Topiary, the practice of clipping plants into different shapes, has been done since Roman times. It can bring structure and formality to a garden or a sense of fantasy and magic. Plants in garden beds can be trimmed into interesting features or used to screen off or delineate different areas and potted plants can also be trained into beautiful shapes. 


There are lots of wonderful plants that suit topiary, depending on the desired look, whether it be quite formal or more relaxed. Shrubs, trees and climbers can be used in topiary, including camellias, Australian native plants such as lilly pillies and westringia, climbers like ivy and star jasmine, and conifers. Japanese box (Buxus microphylla var. japonica) is one of the best plants for topiary. It’s an evergreen shrub with a compact habit and attractive bright green glossy foliage.

Choose the appropriate position for your topiary plant, whether that’s in a full sun or partly shaded spot.

The top topiary tips are:

  •  Begin trimming the plant to shape while the plant is still young. It’s important not to wait until the plant has reached the desired height or width before pruning. Starting trimming early will help promote compact, dense foliage growth. Regularly trim your plants, every 3 months, between spring and autumn.
  • Don’t trim back into leafless stems, as these may not produce new foliage. 
  • You can trim freehand, use a template or grow plants within in a wire frame that provides the outline for the finished shape. Whichever method you use, regularly stand back and assess your handiwork from multiple angles and clip very small amounts of foliage off at a time. You can always trim more off, you can’t stick leaves back on!
  • For potted topiary, to encourage even growth regularly rotate the pot 90 degrees so that all sides of the plant are exposed to the maximum amount of light.
  • Feed topiary plants regularly with a complete plant food like Yates Thrive All Purpose Soluble Plant Food, which will encourage lots of lush, healthy growth. 

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