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Saying Bye-Bye to Boxwood Blight: Proper Disposable of Holiday Wreaths

Photo of a holiday wreath
Holiday wreaths containing boxwood sprigs can be a source of the fungus that causes boxwood blight. (Photo courtesy of Steven Shimek, Minnesota Department of Agriculture)

By Brian Hudelson, Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic, UW-Madison

As the holiday season wraps up and you begin to put away your decorations for the year, be aware that certain perishable holiday items need to be disposed of properly. In particular, be careful of how you dispose of holiday wreaths and other garlands that contain boxwood sprigs.

Why the concern? Boxwood-containing holiday decorations have been found to be a potential source for the fungus that causes boxwood blight. This disease has been devastating boxwood plantings in the East for nearly a decade and was recently (starting in 2018) found in Wisconsin in both nursery stock and in home landscapes plantings. While documented cases of boxwood blight in Wisconsin have been relatively few, it’s important to do everything possible to reduce spread of the boxwood blight fungus. Boxwood is THE most valuable woody ornamental produced and used in landscapes in the US.

What can I do? When disposing of your holiday wreaths and garlands, check to see if they have boxwood sprigs. If you are unsure, assume that they do. Dispose of any suspect materials by burning them if that is allowed in your local municipality. If burning is not possible, bury the materials at least two feet underground (most likely impractical in Wisconsin in January) or double bag the materials in sturdy garbage bags and have them landfilled.

For more information on boxwood blight and its management, check out University of Wisconsin Garden Facts XHT1265 (Boxwood Blight).

Also, if you have a plant disease problem, please feel free to reach out to your local county office, or the Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab directly.

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