How to Create a Simple Ivy Heart Topiary

By Ellen Barredo

(This article was first published in The Gateway Gardener January/February 2009 issue.)

a picture of a heart-shaped ivy topiaryHistorically, the craft of topiary found it origins in Roman times and it was very popular with the Victorians. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to creating your own heart-shaped topiary.

a picture of supplies needed to create a topiary

Materials Needed:

  • A simple topiary form, for this occasion we are using a simple heart shaped form.
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Pliers and small wire cutters
  • Narrow-gauge green spool wire.
  • Oasis floral foam (for bottom of pot)
  • Two 4″ or one 6” ivy plants.
  • A small bag of potting soil.
  • Decorative container to fit the plants with a drain hole and tray.


a picture of a flower pot with oasis material

Step 1

1.   Soak oasis until thoroughly wet and wedge in the bottom of the pot to stabilize the frame.

2.   Wrap sphagnum moss around the form, following up

a picture of making a topiary

Step 2

with green paddle wire to hold the moss in place.

3.   Remove the ivy plants from their original containers and carefully shake the excess soil off the roots.

a picture of creating a topiary

Step 4

4.   Fill the container with potting soil and position your 2 ivy plants close to the base of the form on either side of the frame.

5.   Fill in any voids and carefully tamp down the soil to firm ivy and stand.

6.   Begin to wind the individual strands of ivy up the stem and around the form removing leaves from the area covering the stem.

a picture of a someone creating a topiary

Step 6

7.   On this heart shaped frame you may chose to wind up each side, terminating the strands at the dip in the center or crossing over and continuing down the other side.

8.   In any case, the stem of the frame should always be wrapped in only one direction with leaves removed for a neater appearance.  Perfecting and or maintaining involve more of steps 6, 7 and 8, with attention to the following care instructions!

a picture of someone creating a topiary

Step 9

9.   Water the plant well and top dress the container with sphagnum moss or the decorative material of your choice.

Light Requirements:

  • Most topiary will enjoy a sunny, bright cool spot.  Remember that the angle of the sun will be different during depending on the season.  You will most likely have to move your plant throughout the year in order to fulfill its light requirements.  Turn your plant weekly to ensure even, straight growth.
  • If the area you wish to display your topiary in does not have adequate light you should create two plants.  Display one and place the other in a sunny location, then rotate them weekly.  This situation should keep both you and your plants happy.
  • Over watering can cause root rot and going from a very dry to wet more than a couple of times will cause slow decline. Learn how much the topiary weighs when fully watered. Check the topiary weekly and when it seems lighter in weight, it needs to be watered. One simple way to do this is by submerging the whole pot in water. Leave it for about one or two minutes, but no longer.


To keep its shape, wind the new growth around the form or pinch them back about every two inches or two nodes of growth. Be consistent with this process, monitoring leaf growth every few weeks or so. Be sure to have sharp pruners for this frequent chore. Keep dead leaves picked out for a clean and healthy look.   Misting will provide added humidity during the winter season indoors. Hint….Apply a Spa Treatment and mist with Superthrive. Fertilize lightly during winter with a water soluble plant fertilizer.

Inspect topiaries regularly for pests, especially mites and mealy bugs.  An occasional soapy shower in the kitchen sink will help keep pests at bay.

Thanks to Leslie Sortino of Bowood Farms for helping us with this project!

Ellen Barredo studied horticulture at the St. Louis Community College at Meramec, and is a Missouri Certified Nursery Professional with more than 27 years in professional horticulture. She works at Bowood Farms and can be reached at (314) 454-6868.