Lollipop trees have a round ball of clipped foliage on top of a narrow trunk and are extremely useful in the garden. Also known as standard trees, they look great either side of a doorway and are perfect for patios and balconies, as they take up very little space. You can also use them to create layers of different heights in a border.
Most lollipop trees are evergreen, so they provide interest all year round. However some flowering and deciduous lollipop trees are available, too.
Lollipops are created by grafting a compact shrub on top of a rootstock that has a tall, straight stem. The height and crown size of lollipop trees can vary, from around 40cm high to 1.8m high, with a crown from around 20cm to 80cm. They can be expensive and are relatively slow growing, so buy the largest you can afford.
10 of the best lollipop trees to grow
Bay trees are well-suited to growing in pots and look especially good either side of a front door for a formal look. And of course you can pick a few leaves for use in cooking.
Position: Full sun or partial shade
Privet is a robust, hardy shrub with small leaves that grows virtually anywhere. Several species are available, including Chinese privet (Ligustrum lucidum). It’s a good alternative to box, which can be prone to box tree caterpillar and box blight.
Position: Full sun, partial shade or shade
Holly is a useful, slow growing tree, ideal for topiary as it only needs to be trimmed occasionally to keep its shape. Go for a variegated variety for added interest, especially if contrasting with other evergreens or you want to brighten a dark corner.
Position: Sun, partial shade or shade
Yew makes an excellent lollipop tree as its dark green, needle-like foliage is easily clipped into shape. Grow it in a pot or in a border, where it will bring a touch of formality. It’s a good foil for plants with lighter or golden foliage.
Position: Sun or shade
Portuguese laurel, Prunus lusitanica, has long, shiny, dark green leaves on dark red stems. Small, white flowers are borne in early summer, popular with bees and other pollinators.
Position: Sun or partial shade, sheltered from cold winds
Photinias are much loved for their colourful young foliage in spring. Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ is the most popular, with red young leaves. This is sometimes caught by late spring frosts, so some shelter or protection with fleece is advisable if you live in a cold area.
Position: Sun or partial shade, sheltered spot
Viburnum tinus is a dense, evergreen shrub with dark and oval, glossy leaves, with the added bonus of strongly fragrant, pinkish-white flowers in winter.
Position: Sun or partial shade
Olive trees (Olea europaea) have attractive pale green, evergreen leaves, a slow growing habit and compact size. They’re perfect for urban gardens, Mediterranean-style or contemporary gardens. They may need protecting with fleece in very cold areas when young.
Position: Full sun, sheltered spot
The flamingo tree (Salix integra ‘Hakuro-nishiki’), is a popular dwarf willow, much loved for its flamboyant foliage in spring – a marbled mix of green and white, with flamingo-pink tips. The leaves fade to green in summer and when they drop in autumn, coral-orange stems are revealed. Before the foliage appears again in spring, yellow catkins appear.
Position: Full sun, dappled shade
Euonymus are tough, popular shrubs that are mostly evergreen. Their attractive, glossy leaves come in a range of variegations, including white, silver and gold – especially good for winter interest. Discover the 10 best euonymus plants to grow.
Position: Sun or shade
Flowering lollipop trees to grow
- Bottle brush (Callistemon)
- Crab apple
How to grow lollipop trees
Plant lollipop trees in a loam based, peat-free compost, such as John Innes No.3. Every spring, scrape off as much of the top layer of compost as you can and replace with fresh compost, to give the tree a boost of nutrients.
Feed fortnightly in summer, following the instructions on the bottle or packet. After four or five years, you’ll need to repot your tree into a slightly larger pot. Alternatively, you can root-prune the tree and replant it into the same pot with fresh compost.
Remember that trees growing in pots have less access to water than trees growing in the ground, so you will need to water more often than you would normally.
Most lollipop trees are completely hardy and can survive low temperatures, but olives may need some protection in very cold winters, especially if they are young trees.
How to prune a lollipop tree
Most lollipop trees should be lightly pruned once or twice in summer, to keep their shape and to maintain a dense habit. Use secateurs, not shears, on larger leaved plants so as not to chop leaves in half as you go.