Nothing says timeless whimsy quite like a topiary. The art of sculpting shrubs and small trees has been around since the Roman Empire and is an ever-changing art form. From hedgerows and mazes to shaped animals and spiral trees, people keep finding ways to innovate topiary.

If you’re interested in taking up this artistic landscaping hobby, you may be wondering what makes for the best topiary plants. We’re here to give you the basics of which plants grow best for what shapes and where.

What Makes For the Best Topiary Plants?

What Makes For the Best Topiary Plants

There are many different kinds of plants people use for shaping, but the best plants for topiary have a few things in common. They produce dense foliage with small leaves or needles, thick branching growth that can handle excessive tree pruning, grow quickly, and are evergreen to keep their appearance, shape, and color all year long.

1. Boxwood Shrubs

Boxwood is a classic shrub used in sophisticated topiary. Its rich color and thick foliage create distinct edges, and its flexible branches make it easy to shape. It grows slowly (less than 6 inches per year), so patience is key with this plant.

Boxwoods create a soft or textured appearance, depending on the pruning method. They require full sun to partial shade and need consistent moisture but well-drained soil.

2. Dwarf Alberta Spruce

Dwarf Alberta Spruce

Think classic Christmas tree, and you’ve got the Alberta Spruce. Its wide base to the tapering point and fragrant scent all call to mind snow and cozy nights by the fire.

This small tree will usually reach 10-12 feet in height, and almost as wide at the base. It is a slow grower but produces dense, vibrant green needles that give a soft appearance. It is most often used to make spiral shapes and other forms that use a cone or pyramid as the base shape.

3. Yew Bushes

With their foliage consistently thick from trunk to new growth and their ability to grow almost anywhere, yew bushes are the best plants for topiary but for two drawbacks. They produce poisonous berries that could pose a threat to small children and pets, and they grow very slowly as they mature.

They create a textured variety of greens all year long, including a bright yellow-green of new growth every spring.

4. Privet Shrub

Although the Privet shrub is not evergreen like the other topiary plants, it serves its jobs well. The Privet shrub grows tall, creating a thick wall of small waxy leaves perfect for privacy. They grow quickly, are easy to shape, and though they can handle cold climates may need extra watering with higher temperatures.

5. English Ivy

Although not conventionally used for topiary, English Ivy’s fast growth, hardiness, and evergreen leaves make it perfect for covering a wireframe shape. This can be used as outdoor or indoor topiary plants.

Topiary Goals

Topiary Goals

Topiary plants bring a little something extra to your yard. Now that you know the difference between the top five, you can pick the best one for your climate and topiary aspirations.

For more outdoor advice, check out our Landscaping or Lawn archives.

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