How to make a box ball

Do it:

Jun, Jul, Aug, Mar, Apr, May, Dec, Jan, Feb, Sep, Oct, Nov

Takes just:

one hour

Shaping topiary is a fun and inexpensive way to create year-round interest in the garden. These plant sculptures contrast dramatically with flowers in summer, and bring structure, style and form to winter gardens.

If you haven't tried topiary before, making box balls is a great way to start. Box is the ideal topiary plant, and a simple sphere will allow you to try out the basic techniques and see the results quickly. Simply buy a tray of rooted cuttings and follow our instructions. It will take around two years for your ball shape to fully develop.

Find out how to create more topiary shapes, in Alan Titchmarsh's feature in the November 2011 issue of Gardeners' World Magazine, on sale now. Alan explains how to make a range of shapes, including cones, clouds and birds, and offers advice on the best plants to use for each style.

You will need

  • Rooted box cuttings
  • Ornamental pot
  • Hand shears
  • Loam-based compost


Pot your cuttings up individually into 10cm pots, giving them a light initial trim with scissors so they grow bushy from the base. Stand the pots outdoors or in a cold frame and keep the plants well fed and watered for maximum growth.

After about two months, the new plants should have rooted fully. Move them into a large decorative pot, filled with loam-based compost. Space the plants fairly closely, so they knit together as they grow, and pinch out the shoot tips to promote dense growth.

Water the plants and apply a liquid feed regularly, so they grow steadily without the leaves going brown. Trim little and often through the growing season with scissors or shears - remove just the tips once new growth has added 2-3cm to the outline.

Within two or three years, you should have a decent-sized sphere. It is essential to feed and water the plants regularly once the pot is full of roots. After two years, top-dress the pot every spring or repot into a larger container using loam-based compost, plus some slow-release feed granules to maintain good growth. By then, a twice-yearly trim with shears should be enough to keep the topiary in good shape.


Hand shears make the best tools, as they provide you with the most control.

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