How to Prune Topiaries

Topiary couple. image by <div xmlns:cc="" about=""><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=""></a> / <a rel="license" href="">CC BY 2.0</a></div>


The word topiary comes from the Latin word "topiarius" meaning "ornamental landscaper." Topiary is the art of sculpting and training plants into ornamental shapes. It was a popular art form in the Roman Gardens at the time of Caesar and remains popular in the household gardens of today. Topiaries are usually made from evergreen bushes or vines and sculpted to resemble people, animals, shapes, or mazes. Regular pruning helps keep the shape of the topiary.

Step 1

You'll need to prune your topiary one to three times a year, depending on the plants you choose. Some species, such as the boxwood, grow faster than others.

Step 2

Prune a ball topiary by using floral wire twisted into a circle. Make sure that it's slightly smaller than the topiary you're pruning. Move the wire over the plant as a guide while you prune it.

Step 3

Prune a poodle tier by cutting away all new growth between the ball shapes as close as you can to the trunk. You can use the wire circle form to prune the ball shapes of the topiary.

Step 4

Prune a spiral by starting from the top and working downward. From the top and following around the spiral to the bottom, remove the foliage down to the main trunk. You can make it curve by pruning the top and then the bottom turn of the spiral.

Step 5

Prune a cone by placing three sticks in the ground around the plant and tying the top of the sticks together to make a cone shape. Use it as a guide to trim the topiary to this shape. You should start at the top of the plant and trim outward.

Tips and Warnings

  • You should prune on a cloudy day to avoid scorch marks on the cut branches.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruners
  • Garden wire
  • Long sticks


  • Pruning Shrubs
  • How to prune topiary
  • The History Of Topiary
Keywords: how to prune topiary, pruning topiary, trimming topiary

About this Author

Liz Ward is a Visual Communications Designer and writer. Ward's articles are published on and Ward has written for Demand Studios and Text Broker. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Design and a Minor in photography from Purdue University. She is also a master gardener.

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