How to Make an Ivy Topiary
Whether you choose to make a topiary for a gift or to add to your home or garden, ivy is a fast growing plant that will quickly fill out a homemade or purchased wire frame. A topiary is a classic gardening technique that can be created by using the branches and structure or a tree or shrub or a wire sculpture covered with a long, trailing plant to represent an architectural form. Ivy is a good choice for beginners since it is easy to work with, is easy to care for, and fills in a wire form quickly. Other plants that can be used are philodendron and pothos that have long stems, but with fewer and larger leaves.
1. Purchase ivy at your local garden center or nursery. It is a good idea to use ones in hanging baskets as the stems will be longer and fill more of the form.
2. You can choose to buy a topiary form at a garden center or online, or you can make one out of wire. Galvanized or aluminum wire will not rust and last longer, but you can also use wire used to hang suspended ceilings. The thickness of the wire depends on the size of the shape, but 12 or 14 gauge will support most shapes and sizes. Note: This is the size of typical electrical wire. Use pliers to twist the wire tightly together where individual wires come together. Trim any excess.
Wire Pillar without support legs
3. Make sure your frame has at least two longer legs that can be inserted into the planter. They can be trimmed to whatever length necessary.
4. Carefully remove the ivy from the original pot and divide it into individual plants. There are usually 3 or 4 in each pot but you may need more depending on the size and shape of your topiary.
5. Fill the planter with soil and then the ivy plants. Make sure the pot has adequate drainage; you may need to add some stones in the bottom for weight and water flow.
6. Gather the ivy stems and carefully feed them into the wire form; you may not need to do this on simple forms like circles or hearts.
7. Separate the stems so that you have an equal number on each leg or the form.
8. Start with the longest stem in each group and wrap it around the wire form. After the first stem is wrapped around, select another stem and wrap it around the wire going in the opposite direction. If the stem is longer than the wire, continue wrapping it down one of the other wires of the form. You can use a small piece of twine or floral tape to hold the end in place.
9. Continue until all of the stems have been used. Rotate the topiary to find any bare spots and use the remaining stems to fill in those areas. Trim any hanging stems or loose leaves.
10. Water thoroughly. As new stems grow, train them onto the wire form.
Almost any indoor ivy can be used for this topiary; here are a few to choose from.
Angel Snow –variegated leaves with white, medium growth rate.
Francis – green, medium watering and growth.
Design – narrow leaves, green, medium growth
King’s Choice – very narrow leaves with wiry stems, medium growth
King's Choice Ivy
Gold Baby – variegated with gold edges, medium growth
Jubilee – many dark green leaves, medium growth
Scale is important when making a topiary. A plant with large leaves can overpower a small form as well as mask the shape of the form. Small-leaf ivy will appear dense once it has been wrapped onto the wire form.
You can purchase bare or painted wire form that will last for years.
You can use classic forms such as circles, spheres, obelisks, or pyramids.
Prune the leaves as necessary to keep the topiary tight and compact. Depending on the look you want you can let some of the stems grow out at the base of the container to create a more organic form.
Use a heavy or large container to balance out the vertical form of the topiary as well as lend support to the wire frame; stone or terra-cotta work best.
When choosing a pot, the inserted frame should be about twice the height of the container.
A potted ivy needs good drainage and should never be left in standing water. Allow the upper inch of soil to become dry to the touch before watering.
Ivy needs some sun to grow and prefers the medium to bright filtered light found at the north- and east-facing windows. Avoid direct sun.
Feed once a month with a liquid fertilizer according to package directions. Apply to soil only.
Scale and spider mites are the most common culprits. Keep plant clean by removing dead leaves from soil surface. Rinse the plant with warm water to remove dust when needed. Use an insecticidal soap spray if insects appear.
Ivy grows quickly with proper care and the topiary will lose its shape unless pruned regularly. Use clean sharp scissors or shears and cut off any spray leaves or stems just above where the new branch meets the stem.