Topiary Tree FAQ Page

Whether your topiary tree is in a pot or a focal point in your garden, you want to keep it looking green and healthy. You’ve got trimming down. After all, it’s just clipping off long growth but there’s more to caring for a topiary. If you have a topiary or are thinking about getting one, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about these decorative trees. 


FAQ About Topiary Trees

Some questions you’ll want to ask your local arborist, like which specimens are right for your growing zone. Some trees do best in colder climates, while others love heat and plenty of sunlight. 

How Do You Maintain a Topiary Tree

Paying attention to three things will help keep your topiary thriving. 

  1. Watering is crucial. Potted topiaries often need more water than planted trees. A good tip is to check the soil moisture with your finger. If it’s dry, it is time to water. 
  2. Foliar or slow-releasing fertilizer is recommended. It encourages growth and a healthy root system. 
  3. Topiaries do not need a lot of pruning to keep their shape, and timing is crucial. The best time to trim topiaries is in the early summer. 
  4. Outdoor Boxwoods care varies. We offer a comprehensive guide on how to take care of outdoor boxwoods throughout the USA.


How Do You Take Care of a Topiary Tree in the Winter?

Most topiary trees are dormant in the winter but check to make sure it applies to your plant. You can forgo fertilizing and pruning, but you may need to water occasionally. It depends on the climate and type of tree. You may have to cover your topiary in freezing temperatures. Avoid using plastic, it can freeze to the plant causing damage. You can find inexpensive clothes designed to protect plants from freezing. Old bed sheets also work, just be sure the plant is completely covered. Another tip is to pile mulch around the root base and lower trunk. You may lose some of the foliage to cold temperatures, but the plant will stay alive. In a few seasons, it will be back to its former appearance. 


How Often Should You Water a Topiary Tree?

It’s easy to over or underwater a topiary tree. It doesn’t matter if it is in a pot or planted in the ground. Potted plants will dry out faster, so be prepared for almost daily watering. If you see the soil starting to pull away from the pot, it’s time to water. You can also do a finger test. Insert a finger a few inches into the soil for planted topiaries. If the soil is dry, go ahead and water. Topiaries in the ground generally need water two to three times a week, depending on average rainfall. 


How Do You Shape a Topiary Tree?

Shaping a topiary tree is easier than you may imagine, especially if you keep up with the new growth. You already have the form to follow, you just have to keep the shape. You will need a pair of sharp pruners and a little patience. You want to trim slowly and only clip the new growth. Cutting too deep can ruin the topiary’s shape. It’s also best to trim in the morning. You have plenty of light without the afternoon heat. 

Do Topiaries Die in the Winter?

Most topiary trees do not die in the winter if they're evergreen. Deciduous trees, ones that lose their leaves in the fall, are also often cold-weather hardy. You will find exceptions, some plants cannot survive in extended cold temperatures. These plants should stay in pots so you can move them inside during freezing weather. Your topiary should come with care instructions, if not ask your arborist if your topiary is winter-hardy. 


Does a Topiary Need Full Sun?

Topiaries in general require around 6 hours of full or partial sunlight. These are not shade-loving plants. If you notice yellowing leaves, and it’s not due to improper watering, it can be a sign your topiary needs more sun. 


What is the Best Plant for a Topiary

You aren’t limited on options when it comes to the types of topiaries, several species are ideal. Some are evergreens and others produce flowers or winter berries. Here are a few plants that are the best choice for a topiary tree. 

When Should You Trim a Topiary?

The best time to trim a topiary is in the early to late summer. It is when the plant needs to expel the least amount of energy to heal the cut. Throughout the year, you can make small cuts to the new growth, but refrain from performing any extensive trimming. 


Why is my Topiary Turning Brown?

Topiaries turn brown for a few reasons. It may be caused by too little water. A lack of sunlight can also cause leaves to turn brown, even on evergreen trees. If your topiary is potted, it may be root-bound. It means the tree has outgrown the pot. The disease is another option, and you can find fungicides on the market. Before you apply chemicals, check with a local expert. Plant diseases differ according to the growing region. 


How Do You Plant Topiary Trees in Pots?

Planting a topiary in a pot only requires a few steps and a couple of essential items. Along with the plant, you need a pot and some garden soil. The pot should be larger than the tree’s root base and deep enough to hold the plant. Look for garden soil designed for trees, it usually comes with essential nutrients. 

  1. Place a layer of dirt on the bottom of the pot before planting the topiary. The root system needs the soil for growth. 
  2. Carefully center the plant in the pot. Make sure there isn’t a gap between the roots and the layer of soil. Water can collect in the space killing the topiary. 
  3. Cover the sides and top of the root system with potting soil. 
  4. Water the tree in. Don’t be afraid of overwatering the first time. The topiary needs the excess as it settles into its new home. 

Pruning Topiary Balls?

Topiary balls are fun shapes that draw attention but it’s not always easy keeping the form. Even with heavy pruning in the summer, your topiary ball can look lopsided. Throughout the year, (check your local nursery for seasonality when to prune), prune any excess growth before it gets out of control. It also makes it easier for you to follow the original shape. Remember to always use sharp clippers and prune flat against the leaves. You’ll get all of the overgrowths without cutting too deep. 


Can a Topiary Grow in the Shade?

As a general rule, topiaries need full or partial sun, but you can find a few that can live in shady areas. Yews and boxwoods are two examples, but they still need a couple of hours of sunlight. Another option is the Hemlock bush, but it is not recommended. All parts of the plant are highly toxic. It is also illegal to grow in some communities. 


Do Topiary Trees Come Back Every Year?

Topiaries will return every year with proper care. Most are evergreens and don’t lose their leaves over the winter. Some topiaries are not cold-hardy, and this can be a problem if they are planted in the ground. The best advice is to choose a topiary that thrives in your region. 


How Do You Decorate Topiary Balls

Decorating with topiary balls opens up lots of possibilities. The balls can be grown in staggering hanging baskets. Decorative pots also work great. You can even hang small ornaments from the branches. Make sure the decorations are lightweight, so you don’t have to worry about broken tree limbs. Lights are another option, but not recommended. It looks pretty but the heat from the lights can burn the leaves. Ribbons and fake snow are great around Christmas time, and you may not even notice the lack of twinkling lights. 


How Tall Does a Eugenia Topiary Get?

If left alone, a Eugenia topiary can quickly grow up to 20 feet in height. It’s a fast grower, and something to consider if you plant one as a topiary. With regular trimming, the topiaries stay around 5-10 feet. It’s still a tall topiary, but it will be a focal point in your yard or garden.


Conclusion

Topiaries make a unique statement indoors and outside. The sculptured plants are also surprisingly easy to care for. Remember to water and fertilize throughout the growing season and keep pruning to a minimum except in the summer. If you are having problems with your topiary, your local arborist is here to help.