Types of Topiary Trees: How To Grow Topiary Plants, Outdoor Shaped Trees

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | February 14, 2024

Woman pointing at round and square topiary trees while learning how to create types of topiary shapes, how to grow topiary plants and outdoor shaped trees, and the best kinds of trees for topiary art.

Topiary trees are getting more and more popular as backyard and home decor. They definitely add a touch of elegance that any homeowner would want.

It is the perfect way to landscape, improve your curb appeal, and make sure that your home grabs the attention that it so deserves. You can grow a tree simply, but there is something special about topiary trees.

Topiaries in the modern world come in different forms, shapes, and sizes, only limited by your imagination. You can get as creative as you want with them or even use them to bring out your true personality and style.

Everyone is raving about these trees, and this write-up couldn’t come at a more perfect time. Read on to learn about the different types of topiary trees: how to grow topiary plants, outdoor-shaped trees, and so much more.

What Is Topiary?

Topiary is a popular technique for various types of evergreen trees and sometimes semi-green because the trees stay stunning for the better part of the year.

It is a form of art where you train (or trim) your trees and plants to grow in a specific pattern by either pruning or twisting them to a particular design, somewhat similar to bonsai.

The result is unique, breathtaking shapes, from simple spheres and geometric shapes to whimsical creatures or animals.

The best part about topiary is that you are free to go in any direction when it comes to the choice of plants or the shapes that you want.

Popular trees for topiary graphic showing Boxwood tree, Yew tree, Cypress tree, Olive tree, Pine tree, Lavender herb, and Juniper tree images in circle frames.

You can use these trees for all your landscaping needs no matter your style, whether you have a Zen or English garden.

Taking more interest in it, you will realize that there are so many reasons why you would want to go for topiary trees. Maybe you want to define a passage, use the trees as privacy screens, cover up unsightly things,3 or even add some character to your home.

Regardless of the reason, you will have a lot of fun creating topiary trees for your outdoors.

Best Landscaping Topiary Trees and Topiary Shrubs

Various types of trees make perfect options for topiary; it is all up to you to decide what will work best in regards to the size, shape, and pattern that you are going for.

However, the go-to options would be evergreen trees because they will stay stunning all through the year for you to admire over a long time.

Here are some of the best.

Boxwood Tree

Boxwood topiaries are some of the most common broad leaf evergreens, and it is easy to see why.

The way the shrub grows dense, you can easily structure it into an elegant landscaping design that you will likely find in stately buildings and massive landscaping projects. You can either go for Boxwood spiral topiaries trees or domes and marvel at how upscale your home will look.6

Yew Tree

The Yew shrub makes a top choice for topiaries simply because of how flexible its leaves are and how it is easy to maintain.7 It is right up there with boxwood for the most popular tree, but there is just one problem: the fact that the Yew Tree is toxic and unsafe for pets and kids, so you will have to be very keen on where you plant it.

Cypress Tree

Cypress topiary is also worth considering, especially because of how tall and large the Cypress Tree gets, so it makes the most iconic designs. It also helps that it grows a little more dense than other trees, making it easier to work with.

Olive Tree

An Olive topiary tree is another favorite for homeowners, and it is not just because it grows slowly and has attractive shiny leaves,

but also because you are able to use the Olive Tree both indoors and outdoors.

Pine Tree

Various types of Pine Trees are famous right around Christmas as everyone tries to get their hands on the cone-shaped beauties.

But, pine trees can be pruned and trimmed on your landscape, to provide interesting backgrounds for flower beds and other ornamental gardens.

Lavender Herb

There are so many reasons to go for a Lavender topiary tree.

It is the way the herb grows with striking purple colors and an incredible aroma.

Juniper Trees

Juniper topiary trees are easy to spot growing in homes and around other buildings.

They grow bushy and tall, meaning you can do just about any landscaping design you want.

What Makes the Best Tree for Topiaries?

There are countless evergreen and semi-green trees that will make stunning topiaries, but not all of them will have the same result.

The best tree for shaping should be able to grow bushy, and the leaves should be tightly packed because it becomes way easier to create the shapes that you want; moreover, you will be sure that there will be no gaps ruining the look. Trees that make globe shapes are also supposed to grow fast and fill up more.

You may also want to go for a tree that is easier to maintain to save you time and money.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t employ the art with other types of trees, it just means that topiary is particularly suited to trees and bushes that have dense foliage.

What Forms Can Topiary Trees Take?

The best thing about topiary trees is that there are so many ways that you can shape them, and you can let your imagination run wild.

The classic looks are the cone and globe shapes. People love them because they are easier to form, even for beginners.

The spiral and animal forms are also great options, although they are a little more complex. But, of course, they make the best-looking topiary trees and will be definite show-stoppers in your garden.

Growing topiary trees is an art. It is actually the best way to express yourself, as long as you pick the perfect tree for the job and know how to use pruners or shears.

You can go for basic, simple designs or even more intricate ones; there are absolutely no rules.

Cone Topiary

The cone-shaped topiary trees are definitely a classic because they are some of the most natural-looking ones. You don’t really need to be the most skilled to make it possible; as long as you have a bushy tree that grows a little slower, you can easily give it a nice pyramidal look.

Wide shot of a garden full of topiary plants and trees with two Cone topiary trees in the center.

(Image: Vladimír Sládek12)

Long-angle shot of a large Yew globe topiary tree showing its rounded canopy.

(Image: 1201913)

Globe Topiary

Here is where the tree grows into a perfect ball shape, and the Yew is well-known for achieving that effect. There are so many ways that you can style your globe topiary trees that grow really fast and even pair them up with other designs.

Spiral Topiary

Looking at it, you may immediately think that it is too complicated a form, but not really. There is something whimsical and dramatic about a spiral topiary tree, and it helps that these spiral plants are still elegant, whether growing in-ground or in containers.4

Eye-level shot of a Spiral topiary tree situated in a garden.

(Image: waggy14714)

Eye level shot of an Animal topiary in the shape of an elephant.

(Image: Dean Moriarty15)

Topiary Animal

Are you looking for something that will stun everyone that steps into your property?

Then animal topiaries should be your top choice.8 With a wireframe, you can easily create any animal-like design that will capture virtually everyone’s attention.

How To Grow Outdoor Shaped Trees: Growing Topiary Plants

Topiary DIY is so exciting because you can make anything out of your tree. Wondering how to make a topiary tree for the very first time?

Not to worry because it is not even as hard as you may think. First things first, you are going to pick the tree and have the design in mind, knowing very well that your tree or shrub’s size and form will make all the difference.

For instance, a tall, slender tree will make a perfect cone or spiral-shaped topiary tree, while a short and bushy one will naturally form a globe, so there is no need to force shapes out of your trees.

If you are creative and know how to work with sheers, you can style your trees freehand, but most people use wireframes that are in the shape that they desire. It is these frames that go over the tree and serve as a guide for you because you will only be pruning along the outer part of the frame.

As for the vining plants, you will have to wrap the stalks around the wires as they keep growing. You may see gaps in the frame, but the best thing about making topiary trees is that they tend to fill up and take the desired design with time.

Note that pruning usually triggers more growth, so expect to conduct regular maintenance for the tree to retain its shape. Luckily, the more it matures, the less pruning you will have to do.

Real vs Faux Topiary Trees

There is no doubt that topiary trees are the perfect way to create a luxury look for your garden. However, not everyone has a green thumb or the patience for making their own trees from scratch, this is why there are artificial topiary trees being sold in local and online stores.

As a beginner, you can’t help but weigh out the options and see what will work for you.

Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of each.

Real Outdoor Topiary Trees

Here, you will be dealing with actual trees that you plant, care for, and shape on your own. Some homeowners prefer real trees that they can design and redesign as they want while making them fit into the landscape.


  1. Trees, in their truest forms, are naturally beautiful. They are perfect for people who only want their gardens to be authentic.
  2. Having real trees makes the air around cleaner and fresher, whether indoors or outdoors.
  3. You get the satisfaction of planting and personally shaping your trees, it is so fun and rewarding.
  4. In the long run, when the trees start maturing, this is the more cost-effective method.


  1. You may need some advanced skills in order to make the most symmetrical and stunning topiary trees, otherwise, you may have to hire an artist.
  2. Having real trees means regular care and maintenance, so you will have to be hands-on with watering, fertilizing, and of course, pruning.9
  3. Real topiary trees do not really last as long as the faux ones.

Faux Outdoor Topiary Trees

Artificial trees are usually sold for homeowners who need to spruce up their spaces, minus the commitment of caring for a real tree.

There are definitely some ups and downsides to buying faux-topiary trees, so this may help you decide.


  1. You don’t have to worry about maintenance because the tree doesn’t need any watering, pruning, fertilizing, or pruning.
  2. Faux topiaries are never in danger of pests and diseases.
  3. They tend to last way longer than real trees because they don’t rot or start aging with time.


  1. A faux plant doesn’t look as naturally stunning as a real tree. The colors don’t really pop, and you will likely detect the difference.
  2. You cannot rely on them for air purification because the parts of a tree necessary for these processes do not exist.
  3. A common problem when it comes to buying fake trees is that you may end up with one that is made of subpar materials.1 The result is a topiary tree that deteriorates the more it is exposed to the sun, looking old and dull, completely defeating its purpose as a landscaping tree.

Are Faux Topiary Trees Better Than the Real Ones?

While there are real trees that people grow for their landscaping needs, there are also faux ones that are specially designed for various purposes.

They are perfect for when you don’t have the time or are just not able to take care of a real tree. However, they lack the natural beauty of actual topiary trees and will not look or feel the same.

This is why experts will recommend that you go for real plants, but the decision is entirely up to you, knowing that both have their ups and downsides.

What To Look For in Artificial Topiaries

Artificial topiary plants may not be the top choice for many homeowners, but it is undeniable that they also have their advantages.

So, if you want to go in a different direction and buy prelit topiary trees, small topiary trees, or even massive ones, it helps to know more about them first. For one, you want to make sure that the faux tree that you buy looks as close to a natural plant as possible.

The aim is to make landscaping look real, and that cannot happen with a tree with weird colors and designs. Someone has to actually get up close and touch it to know that it is not real.

Therefore, it goes without saying that you have to find a trusted supplier for your trees. They have to be high-quality material, which usually means a heftier price tag, but it will be worth it eventually.

The last thing that you want is to wind up with a tree that looks sick and pale after a while of being under the sun and other elements. You should also go for UV-resistant trees, and if not, you may have to buy a UV spray to help protect them from fading.

Luckily, these trees come in so many design options, and you could easily land one that has the right shape, height, and color that will fit into your landscape or indoors.

Ways To Use Topiaries as Tree Landscape

Topiary trees outdoors will never disappoint. They are the go-to landscaping trees for when you want to add some life and color to your home.

Graphic of applications of topiaries in tree landscaping showing a garden with potted topiaries and other landscaping topiary trees used as privacy screens, wall decorations, garden markers, entryway liners, and focal point.

It helps that there are so many ways that you can style or use these trees for their ornamental features.

  1. Lining up on entryways: One common landscaping style is where property owners plant these stunning trees along paths and entryways.10 They serve as landmarks, and anyone coming in can take in their beauty.
  2. As privacy screens: When you have bushy trees growing around your home, you can easily trim them to make them privacy screens, and pleached trees do such a great job, blocking the strong sun rays and loud noises.
  3. Garden markers: You can use topiary trees to help define your garden. They will also do a great job separating various parts of the property and making it easier to access.2
  4. Decorate walls: Do you know espalier trees?
    Espalier trees grow up a wall with proper hedging, and the same can be done for topiaries. This is an incredible way to add character to your home.
  5. Potted topiaries: If you are a fan of container gardening, then you will absolutely love growing your beautiful trees in pots, using them as outdoor and indoor decor pieces. It is quite common to find various types of bonsai trees and shaped vines as centerpieces on tables and countertops.
  6. Focal points: One way to make a bold statement is to get a massive topiary tree to grow right in the middle of the garden. It effortlessly captures the eye while serving as the main ornamental tree.
    You can even try tree edging around it to make it stand out even more.

Tips for the Best Outdoor Topiary Trees

Topiary trees are no doubt stunning, but it takes some level of skill for the landscaping to come together. So, if you are a beginner, you may want to have some tips and tricks up your sleeve.

  1. Be patient with the tree or shrub selection: Any expert will tell you that the choice of tree is one of the most important landscaping decisions to make. Apart from the looks, you are also going to consider the whole purpose of planting and how long it is all going to take before you see the end result.
  2. Save time by buying prearranged topiaries: Instead of starting from scratch, did you know that you can easily just buy a predesigned plant? Place it in the right spot and just maintain it as it grows.
  3. Pot delicate plants: If you live in a region that experiences the harshest weather, you may have to pot your plants in order to make them more portable, allowing you to carry them indoors and outdoors if need be.
  4. Repot every few years: In the case of potted plants, you will have to repot them with new soil or even bigger containers with time.
  5. Be patient: Time is one factor out of your control and one that will determine how everything works out. You will have to be very patient because some types of trees take as much as three years to take form.

Care and Maintenance of Topiary Plants

Real outdoor topiary trees need some care and maintenance because you definitely don’t want a tree that doesn’t look its best in your garden.11 Here is what you can do to keep your plant happy and healthy.

  1. Watering: Considering how topiary trees grow, rainwater barely makes it to the ground level, and that has serious consequences. This explains why you have to make sure that you regularly water once or a few times a week, depending on the type of plant you are dealing with, and while at it, always direct the water to the base of the tree.
  2. Feeding: Like any other living thing, your topiary trees also need nutrients and fertilizer will come in handy for this, and it is supposed to be a slow-release one. It will definitely show if your plants don’t have enough food, from the weak and pale look to stunted growth.
  3. Pruning: One maintenance aspect that beginners dread when it comes to topiary trees is trimming. But unlike popular opinion, pruning topiaries are not even that tasking; some trees only need pruning once annually.
    The trim is not just to help retain the tree’s shape, but it also helps promote better air circulation and exposure to sunlight.5

Once you start planting trees to spruce up your home, there is no going back. You will love how they bring life to otherwise bare land, adding a touch of luxury and class that you can only find in stately properties.

Topiary trees do this and more, and you can easily tell why they are becoming more and more popular among homeowners.

Did you know that you can actually do it all yourself? Yes, you can grow a tree from scratch and make it a topiary using freehand or just a cage.

The options are limitless, from globes to cones and spirals to animals. You can let your creativity and personal style show right from the choice of topiary tree to how you incorporate it into your landscaping.

If you see stunning intricate topiary trees in luxurious places, know that you can actually do the same for your home, all it takes is a little practice and patience to create stunning landscapes for your home.


1Hannah R. (2021, August 12). Artificial Outdoor Topiary vs Real Outdoor Topiary. Artificial Eden. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from <https://artificialeden.co.uk/blogs/artificial-plants-blog/artificial-outdoor-topiary-vs-real-outdoor-topiary>

2Patuxent Nursery. (2023, June 6). 5 Ways To Incorporate Topiary & Specimen Trees Into Your Landscape. Patuxent. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from <https://patuxentnursery.com/blog/5-ways-to-incorporate-topiary-specimen-trees-into-your-landscape/>

3Install It Direct. (2015, August 25). Tips for Getting Started with Topiaries. Install-It-Direct. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from <https://www.installitdirect.com/learn/how-to-get-started-with-topiaries-tips-ideas/>

4Pearce, J. (2021, October 20). The Ultimate Guide to Topiary. Sutton Manor Nursery. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from <https://www.suttonmanornursery.co.uk/the-ultimate-guide-to-topiary/>

5topiarytrees. (2018, October 7). 7 Expert Topiary Tips and Tricks. Topiarytree.net. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from <https://topiarytree.net/blog/2018/10/07/topiary-7-expert-tips-and-tricks/>

6Kansas State University. (2016, November 23). Boxwood – A Landscape Essential. K State Research and Extension. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from <https://www.johnson.k-state.edu/lawn-garden/agent-articles/trees-shrubs/boxwoods.html>

7Gilman, E. F., & Watson, D. G. (2015, April 20). TAXUS BACCATA: ENGLISH YEW. UF | IFAS Extension. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from <https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/ST624>

8University of Illinois. (2023). Joy in a Container. Illinois Extension | Container Gardens. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from <https://web.extension.illinois.edu/containergardening/topiary.cfm>

9Trinklein, D. (2023). Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs. Extension | University of Missouri. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from <https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/mg8>

10De Aguiar, L. (2020, July 15). What’s your garden style? UF | IFAS Blogs. Retrieved October 15, 2023, from <https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/miamidadeco/2020/07/15/whats-your-garden-style/>

11Pennisi, B. V. (2022, October 10). Care of Ornamental Plants in the Landscape. University of Georgia Extension. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from <https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=B1065&title=care-of-ornamental-plants-in-the-landscape>

12Photo by Vladimír Sládek. Pexels. Retrieved from <https://www.pexels.com/photo/symmetrical-view-of-a-park-with-topiary-10539857/>

13Photo by 12019. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/topiary-yew-tree-landscape-scenic-188006/>

14Photo by waggy147. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/garden-topiary-hedge-652018/>

15Photo by Dean Moriarty. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/topiary-elephant-hedge-leaf-animal-1430224/>