Instructions for Creating Spiral Cut Topiaries

Written by melissa busse
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Instructions for Creating Spiral Cut Topiaries
A small, potted conifer tree is ideal for creating a spiral topiary. (garden image by Horticulture from

Spiral topiaries always attract attention, and they make an eye-catching addition to gardens, walkways and public parks. These greatly-desired topiaries are available from many higher-end nurseries, usually for a hefty price. However, although their spiral patterns may appear complex, spiral topiaries can be created easily by anyone who has access to a few simple supplies.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Spool of string
  • Small conifer tree
  • Pruning shears

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  1. 1

    Attach the string to the top of your conifer tree, using a tight knot to ensure it stays in place. Wrap the string around the tree as if you are tracing over a candy-cane's stripes.

  2. 2

    Step back and observe the placement of your string from all angles. Move the string around until you have created the ideal spirals on your tree.

  3. 3

    Cut a thin line out of your conifer tree using your pruning shears, following the line of your string and cutting away from the foliage directly beneath. You should be left with a thin line of cut-foliage that will serve as your pruning guide.

  4. 4

    Follow the pruning guide starting at the top of the tree and working your way down, cutting away foliage and branches that sit directly above the guide. Eventually, you will notice a spiral-shape forming.

  5. 5

    Continue trimming the tree, following your previous clippings, until the spiral-shape is complete.

Tips and warnings

  • It is fine to cut branches all the way down to the base of a conifer, since these trees are very hardy.
  • Early summer is usually the best time to prune your topiary, because this is the time your tree's new spring growth is hardening off. When you trim your topiary, simply follow the spiral pattern of the tree.
  • If you prefer for your topiary to stay the same height, cut the top of it when it begins to grow. If you would like your topiary to grow taller, allow it to grow tall enough that you can continue the spiral pattern.
  • Spiral cut topiaries do not need any special care besides trimming, so continue caring for your topiary as you would any other conifer.

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