Topiary Clipping Techniques


Keeping a topiary form in a crisp, precise shape will take a great deal more time and effort than trimming a normal hedge. It is always a good idea to use a guide when clipping so that you can cut accurately with confidence.

When to Clip

Your topiary clipping regime will depend on the design and the species of plant used; in general trim as soon as any new growth begins to appear uneven. Intricate, geometric designs will require regular maintenance; for example, such a design in box (Buxus sempervirens) may need to be clipped once every four to six weeks.

Less precise designs will need less attention:

  • box (Buxus sempervirens) usually needs to be cut twice a year
  • shrubby honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida) shoul be cut three times a year
  • yew (Taxus spp.) should be cut once a year

Never clip bushes after early autumn, as the young shoots produced need to ripen sufficiently to withstand low winter temperatures.

Clipping Guides

When you begin to clip your topiary, start from the top of the plant and work your way down, and from the centre outwards.

Flat Sided Shapes

Precise, geometric topiary that has flat surfaces and angled or squared edges can be difficult to trim successfully so that it keeps its well-defined shape. Always use guidelines or canes to maintain symmetry.

Spherical Shapes

Trim the top of the plant, and then clip a channel downwards along the circumference to leave a ring. Repeat at 90° around the sphere or dome until you are left with four distinct quarters to be trimmed.

Never rush clipping, as mistakes can spoil the look and symmetry of your design for a whole season until new replacement growth appears.