Boxwood topiary

Cutting your box hedge into a shape will create a beautiful and unique feature for your garden. Our article explains how to do it step by step.

Overview: boxwood topiary

  • Artfully trimming box bushes is a popular way of creating a feature in your garden
  • Cordless shrub shears and secateurs ideal for shaping
  • Use a wire frame to help trim your boxwood from its original natural shape
  • Maintain the existing ball using a cardboard template
  • Boxwood cuttings can be propagated and planted

The right shape for your boxwood

Balls, cones, spirals... trimming boxwood into 3D shapes has enduring popularity. Topiary, the art of trimming trees and bushes into shapes, is a great way to enhance gardens and terraces. Cutting to shape is also popular in hedge trimming. 

If you don’t fancy ending up suddenly responsible for an entire ornate Baroque garden, you can simply trim a few individual plants or potted bushes into shape and use these as strategically placed features. 

We explain step-by-step how to trim a box bush, and set out what tools you need to do the job.

Potted boxwood on a garden table before trimming into shape

Time for topiary

Depending on the size of the plant, it may take a few years to get it to the size you need. To promote strong growth, you should trim your boxwood during the growing season from May to the end of August. Regular pruning is also necessary for bushes that have already been shaped, with frequency depending on their growth. 

Boxwood should generally be cut back two to three times a year: first in May, then at the end of June, and again in August, depending on how dense you need it to be for the planned shape. With regular trimming and boxwood care, your beautiful topiary is sure to delight you for a long time to come.

Preparation: trimming a boxwood into a ball shape

To succeed in shaping your box bush, you will need the right tools and a few helpful utensils – we explain what you should have ready before starting!

Untrimmed boxwood with tools, including the STIHL HSA 26 cordless shrub shears and the STIHL PG 10 secateurs

Get in shape with the right tools

Boxwood topiary: a guide

We go through two possibilities when shaping a boxwood topiary: using a wire frame to guide you in creating a clean shape from an untrimmed boxwood, and utilising a home-made cardboard template which is ideal for maintaining an already-shaped bush.

How to shape an untrimmed plant

An untrimmed boxwood bush offers wonderful opportunities for shaping. First, we will tell you how to trim a boxwood that has never been shaped.

How to maintain the shape of an existing ball 

Once you have trimmed your boxwood into the shape you want, you should use a template to retrim it regularly, so that it will remain beautiful in the long term. We explain how to do this in the following guide.

STIHL tip: How about cutting a boxwood into a spiral or cone shape for a bit of variety? Use bamboo canes as a frame for a cone shape, tying them together at the top with wire or cable ties to form a tepee. A length of ribbon can make a useful orientation aid when cutting a boxwood topiary spiral shape.

Topiary: the right equipment

Good tools are indispensable for successful shaping. Our STIHL battery shrub shears and secateurs will help you shape any boxwood bush beautifully.

Because our shears are designed for professionals, they are suitable for effortless continuous use – including in shaping bushes in your own garden. The tools are comfortable to hold and ideal for precise, demanding work.

Remember: larger shrub shears are also good for coarse shaping, while handy secateurs with smaller cutting edges are more suitable for fine work.

A woman spraying STIHL HSA 26 cordless shrub shears with STIHL Superclean lubricant to clean them after shaping topiary

You should clean and sharpen your shears regularly to ensure you can enjoy using them for years to come.

To keep cordless shrub and hedge trimmers in perfect condition for years, you should clean the blades with a damp cloth after each use, spray them with STIHL Superclean and allow them to run for a short time – this will make sure that corrosion and sticky plant residues don’t stand a chance.


If you want to use your garden waste sustainably, you can plant the cuttings in damp soil and let them root. This will give you more boxwood bushes for your garden.