How to Plant Outdoor Topiaries

Overview

Outdoor topiaries can create a striking effect in your garden. They are works of art using plants. Patience is a virtue when planting outdoor topiaries, because it can take 3 to 10 years to produce a shrub topiary. Common topiary plants are grown from shrubs and flowering plants such as holly, ivy, boxwood, hydrangea and rosemary. There are two ways to plant outdoor topiaries: in a shrub form or in a movable container. The movable container is best if you live in a climate that is susceptible to winter frost.

Container Topiaries

Step 1

Buy a container large enough for the topiary plant and form. If the mature topiary will be 4 feet tall or taller, use a 24-inch container.

Step 2

Choose a vining plant that shapes well, such as vinca minor, English ivy or Boston ivy. Choose a plant that grows fast and is tolerant of different growing conditions.

Step 3

Put a mixture of potting soil and compost into the plant pot about halfway to support the topiary form. Place the form in the middle and fill the rest of the container up with soil. Leave about 3 inches free at the top of the pot.

Step 4

Plant the topiary plant at the bottom of the form, so that it will grow up it. Put the longest parts of the vine next to the form.

Step 5

Water the topiary plant thoroughly. Apply a liquid fertilizer to encourage quicker growth. Wind the vines around the topiary form to help them along. Tie the plant in place with green dental floss if needed.

Step 6

Prune the topiary regularly to keep its shape and keep the plant dense. Remove the stems that grow away from the form or those that look shaggy

Shrub Topiaries

Step 1

Choose a plant that will be easily molded into a form as it grows. A small juvenile shrub is usually the best option.

Step 2

Get a topiary frame in the desired shape and size. Push it a few inches into the ground so that it stands on its own. Wedge it in the ground by hand or dig small holes to loosen up the soil.

Step 3

Dig holes at each contact point of the frame. A four-legged animal frame, for instance, would have four plants. Make sure the holes are large enough for the plants. Place the root balls in each hole and fill the empty space back in with soil. Water thoroughly until the soil is moist. Apply a liquid fertilizer, following the label instructions, to encourage quicker growth.

Step 4

Use sphagnum moss to fill in the topiary form. This will give the plant a fuller look while it grows. Place it in all the empty spaces in the form.

Step 5

Envision the final topiary form. Trim bits of the shrubs as they grow to create the desired shape. Limit pruning to 3 inches or less at a time on larger shrubs. To encourage faster growth, cut off 1 inch in areas where you want the shrub to fill in. Train and prune the shrub little by little every 3 months during the growing season.

Things You'll Need

  • Plant
  • Topiary frame
  • Shovel
  • Pruning shears
  • Water
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Green dental floss

References

  • Gardening Know How: How to Make Your Own Topiary
  • P. Allen Smith: Making an Ivy Topiary
  • Potted People and Their Potted Plants: How to Make a Topiary
Keywords: outdoor topiaries, shaping shrubs, plants for topiary

About this Author

Kelly Shetsky has been a broadcast journalist for more than ten years, researching, writing, producing and reporting daily on many topics. In addition, she writes for several websites, specializing in medical, health and fitness, arts and entertainment, travel and business-related topics. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Marist College.