Shapely Plants: How to Grow Topiaries

September 7, 2010

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I have always loved the nostalgic, old-world appearance of small topiaries. Their appealing shapes bring harmony and perfection to any space—on the porch, in the shade of a gazebo, or on a kitchen window ledge.

The word topiary comes from the Latin topiarius which means “a creator of places”. Is it any wonder that we view topiaries as living structures of tranquility? Beyond the visual pleasantries, topiaries bring culinary flavors when using herbs, and calm when trimming and nurturing its shape. I first discovered how therapeutic and fun topiary practice is after I received two spiral boxwoods for Christmas one year. The following spring, I nervously snipped the new growth with my little Dollar-Store scissors to maintain the appealing curves. I expected to grow weary of the task. Surprisingly, topiary shearing was a fun, creative process that relaxed me.

Topiaries are easy to grow, but they do take time to mature. If you want instant gratification, you can purchase an established topiary. But they come with a hefty price. With the use of cuttings, repurposed wire (or grape vines or willow branches) and hand-me-down pots, one can grow topiaries for pennies in five easy steps:

  1. Fill the pot with potting mix. (photo 1)
  2. Secure the frame in the pot with galvanized wire pins.
  3. Plant around the base of the frame. (photo 2)
  4. Gently wrap the foliage around the frame, or as seen in photo #3 hold in place with green twine.
  5. Water well. (photo 4)


  • The size of the plant should match the scale of the topiary, i.e. medium-large leaves need heavier forms.
  • As new growth emerges in the spring, add time-release or liquid fertilize. Be sure to follow the package instructions. For herbs, use only organic fertilizer.
  • Wrap loose foliage around the frame. Snip where needed to control shape.
  • Pinch tips to promote side shoots.
  • Occasionally rinse the foliage.

Suggested plants for growing small topiaries indoors or in a protected area:

  • Creeping fig
  • Dwarf conifers
  • Dwarf or miniature rosebushes
  • German chamomile
  • Grape ivy
  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary, trailing or upright
  • Scented geranium
  • Small-leaved basil
  • Small-leaved fuchsias
  • Sweet bay
  • Thyme

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre



  1. Great article. Thanks


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