How To Make Your Own Topiary

cat-topiary-plant
Image by David Wright

By Heather Rhoades

Outdoor topiary can create a striking effect in your garden. Taking the time to make your own topiary can save you up to several hundred dollars as well as give you a gardening focal point that you can be proud of.

How to Make Your Own Topiary

There are essentially two kinds of topiary. There are vine topiary, where vines are encouraged to grow over topiary forms. Then there is shrub topiary, where a shrub is cut into a form.

Make your own topiary with vines

  1. Choose topiary forms – whether you are making a topiary tree or something more elaborate, if you decide to use vining plants to make a topiary, you will need to choose a topiary form. This will allow the vine to crawl up the form and cover the shape.
  2. Choose a vining plantEnglish ivy is a common choice for a vining plat topiary, though any plant that vines can be used, such as periwinkle or Boston ivy. English ivy is generally chosen due to the fact that is grows quickly, is tolerant of many conditions and looks lovely.
  3. Fill the form with sphagnum moss – While filling the topiary forms with sphagnum moss is not essential, it will help your topiary take on a fuller look much faster.
  4. Plant the vine around the form – Whether a potted topiary or an outdoor topiary in the ground, plant the vine around the form so that it can grow up the form. If you are using a large form or if you simply want to cover the form faster, you can use several plants around the form.
  5. Train and prune appropriately – As the plants grow, train them to the form by helping them wrap around the form. Also, prune or pinch back any shoots that cannot be easily trained to the topiary forms.

The time it will take to have a fully covered topiary varies depending on how many plants you use and the size of the topiary, but we can guarantee that when it is all filled in, you will be thrilled with the results.

Make your own topiary with shrubs

Making a topiary with a shrub is more difficult but still very fun.

  1. Choose the plant – It is easiest to start a shrub topiary with a small juvenile shrub that can be molded as it grows. But you can accomplish an outdoor topiary effect with grown plants as well.
  2. Frame or no frame – If you are new to topiary, you will want to put topiary forms over the shrubs you choose to sculpt. As the plant grows, the frame will help guide you on your pruning decisions. If you are an experienced topiary artist, you can attempt to create topiary without topiary forms. Be aware that even experience topiary artists will use frames to make things easier. If you have a larger shrub, you may need to build the frame around the topiary.
  3. Training and pruning – When creating a shrub outdoor topiary, you have to take things slowly. Envision how you want your final topiary to look and trim off no more than 3 inches in working towards that shape. If you are working on growing a small shrub, prune 1 inch off in areas where you need to fill in. Pruning will encourage additional, bushier growth. If you are working on shaping a large shrub, take no more than 3 inches off in areas where you wish to cut back. Anymore than this will only kill off parts of the shrub and will ruin the process. Remember, when creating a shrub topiary, you are creating a sculpture in slow motion.
  4. Training and pruning again - We repeated this step, because you will need to repeat this step – a lot. Train and prune the shub a little more about every 3 months during active growth.

Take your time when you make your own topiary and take it slow. Your patience will be rewarded with a fabulous outdoor topiary.

This article was last updated on

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