Juniperus chinensis 'Monlep' Mint Julep - topiary process (3)

Care and Pruning for Decorative Topiaries + Giveaway!

A topiary is an exceptional garden feature that will elevate your yard with artistry. Before the topiary gets to the garden center, there is significant time spent growing, training, and pruning the shape, not to mention the thought that went into creating the perfect design to begin with. Given all that goes into creating topiary, it would be a shame not to care for it properly once you have it planted at home.Care and Pruning Advice for Decorative Topiaries

Come with me on a journey to see how a topiary sprouts from shrub to showstopper, and learn how to maintain this living beauty in the home garden.

Monrovia Juniper Spiral Topiaries (1)

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Monrovia who have been growing topiaries longer than I have been alive. I had a behind-the-scenes tour of the Monrovia nursery in Oregon last year and fell in love with the craftsmanship. They were kind enough to send me a pair of Juniper ‘Mint Julip’ topiaries to try out in my garden. I also had the opportunity to interview a Monrovia Craftsman, Orlando Bejar, on topiary care so I can share the proper instructions. All opinions in this post are my own. Be sure to check out the shop.monriovia.com giveaway at the end of this post as well!

Monrovia Topiaries Tour 2016

How Topiaries are Grown

Topiaries are a great investment because of the attention, time, and artistry that goes into getting them ready for the home garden. Throughout their early lives, they will be lovingly tended to at the nursery until they reach their desired size and fullness. Not all topiaries are equal. Monrovia topiaries take at least three to four years of growth before they even get their first shaping (could be longer depending on the variety). Then they will be shaped again several more times over subsequent years before they’re large and lush enough to be sold at a retail nursery.

The perfect shrubs for a topiary are small-leafed plants like Juniper (Juniperus), Privet (Ligustrum), Boxwood (Buxus), Myrtle (Myrtus), Holly (Ilex), Rosemary (Rosmarinus), and Brush Cherry (Eugenia). There are various shapes of topiaries such as a cone, pompon, and pyramid, but the most popular are the spiral.  Let’s see how it takes shape.

Spiral Topiary

Photo credit: Doreen Wynja for Monrovia

This animation shows a ‘Mint Julip’ Juniper going through all of the stages to become a spiral topiary. Starting with a small rooted cutting, the upright Juniper is potted and staked when large enough. When it reaches the standard height of 42 inches it then gets four cuts to shape it in that year. The first cut is to shape it into a spiral. This is typically the stage of topiaries that are found in large chain stores.

Monrovia will hang onto the topiary for at least another year, giving it three more cuts to stimulate the growth and encourage it to become fuller.

See the difference?

Timing the pruning during the growing season is an important factor to getting just the right shape and fullness. The first pruning (shaping) is done in March, the second pruning in May, the third pruning in July, and the fourth pruning in September. The Craftsmen don’t use any special equipment, all of the pruning is done using hedge shears and bypass pruners.

If you’re looking to buy a topiary, look for these things:

  • Uniformity in the shape, especially when purchasing multiples. Monrovia is known for their uniformity, which is why you can buy multiple spirals that all curl the exact same way and are the right height. No oddballs here!
  • An equally spaced spiral, columns that are straight, and pompons that are perfectly round.
  • Consistent fullness and no bald spots.
  • No signs of disease, pests, brown spots, or discoloration.

Care and Pruning Advice for Decorative TopiariesPhoto credit: Doreen Wynja for Monrovia

Home Care for Garden Topiaries

Caring for topiaries is the perfect way to get your garden therapy. With a few tips and the right pruning schedule, you will be able to keep your topiary looking picture perfect for years to come.Juniper 'Mint Julip' Spiral Topiary

Where to Plant a Topiary

Topiaries are great container plants, but you can also plant them in the ground. Either way, be sure to follow the light requirements on the tag and place them in the right spot.

Use a container soil mix for plant pots, and well-amended soil for in-ground planting.loosening the root ball of a plant

Remove the topiary carefully from the nursery pot and use a soil knife to gently loosen up the roots.

When planting in the ground, dig a hole double the width of the root ball when the container is removed. It should be planted at the same depth as it was planted in the nursery pot.Planting a Topiary

When planting in a container, keep in mind that the container needs to be sized up in proportion to the plant as it grows. As a general rule, your container should be one-third the size of the plant height. So, if you have a three-foot-tall plant you would need a one-foot-tall container; if you have a six-foot-tall plant you need a two-foot-tall container.Planting a Juniper Topiary

Watering and Fertilizing Topiaries

The key to keeping a topiary happy is to closely manage the water it gets: don’t let it dry out and don’t overwater it. The topiary is already at least five years old so it will have lots of roots to help feed the plant and maintain the moisture, but it also needs good drainage so those roots don’t rot.Drilling Drainage Holes in Garden Pot

I make sure to add extra drainage just to be safe. Don’t forget to line the pot with landscape fabric to keep the soil from coming through the drainage holes.

Pruning Topiaries

Pruning maintenance of your home topiary is simple as long as you know what you are doing. I LOVE to prune so this is a perfect plant for me. I often get my garden therapy out pruning my espalier apple and thirst for more! Thankfully, I now have two beautiful topiaries of my very own to baby.Care and Pruning Advice for Decorative Topiaries

At home, you can keep a pruning schedule similar to what they do at the nursery. Pruning three to four times a year will give you a nice neat topiary that grows and fills out perfectly.

  • 1st Prune: Do your first pruning after the first few inches of growth appear in the spring (in my Pacific Northwest Zone 7 garden, this is in March or April).
  • 2nd Prune: The next prune happens after a few more inches of growth (June or July for me).
  • 3rd Prune (if needed): If there is a lot of summer growth, prune again (August).
  • 4th Prune: Prep for winter with a final prune in the fall (September or October).

You don’t need to keep to this exact schedule; it really depends on how well manicured you want to keep your topiary. If you wanted to grow it a little bushier and wild, then you can reduce the number of prunings throughout the year. If you want the topiary to be really tightly formed then you can prune it anytime there is growth of at least one inch.

Fiskars Grass Shears for Pruning Topiaries

I use my grass shears as they made quick work of cleaning up the topiaries. You can see the difference in the before and after photos.

Pruning Maintenance for Topiaries

It may not seem like I cut a lot off, but just a small trim makes a big difference in the neatness and overall shape.

Pruning Trimmings

Pruning cuts should be made just above the last prune so that you still have new growth just above that last cut. Taking it back too far is not good for the plant and won’t stimulate continued growth. To keep the shape intact as you prune, follow the lines and maintain the proportions. If you’re never pruning more than just above the last prune, then you should easily maintain the shape as your topiary grows and thrives.

Monrovia Juniper Spiral Topiaries (4)

With these tips, you will have a gorgeous topiary to enjoy for many years to come.

Giveaway Time!

I’m thrilled to be giving away two $50 gift cards to shop.monrovia.com so you can pick out just the right plant for your garden! Simply leave a comment sharing what Monrovia plant is on your wish list by July 28, 2017 to enter. This contest is open to residents of the continental United States only (although if you are elsewhere in the world and your name gets chosen, I’ll personally send you a little something). The winners will be selected randomly from eligible entries, notified by email, and have seven days to claim their prize. Void where prohibited by law.

About the Author : Stephanie RoseAn artistic gardener aiming to feed the body & soul through an urban potager garden & a community veggie plot in Vancouver.View all posts by Stephanie Rose

  1. Heather
    HeatherJuly 11,17

    Hello! Love your blog. My favorite Monrovia plant is the Sawara Cyprus! Thanks for the chance to win the gift card!

  2. Ann D.
    Ann D.July 11,17

    Love this article. Interesting that so much goes into creating a topiary. Right now I’m looking for perennials to add to my garden as we reclaim it from the weeds.

  3. Sharon Elsberry
    Sharon ElsberryJuly 11,17

    Great article!! I love everything Monrovia…my favorite this year is a limelight hydrangea topiary! Wonderful give-a-way!

  4. Brenda Galiher
    Brenda GaliherJuly 11,17

    I would love a gift card so that I could buy a Hydrangea.. one that continues to bloom through till fall!! 💙

  5. Angela Davy
    Angela DavyJuly 11,17

    Dwarf Alberta Spruce. I just bought 2 in topiary form and need another😊

  6. Cynthia
    CynthiaJuly 12,17

    The dwarf globe blue spruce would fill a hole in my garden but, alas, is out of stock. This is a fun giveaway – thanks!

  7. coral chasalow
    coral chasalowJuly 12,17

    Lily of the Nile and the new Twister Lily of the Nile is gorgeous! I love Monrovia plants and thank you for the chance to have another to add to my collection.

  8. Sharon
    SharonJuly 12,17

    The Apple Blossom Clematis and the Blue Light Clematis are two I would love to have.

  9. Vicki Kesler
    Vicki KeslerJuly 12,17

    I would love to have a round Pom Pom Topiary boxwood. Thanks for the chance to win the gift card.

  10. Krisrine T
    Krisrine TJuly 12,17

    Fragrant Himalayan Champaca would look amazing in my yard!

  11. carol clark
    carol clarkJuly 12,17

    Angel’s Blush® Hydrangea i like

  12. Lindsey Aylward
    Lindsey AylwardJuly 12,17

    I am loving this: http://shop.monrovia.com/trees/dwarf-alberta-spruce.html

  13. Jenny Young
    Jenny YoungJuly 12,17

    I’d love to add a new hydrangea to my garden….which one is the dilemma!

  14. Dolores S Sinram
    Dolores S SinramJuly 12,17

    I would love a Lime Light Hydrangea ♥ Can’t have enough hydrangeas!

  15. Pamela Powell
    Pamela PowellJuly 12,17

    I’m moving to a new house, I’d love to have a rose bush for it!

  16. vivian gerard
    vivian gerardJuly 12,17

    love monrovia products i like watching the utube videos from garden answer i have a small yard on a city corner lot i love hydrangas i think i have at least 22 of them they are so beautiful and flower a long time i think i would love to get a black eyed susan ruabeckia a dwarf variety love the topiarys

  17. Jill Jones
    Jill JonesJuly 12,17

    Love Monrovia’s plants. They are consistently healthy and thrive in my yard. I have one of Monrovia’s Ivory Halo dogwoods in my backyard and have been looking for another for my front yard. It is a beautiful plant with the prettiest foliage. Thanks for offering this fantastic giveaway!

  18. Nadine
    NadineJuly 12,17

    I have so many I would love to have. I would love to have a topiary of some sort, or roses, or a gardenia, or …! I can’t decide on just one!

  19. Jennifer
    JenniferJuly 12,17

    I’ve been wanting to try sedum Autumn Joy for awhile now. Thank you for the giveaway opportunity!

  20. bev miller
    bev millerJuly 13,17

    I love all topiaries…. would be hard for me to choose one, but I am partial to boxwoods. Thank you for all of your great that you share on your blog!!

  21. Gayle Mathues
    Gayle MathuesJuly 13,17

    I would love one of each! How to choose! Lilacs on the top of my list at the moment, subject to change. really enjoyed the article on pruning topiaries. Thank you!

  22. Sharon Weaver
    Sharon WeaverJuly 13,17

    I would love a mint julep juniper like the one shown on your awesome garden blog. I always look forward to receiving the emails!!!

  23. Patty Maiers
    Patty MaiersJuly 13,17

    I love the Snow Queen Oakleaf Hydrangea! My uncle had a beautiful Oakleaf Hydrangea in his yard that grew beautifully. I always admired it each summer. I have learned so much from your blog!

  24. jenni farnes
    jenni farnesJuly 13,17

    On the note page on my Iphone, I have 50 plants from Monrovia that I want to get…my wish list. Right now, I’m lusting after the raspberrry shortcake raspberry bush that can be planted in containers on my deck. I couldn’t afford it this year, but hope to have it growing and producing raspberries for me next year. I love Monrovia plants. I bought a strawberry vanilla peegee hydrangea from Monrovia a couple of years ago. I planted it in the early spring and had blooms by summer. The second year was even more productive. The thing I love about Monrovia is that they are very free with their help and advice. I also love that if you order something online, they ship it to a nursery near you to pick up. I sent my daughter-in-law Annabelle hydrangeas for her birthday in November. Monrovia shipped healthy plants to a greenhouse nearby in February, perfect for planting. Thank you for such a generous giveaway. Thank you for sharing your love and passion about gardening. I’ve learned some great things from you!

  25. jenni farnes
    jenni farnesJuly 13,17

    On the note page on my Iphone, I have 50 plants from Monrovia listed that I want to get..it is my wish list. Right now, I’m lusting after the raspberrry shortcake raspberry bush that can be planted in containers on my deck. I couldn’t afford it this year, but hope to have it growing and producing raspberries for me next year. I love Monrovia plants. I bought a strawberry vanilla peegee hydrangea from Monrovia a couple of years ago. I planted it in the early spring and had blooms by summer. The second year was even more productive. The thing I love about Monrovia is that they are very free with their help and advice. I also love that if you order something online, they ship it to a nursery near you to pick up. I sent my daughter-in-law Annabelle hydrangeas for her birthday in November. Monrovia shipped healthy plants to a greenhouse nearby in February, perfect for planting. Thank you for such a generous giveaway. Thank you for sharing your love and passion about gardening. I’ve learned some great things from you!

  26. Denise C
    Denise CJuly 13,17

    I’d love a small round boxwood or Lemon Cyprus. I have always wanted to try this on a small tree and keep it on my desk.

  27. Karen Simon Peterson
    Karen Simon PetersonJuly 13,17

    I love hydrangeas and roses the most. Since I have several hydrangea plants, I would like to get another rose. Thank you for the giveaway.

  28. Deepika
    DeepikaJuly 14,17

    Wow!! Simply Amazing. I never thought about growing and decorating topiary this way. Thumbs up for your idea. :)

  29. Connie Maytubby
    Connie MaytubbyJuly 15,17

    Would love to have a dwarf weeping blue atlas cedar. I’d love seeing them in my yard.

  30. Laurie Nykaza
    Laurie NykazaJuly 15,17

    Autumn Joy Stonecrop is such a beautiful plant I would love a few of them for my yard. They have so many plants to pick from that are beautiful

  31. Sue Raddatz
    Sue RaddatzJuly 15,17

    Wonderful offer! I’m partial to the Gibby Hebe plant. We have a perfect home for a couple of these darling plants. We have other Monrovia plants in our garden family, so the Gibby Hebe would have a nice homecoming;)

  32. Mikey Brayton
    Mikey BraytonJuly 16,17

    Would love a limelight hydrangea! Love your blog. Thanks!

  33. Sharon Johnson
    Sharon JohnsonJuly 16,17

    My garden has been under development for the past year because I can’t afford to buy all the plants needed. It will start with a butterfly and hummingbird garden, so I am seeking Penstemon ‘Huskers Red’.

  34. tamara j wagner
    tamara j wagnerJuly 16,17

    Love this article. Just want to make two of Monrovia’s Mint Julip’ Juniper and watch them
    going through all of the stages to become a spiral topiary.

  35. Carol hammond
    Carol hammondJuly 19,17

    Lavender. Always lavender!

  36. Hope B.
    Hope B.July 19,17

    Monrovia plants have always been reliable and and desirable additions to my garden. I would love to grow the Black Tower Elderberry for the color,the flowers and the berries to attract butterflies. Thanks you.

  37. Lori Zugelder
    Lori ZugelderJuly 19,17

    I love so many it’s difficult to choose just one-hmmm….hydrangea? Peony? Fountain grass?
    I’ll say peony

  38. Barbara Consbruck
    Barbara ConsbruckJuly 19,17

    I would love a hydrangea. Any one that would be good for my zone. I love Monrovia plants

  39. Deborah W.
    Deborah W.July 20,17

    I love the Angel’s Blush® Hydrangea. It’s beautiful and just what my front garden needs to make our house inviting.

  40. Rhonda Orozco
    Rhonda OrozcoJuly 20,17

    Holly bushes will look beautiful in my yard especially in the winter when there is a need for some color. Love your blog, such fun ideas! Thank You!

  41. doty H
    doty HJuly 20,17

    I am Smitten with Topiaries.

  42. Melissa
    MelissaJuly 20,17

    Green Tower Boxwood-I have always been enchanted with topiaries and would give it a try with this bush.

  43. Elaine
    ElaineJuly 20,17

    Hydrangea or Blueberry or Autumn Fern, or………. : ) so many!

  44. Heidi
    HeidiJuly 20,17

    Look forward to your newsletter each week!! So many plants on my wishlist, but Limelight Hydrangea is my next purchase:)

  45. Leah
    LeahJuly 20,17

    I want some more hydrangeas and butterfly plants!!!

  46. Vanessa Brooks
    Vanessa BrooksJuly 20,17

    Oh my, I would LOVE the Blackberry vine, and the Red Raspberry vine♥

  47. Shirley Hicks
    Shirley HicksJuly 20,17

    I would love to have two of their C’est Bon Cajun Hibiscus. They are velvety and gorgeous looking. I also love Monrovia plants. They are always top quality! Thanks!

  48. Martha Cook
    Martha CookJuly 21,17

    I have a large yard…1 1/2 acres & live in the south. I want annuals & blooming shrubs. I would love hydrangeas, azaleas, black eyed Susan’s, coneflowers & anything hummingbirds, butterflies & honey bees love.

  49. Kama Langston
    Kama LangstonJuly 22,17

    I’m a beginner gardener and would like a beginner plant. Beautiful!!

  50. Tracy Brammer
    Tracy BrammerJuly 22,17

    I could go for the hydrangea, a rose bush, or a lilac bush. Also a garden is too!

  51. Madgeline Messick
    Madgeline MessickJuly 23,17

    I find your blog extremely informative and interesting. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    The top of my wishlist for Monrovia plants has Sizzling Pink Fringe Flower at the top of it. Thanks for the chance to win the gift card.

  52. Jean Ciangi
    Jean CiangiJuly 23,17

    I would love to have an angel white lilac for my garden. I love the way lilacs smell. They are such beautiful plants.

  53. Kindra
    KindraJuly 23,17

    Indian Summer Raspberries are on my wish list. Thanks for the chance.

  54. Debra Cole
    Debra ColeJuly 24,17

    Garden Sun™ Climbing Rose………wish list for sure. Love your work!

  55. Emily Epstein
    Emily EpsteinJuly 24,17

    Bay laurel and elderberry are on my wish list.

  56. Suzanne Bott, PhD
    Suzanne Bott, PhDJuly 25,17

    Oooh, wonderful post. “I always wondered how they do that…!” Thank you for the opportunity to win a Monrovia plant – I would love a dwarf citrus for my garden here in Arizona. xoxo

Leave a Reply