Use a little whimsy, imagination, patience |

Use a little whimsy, imagination, patience

An indoor topiary garden an added addition to home

— Topiary is the art of trimming and training plants to create living sculpture. This art became popular with the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

Today, we see topiaries throughout the home and garden as a means of decoration. The following kinds of topiaries may be grown as houseplants, indoors in Routt County.

A standard topiary is the classic style of a plant trimmed into the shape of a small tree. Choose any plant that has a strong upright stem; I prefer ficus, rosemary, or lavender. What you’ll need to create your topiary are the chosen plant with a straight unpinched leader as well as scissors, bamboo or wooden stakes, raffia or string, sterile potting mix and ceramic containers with holes in the bottom.

The starter plant should be 8 to 14 inches tall for a slow growing, smaller leaf plant. If the plant is a large leaf or fast-growing specimen it may be taller. Plant it in sterile potting mix in a ceramic pot. Place a stake next to the plant. Starting at the bottom, gently tie the stem to the stake wherever it requires support or straightening. Allow only the top of the plant to develop by pinching and cutting off any other growth. Do not pinch the leader until your plant has reached the desired height, as this will stop it from growing taller.

Check the ties periodically because insects like to hide under them, and they may become too tight and injure the stem of the plant. When the leader has grown above the original stake, replace the stake with a taller one. This may also be a good time to repot the plant if it is root bound. When the leader reaches the correct height, pinch off the tip. This will encourage branching of the leader. Keep the branching shoots trimmed at about 2-3 inches in length. Repeat as needed to encourage the plant to fill in. Fertilize your plant with a balanced fertilizer 15-30-15 every 4 to 5 watering. Rotate the plant in the window and make sure it gets adequate light for proper growth.

A braided standard topiary is a single shape composed of 2 or 3 plants. I prefer to do this with 3 ficus plants, about 2 feet in length. Remove all side branches of the plants with scissors. Gently braid the 3 plants together, starting just about the roots. Plant them close together in a ceramic pot. Plant as you would for a standard topiary, staking the plants for support. After the desired height has been reached, pinch off all central stems and prune as you like.

Maintenance is easy. Repot every spring or fall, using fresh soil. Clip your topiary on a regular basis. Avoid heavy clipping; it is better to trim the plant a little at a time.

Whimsy, imagination and patience help artistic gardeners to create their own topiary design.

Camille Fisher is a Routt County resident and a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. Products mentioned in this article are not endorsed by Master Gardener program but simply presented for informational purposes. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail

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