How to Trim a Topiary


Topiary is an art that dates back to ancient times. Paintings on the walls of Egyptian tombs show clipped hedges in geometric shapes that may have been the first attempts at topiary. The art of clipping hedges in geometric shapes or fanciful patterns has fallen in and out of vogue throughout the centuries. Today, even amateur gardeners can make simple topiary in geometric shapes such as circles, squares, cones or rectangles.

Step 1

Plan your trimming sessions for once every three months. This will gradually shape the topiary while at the same time maintaining the plant's shape as it grows. You should never remove more than 3 inches from the ends of the plant during any trimming session.

Step 2

Time your first yearly trimming session after all danger of frost has passed.

Step 3

Sharpen your trimming shears before trimming your shrubs.

Step 4

Mix a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water. Clean your shears in between trimming each shrub to prevent the spread of disease.

Step 5

Cut your initial rough shape using a pair of long-handled shears. Find the central location in your plant and work your way outward from this point as you trim your hedge.

Step 6

Switch to a pair of hand shears to use when making detailed trimming cuts. Use a piece of wire to guide your trimming. Circle guides should be made from wire twisted into a circle. Cone or straight-line guides can be made of straight wire placed against the central point on the shrub. Hold the guide against the shrub and clip any twigs or leaves that grow outside of the guide line.

Step 7

Step back periodically as you trim the shrub to survey your progress. Assess the plant from various angles to ensure your shape is balanced.

Step 8

Pinch back your shrub to encourage more bushy growth.

Things You'll Need

  • Long-handled shears
  • Hand shears
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Cloth
  • Sharpeners
  • Wire guide


  • Topiary Arts: Cutting and Shaping
  • Timeless Topiary: General Care of Topiaries
  • University of Kentucky Extension: Pruning Lanscape Shrubs

Who Can Help

  • Texas A&M Extension: Follow Proper Pruning Techniques
Keywords: topiary shrubs, trimming hedges, shaping shrubs

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."