Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How to Care for Topiary Trees

Topiary trees require just a little bit more work than other trees when it comes to caring for them. While other trees can be left to grow unchecked without severely altering their appearance, to keep topiaries looking their best they must be continuously trimmed back into shape. Some regular pruning on top of standard tree maintenance can help your topiary trees retain their original design and keep them healthy.

Feed topiary trees that are planted in pots and plant beds at least every few weeks with flower food until the plant has fully formed or filled out. Use fertilizer or manure around the base of the plant and replace it once each year to provide extra nutrients.

Water topiaries approximately once every week, allowing water to sink deeply into the soil. Water only when the soil on top is completely dry.

Prune liberally to cut the topiary back to its original shape in the early part of spring each year. Don’t begin cutting until you are certain that the last frost has come, as frost will damage the tree if there are open wounds.

Trim the topiary as often as necessary throughout the growing season of May through September to maintain its shape. Be careful not to trim too much. It can take years for a topiary tree to replace foliage lost in one bad cut.

Don’t clip any limbs or foliage after early fall. Late cutting will make new shoots vulnerable to the first frosts of winter.

Pinch off new shoots as they emerge. Removing shoots encourages thicker growth of subsequent shoots that grow in the same region of the tree.

Brush snow gently off of topiary trees after a snowfall. The weight of snow can easily break branches, which will create holes in the topiary design.


Create a wooden trimming guide in the same shape as your topiary that can slip over the top of your tree. Before trimming, place the wooden guide over the tree and trim down to level with the guide. This can help you get a perfectly even cut.

Most topiary plants can survive in both sunlight and shade and in changing temperatures. Topiary made from ivy, however, thrives most effectively in medium to bright light and in moderate temperatures, between 55 and 85 degrees.

Garden Guides