How to Make a Topiary for Your Garden

Topiaries give a garden a classic look and show off meticulous pruning skill. Use simple trimming and staking techniques on a coleus for this DIY topiary.

do it yourself topiary with coleus

Peter Krumhardt

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 weeks
  • Skill Level: Kid-friendly

Topiary is the art of shaping plants into extraordinary forms, but that doesn’t mean creating a topiary must be complicated. Start with the right plant and you’ll have to trim only a few leaves to design an eye-catching topiary standard, or “lollipop.” Most topiaries are perennial plants trimmed and shaped over several years, but fast-growing annuals can also be trimmed into a stylish standard. In just a few weeks, a standard can take shape and hold its good looks all summer. The key is to choose a plant with a naturally strong central stem and attractive foliage—such as an upright coleus with splashy colors—and add sturdy support as it grows. Regular care and feeding, along with an occasional pinch or snip, will keep your standard looking snappy.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Small pruning snips


  • Planter—we used an 8-inch pot—and potting soil
  • Upright coleus with a strong central stem
  • Bamboo stake cut to size
  • 6 twist ties or short lengths of garden twine


  1. plant coleus in planter with soil

    Karla Conrad

    Plant Coleus

    Fill a planting container 3/4 full with potting soil. Plant the coleus in the planter, no deeper than it was in its original pot. Press soil firmly around the roots.

  2. remove leaves from stem with snips

    Karla Conrad

    Clip Off Bottom Leaves

    Starting at the soil line, clip off all the leaves on the bottom two-thirds of the stem. Use a pruning tool rather than just pulling off the leaves to avoid damaging the stem.

  3. supporting coleus stem with twist ties

    Karla Conrad

    Stake the Plant

    Carefully insert the bamboo stake next to the plant stem, pushing it to the bottom of the pot. Starting about 2 inches above the soil line, wrap one twist tie around the stake, then gently around the stem. (The tie should make a figure-8 around the stake and stem.) Repeat the procedure every 2-3 inches up the stem. Reserve the remaining ties to use as the plant grows. Water the plant well and continue to care for it as described on the plant tag.

Related Articles