You'll Need

  • Boxwood cuttings
  • Plastic or glass container
  • Concentrated dye
  • Water
  • Half-gallon (2 L) mixing container
  • Glycerin
  • Powdered citric acid

Article Info

Categories: Theme and Feature Gardens