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How to Go About Shaping the Spiral Topiary

By Contributing Writer ; Updated September 21, 2017

Topiary--making shapes with living plants--is growing in popularity. One of the most popular forms is the spiraling plant, which must be trained and trimmed. As with any gardening task, topiary plants must be maintained. Dwarf Alberta spruce trees make ideal topiaries, as do many conifers.

Wrap the tape or ribbon around the surface of the tree. Start at the top and use the tape or ribbon to mark the spiral shape. If the tree is rather large, or you have not done this before, it may take anywhere from five minutes to an hour to create a spiral shape on the tree.

Cut out one line of the spiral, as marked by the tape. Use large trimmers or very strong pruning shears. Experts and physically strong people may prefer to use electric trimmers.

Round out the spiral with shorter trimmers or pruning sheers.

Finesse the spiral look with smaller pruning shears, and even grass shears. Carefully shape the smaller parts of the tree's growth to get the exact form you want.

Pinch prune new growth during the growing season. This will force the plant to grow more laterally and will help maintain the shape. Maintain your topiary with both your fingers and shears.


Things You Will Need

  • Dwarf Alberta spruce
  • Trimming shears
  • Pruning shears
  • Ribbon/tape
  • Grass shears


  • Wear leather gloves when pruning.
  • Secure the marking tape in place well.
  • Work on a day when there is little or no wind.
  • Shape your topiary in early autumn in order to give the tree healing time.


  • Make sure your equipment is clean, rust free and in good working order.