How To Grow And Maintain Indoor Topiary: A Complete Guide


Growing an indoor topiary can be as complicated as you want it to be. Depending on the shape and size of the project, even a child can make one. So, how can you grow and maintain an indoor topiary?

Indoor topiary plants regularly grow in pots, with shapes that are fixed in the potting soil. You can train branches or vines to climb the shape and prune them to maintain their overall form. Maintenance tasks include pruning, watering, fertilizing, repotting, and pest control.

Of course, there are more complex projects such as cube topiaries and ball topiaries, which require a bit more work. Yet, you only need patience and a few inexpensive materials for the most basic indoor topiary shapes.

Photo Credit: Deborah Zoe Photography for Les Fleurs, Andover

How To Grow And Maintain Indoor Topiary

Growing and maintaining an indoor topiary plant can have surprising psychological benefits for the owner of the plant. A lot of joy can come from the beauty of the plant itself, and the satisfaction brought by the process. Owning a living sculpture is something truly remarkable, especially if you are the one to sculpt it.

Of course, the level of difficulty varies depending on the project. Try not to bite off more than you can chew. Pick an easy task at first, for a more pleasurable experience.

That being said, let’s take a look at some of the most popular indoor topiary houseplant choices:

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1.    Sphagnum Moss

Ah yes, when it comes to decoration, nature’s carpet must be mentioned. In most cases, the Sphagnum is not used by itself to form the sculpture. Instead, it acts as a substrate for other plants such as coleus, begonias, scented geraniums, and hen and chicks.

Moss acts as a lining, retaining moisture and keeping an optimal acidity balance. It also has several antiseptic properties, fighting pathogens that damage and hurt your plants.

It is possible to purchase pre-shaped frames and line them with moss. Thanks to its carpet-shaped structure, it can take any form.

You should consider that some retailers make a distinction between Sphagnum and peat moss. Peat moss is an old layer of moss, compacted, and pushed down. It decays very slowly, yet it is not optimal for topiary use.

Sphagnum is the freshest, top layer, with a healthy and pleasant green color. Both grow in bogs and humid environments.

How To Create A Sphagnum Moss Topiary

There isn’t much distinction between creating an indoor or outdoor sphagnum topiary, as it requires most of the same materials.

You will need:

  • Sphagnum moss
  • Scissors
  • Access to moisture
  • A screwdriver
  • A clear finishing line
  • A wireframe
  • Other plants (preferably plugs)
  1. A reasonable quality frame is essential and can be purchased either online or at garden centers and craft stores. Before use, soak the moss for about half an hour.  This is enough time for it to become saturated with moisture.
  2. After, begin to place the moss inside the frame. Aim for a very high density as you pack it in. Depending on the frame shape, you might want to start with any appendices like tails, arms, necks, etc.
    Your aim should be not to see the frame anymore. Only by touching the sculpture should you feel its outline.
  3. Check its shape. If there are stray portions that ruin the general silhouette, adjust them with scissors.
  4. Use the clear fishing line to wrap the frame snugly. Make sure to aim for symmetry and an even look. After, make insertion holes with the screwdriver.
  5. Prepare the rest of your plants, making sure they are hydrated. Insert the plugs (if you have them) and hide visible soil by putting moss on top.
  6. If your chosen plant has vines, just clip the runners to the frame using household hairpins. If all goes well, the plant will root into the moss base.

Sphagnum is an excellent base, but you always need to keep it moist. Water it every few days. Also, it does not cede nutrients to the plants so, be sure to fertilize it regularly.

2.    English Ivy topiary

English Ivy is one of the most popular choices for topiary. It can be very malleable and adaptable, as many people use it both indoors and outside. With just a little creativity, you can turn this banal household plant into something truly remarkable.

If you use English Ivy to create an indoor topiary, place the topiary in a well-lit room. Also, make sure that the temperature of that room is not too warm. It is, after all, called English Ivy. It gets its name from a relatively cold place.

The Ivy’s base soil should never be left to dry. Aim for keeping it moist, yet not oversaturated with water. A soggy middle-ground is ideal.

In terms of parasites, you should be wary of spider mites. Do not let the infestation develop in the first place. Stay ahead of any problems by using insecticidal solution every 2-3 months. Application varies depending on the product, so be sure to consult the insecticide’s label first.

How To Create An English Ivy Topiary

You will need the following materials:

  • A topiary frame, available at craft stores and specific markets. One of the most popular shapes is the 36-inch lollipop variant
  • A watering container
  • Potting base soil
  • Liquid houseplant fertilizer
  • English ivy pots
  • Gardening shears, or some sharp scissors
  • Green/teal fishing line or dental floss
  • A large container or pot
  1. Place the potting soil inside the container. Be sure to leave a bit of space between the container’s edge and the layer of soil. About 3 inches should suffice.
  1. Next, it is crucial to fix the topiary frame to the container. Try to bury inside the soil until you are sure that it cannot fall over or dislodge. A few inches should suffice.
  1. Now you can plant the Ivy at the form’s base. Try to arrange the tendrils and vines, ensuring that the longest ones are in proximity to the frame. Now, weave the vines along the form’s length. As you go, secure them with the finish line or dental floss.

The feeding window of the plant should be around ten days. English Ivy is not a pretentious plant, so a general liquid fertilizer is enough to get the job done.

As it grows, you can shape and mold its form. Be sure to clip dead elements of the vines, as it can damage the rest of the Ivy.

This is one of the most beginner-friendly projects, and the results can be excellent.

Picus Pumila - Ideal For Indoor Topiary

3.    Creeping Fig

This plant is a member of the Ficus Family (Ficus Pumila). Its genus hosts some of the most prolific, beautiful, and essential plants in gardens worldwide. There are over 800 types of ficus. Some of these variants, like the Creeping Fig, are viable for an indoor topiary.

Ficus Pumila is not as aggressive as some of its other cousins, and it has an ideal growth pattern for indoor use. It can spread and cover the base of a terrarium, or you can plant it in a pot and see how it spread and overflows from its sides.

I know, I know, we just covered another viney plant in our last entry. What makes Creeping Fig different from English Ivy?

Well, in many ways, they are very similar but Ficus Pumila is much less erratic than English Ivy. Also, it is an excellent climber, resistant to frequent pruning and trimming. Some prefer it for aesthetic reasons, due to its beautiful leaf texture.

Regardless of the form of your topiary, it needs to sit in a well-lit room. Yet the plant must not sit to direct sunlight. Given its tropical and subtropical origins, the Creeping Fig prefers air that is moist and warm.

As its name suggests, Creeping Fig is an organism designed to creep and spread aggressively therefore you will require it to keep a specific shape for your topiary, so it can’t fully expand. On average, you can expect it to live for a few years. Fortunately, you can propagate the plant and replace the old dying one with the newer one.

The biggest challenge for Creeping Figs comes from parasites and disease. Be sure to check it for whitefly, mealybugs, and aphids. If possible, use pesticidal soap to treat any infestation. Ideally, a regular application of pesticides every 2-3 months should ensure that the plant stays healthy.

Creeping Fig is vulnerable to root rot. Do not let it sit in a pool of water, even though it loves humidity. Even-spread, constant moisture is ideal.

Topiaries require very aggressive trimming and an annual re-potting to assure its growth does not ruin the overall shape.

How To Create A Creeping Fig Topiary

You will need:

  • A large gardening pot of about 24 inches
  • Purchase a frame you want it to grow around. It can be either a wireframe which the vines can climb, or a specific shape that takes your fancy
  • Gardening shears
  • Water
  • Insecticide
  • Potting soil
  • Fishing line or twine

The methodology is simple. Put the soil inside the pot then fix the frame or shape inside the earth a few inches deep. Add the Creeping Fig and if you have selected a wireframe, weave the vines around the overall body.

If you have an animal shape, a star, a ball, or any other form that needs to be covered entirely, wrap the vines around it. While doing this, tie them at regular intervals to keep them close to the base to keep the shape.

Regardless of which option you choose, be sure to trim and correct your Creeping Fig regularly.

Hoya Wax Plant

4.    Hoya

Hoyas are nicknamed the “wax plant” because of the looks of their waxy leaves. It has also earned the name “porcelain flower,” as it produces beautiful porcelain-like flowers.

In terms of care, this is not a high-maintenance plant. It is as resilient as it is beautiful.

There are five distinct Hoya cultivars:

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  1. Hoya Keysii

Its pretty leaves have peach-like fuzz on them, making them very pleasant to touch. The leaves are spade-shaped, and its vines tend to climb more than other variants. Try to avoid placing it in direct sunlight, as it prefers humid air and indirect lighting.

  1. Hoya Obovata

Its leaves give its distinctive feature. They are rounder, featuring light speckles and a dark green color. It is very resilient and can even withstand a certain amount of light deprivation. Still, take care not to overwater it, as it can be vulnerable to root rot.

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  1. Hoya Carnosa (Krimson Queen)

Many consider this to be the most beautiful variant. It has a multicolour pattern, including pink, cream, green, and yellow.  Be sure not to overwater it, and keep it in a well-lit room.

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  1. Hoya Carnosa (Tricolor)

One-half of gardening enthusiasts consider the Crimson Prince to be the prettiest Hoya. The other half thinks the same for the Tricolor. As the name suggests, it has three primary colors: white, green, and pink.

Although it is uncommon, it can sometimes sprout white leaves and pink stems. As it is with all Hoya, they prefer high-light, high humidity living environments.

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  1. Hoya Carnosa

The vanilla version of this family certainly has its charm. Its leaves are on the larger side, with the shape of an almond. Its flowers are cream-colored. It thrives in humidity and indirect sunlight.

Regardless of the type of Hoya you select for your topiary, here are a few general tips in regards to its care:

  • Avoid damaging or removing its more extended, thicker tendrils. They are the source of its flowers and leaves.
  • Place it in soil with a high pumice content. This type of soil absorbs extra moisture. And make sure the pot has drainage capabilities. Hoya is extremely sensitive to overwatering, and doing so can cause its root to rot.
  • You don’t have to re-pot them as often as other viney plants. Just remember to re-introduce nutrients through bi-yearly fertilization.
  • You can use stem cutting to propagate them.

There is a large variety of topiaries that can utilize Hoya. The shape is up to you. Considering an indoor environment that lacks space for the topiary to hang suspended, let’s look at a ground-level pot.

How To Create A Hoya Topiary

You will need:

  • A large pot
  • Soil
  • Fertilizer
  • Water
  • Green dental floss or fishing line
  • A frame or shape.

First, fix the shape’s base inside the pot’s soil. Then, arrange the vines on the ground to get an even—distribution on each side/leg of the frame.

After, start moving up the vines, making sure that you cover the shape entirely. Tie them up at the top with the dental floss or fishing line.

If some line is showing, cover it with vines. Check the overall stability and tie it in more places if necessary.

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5. Rosemary

Rosemary is well suited as an indoor topiary plant. It is a plant native to the Mediterranean region, capable of surviving in direct sunlight and low-moisture conditions. Its most delightful perk stems from the fact that it is pleasant-smelling.

It is enough to rustle it to release the scent slightly. It is hardy and adaptable, preferring dry conditions.

For fertilization, use a liquid fertilizer.

How To Create A Rosemary Topiary:

  1. Go to your local gardening section or market, and buy the Rosemary variety that suits your purpose. Try to find a variety with a firm, vertical growth pattern.
  1. Buy a large pot fitted with drainage holes, and fill it with soil that facilitates drainage. Place it on a deep base or place that can catch the resulting drainage water.

Terracotta pots are ideal because they aid in evaporation and can mitigate damage from excessive watering.

  1. Either make a frame from a used coat hanger or buy one. Either way is acceptable. This will provide structural resistance to the topiary.
  1. As you water the Rosemary, its branches tend to get stiffer. Skip a few days of watering to facilitate malleability.
  1. Add the frame to the pot, aiming for a central position. Put each bundle of branches on the twisted wireframe, fixing it in place with florist tape, twine, or twisty ties.
  1. At the top, you can add ribbons or other decorations.
  1. Guide the branches as they grow, training the stems along the wire. Tie them for structural integrity.
  1. Get a pair of secateurs and clip anything that stands out from the targeted round shape.
  1. Check the soil. Only water if the first couple of inches have completely dried.
  1. Always keep it in bright light. Although it can survive direct sunlight, regular exposure is not advisable. Well-lit living rooms are ideal.
  1. You can always move it outside in the summer. Although Rosemary can survive mild winters, its ideal conditions can be found inside.

Rosemary isn’t the only herb that is great for topiary. Check out our other recommendations!

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6. Grape Ivy

Grape Ivy is one of the most house-friendly Ivy variants, as it is fast-growing and resilient. It prefers warm, yet not outstandingly hot temperatures. Anything over 80F will be too much. The preferred range is somewhere between 68-80F. It can tolerate high and lower temperatures than recommended, but those extremes will usually stunt or impede growth.

Grape Ivy is native to Venezuela, and it does not thrive in excessive light. It prefers a low light environment, yet it can survive the drying effects of extreme light if its moisture levels are properly maintained.

A more particular need for this species is soil aeration. It needs a more porous, aerated soil to survive. Compact soil, no matter how nutrient-dense, will kill it. Consider using peat soil and combining it with other calcined clay, bark, or Styrofoam elements. This will provide the earth with two seemingly contradictory properties: water retention and soil drainage.

It should be mentioned that if you are using a slightly-acidic soil, you should raise its PH by adding some dolomite. The desired value should be around 5.4-6.3 PH.

Grape Ivy leaves are beautiful, with a red-tinted underside and rhomboid leaves. For the plant to keep its shiny color, you should fertilize it regularly.

Its flowers are slightly underwhelming, having more or less the same color as the leaves themselves. It can be easy to miss these flowers at first glance.

In terms of pruning, this process is healthy for the Grape Ivy plant. It results in healthier, thicker foliage. While trimming, aim to cut a quarter of an inch over the node where the leaf meets the stem.

This plant can get infested with multiple pests such as thrips, mealybugs, scales, and spider mites. Use an insecticide with relatively low toxicity.

Excessive moisture can also lead to leaf drop, fungus growth, or mildew.

How To Create A Grape Ivy Topiary

  1. Get a plant pot and add the previously mentioned aerated soil. Aim for ceramic or terracotta pots, instead of cheaper plastics.
  1. Purchase or make a topiary form. The form can be a simple arch, a heart, a letter of the alphabet, a number, etc.
  1. Fix the form’s legs/spikes in the soil, and arrange the vines at the bottom. You want to aim for all sides of the frame to get a similar amount of vines. If the shape is an arch, spit in vines in 2 bundles. If the form has tripod legs, split the vines in 3.
  1. Carefully creep the vines along with the frame, if necessary, tying them in place.
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7. Devil’s Ivy/Pothos

Devil’s Ivy, also known as Pothos, is another great candidate for someone’s first houseplant, especially until you get into the habit of watering it regularly. It is very hardy and is relatively low-maintenance. Pothos can thrive in multiple living conditions.

Pothos topiaries can stay in a well-lit room or a slightly dimmer one. It also has a tolerance for both wetter and dryer soil.

This adaptability makes it easier to keep these topiaries in dimmer places such as offices, hallways, and bathrooms. Pathos mature size ranges from 5-10 feet, yet some variations reach 30 feet.

Curiously, Pothos cannot flower in normal conditions; it only does so under the influence of a particular hormone.

If your plant has many variegations, it can be more sensitive to environments with reduced light. These plants will either grow slower or lose the variegation.

The lack of light will increase the demand for more chlorophyll, making the plant greener.

Many people like the fact that Pothos can be kept in both dry soil and water. You can choose to make a standard, smaller topiary, or go for something a bit bigger.

Unlike plants for the Ivy category, it can be harder to get Pothos to cling and climb. Yet, they can be trained to do so, giving the impression of twining. Its vines have a bad habit of getting bundled up and tangled as they grow.

Be sure to regularly check up on your plant, and untangle its vines.

In terms of vulnerability to pests, Pothos is quite lucky; it is left alone by most problems, except for mealy bugs. If an infestation is starting, simply use some insecticidal soap.

When it comes to feeding, this plant is not as hungry as others. Still, you should consider the low quality of moist potting soil. There will always be a need to feed it at least monthly, if not twice a month.

The roots will eventually outgrow the pot, so check for that regularly. If that is the case, upgrade to a larger container.

How To Create A Pothos Topiary

Because the principles of smaller topiary have been covered above, here’s how to install something a bit more substantial.

You will need:

  • A large plastic pot with thick walls
  • Cement
  • One or more metal rods
  • Pot soil
  • A Pothos plant
  • Colored sticky tape
  1. First, pour some cement inside the pot.
  1. Cut the metal rod into whatever shape/length you prefer. Arch-shapes seem to be the most popular.
  1. Stick the rod into the cement, and leave it to try. Be sure to cover the exposed metal length by either painting it or covering it with colored sticky tape. This action will prevent rust buildup.
  1. Fill the pot with soil, and add the Pothos plant.
  1. Like what you would do with smaller topiaries, climb and tangle the plant around the metal outline. Use pieces of twine to tie in in place.
  1. Trim and prune accordingly, to get your desired shape.
  1. If the shape is an arch, you can also hang other things from the metal frame. Christmas globes, lanterns, toys, or any small token can be a welcome addition to your topiary.
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So there you have it, my comprehensive guide to indoor topiary. I hope it inspires you to try working with one of these plants yourself so that you can bring some shapely shrubbery into your home.

Mr X

I'm Jamie and I started TrimHedge to learn about hedge trimming and topiary and share my findings with you. I enjoy the sight of well formed foliage and enjoy helping you keep your hedges in good shape and your borders in order. To find out more about me, visit my About Page.

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