General gardening topics

Best plants for topiary outside the front door

Last updated on April 6th, 2022

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There are many ways to make the outside of your home a stunning display and one such way is by using topiary plants to bring your front door to life. Topiaries are plants, often evergreens that can be formally clipped in such a way as to add symmetry, shape, or structure. Topiaries can be crafted like a hairstyle, cut and trimmed the way you want whenever the mood strikes. But what plants work well in a topiary, particularly ones you put right outside your front door?

You can buy topiary plants already trimmed into elegant spirals, cones and balls with the two most common types being Bay trees which are also known as Lauralis noblis, and Buxus commonly known as box plants.

Below is our list of the best plants for front door topiary displays starting with the very popular and easy to care for Bay Tree.

1. Lauralis noblis – Bay Tree

One of the most commonly used plants is this one. It is commonly known as a Bay Tree and is the same Bay plant you might also find in your kitchen. From this topiary come the bay leaves you toss in your dishes for a delicious flavour. Infused in the leaves are rich scents that will welcome your guests as they arrive at your front door.

They can be shaped and pruned into spheres, pyramids, cones, or lollipops. If you opt for this plant, make sure the location you decide upon for its home is not an exposed area because the cold wind can damage the evergreen foliage. 

It’s worth noting that although they are hardy in very cold winters it can be worth bringing them indoors into either a greenhouse or conservatory during this time. If you cannot bring them indoors then make sure you invest in some fleece to cover the plants in very cold weather.

2. Buxus – Box Plant

If you prefer the quintessential rounded, box shape, this is the plant for you, however, they can also be purchased in the shape of cones and spirals, nearly any shape you can think of. More suited to formal gardens or topiaries, these can be neatly cut into a formal structure. This plant is susceptible to blight, but you can counter this by ensuring good airflow where you plant it.

You will have a lot of fun with the shapes, neat and tightly cut, and your guests will enjoy the wafting scent as they enter your home. Buxus is a little hardier compared to Bay Trees and doesn’t need to be protected the same in cold weather. The shelter of being next to your home is usually enough, but don’t forget to water them when needed.

Box (Buxus) Shrub Pyramid Topiary 45-50cm Tall
  • A garden classic, perfect for decorating doorways, gates, pathways or adding evergreen structure
  • These perfectly shaped Box Topiary (Buxus) pyramid cones are easy to maintain - trim twice a year
  • Great in modern pots and containers - zincs, ceramics, or just classic real terracotta
  • Or plant straight into garden soil, where they are more tolerant of full sun than in pots.
  • Supplied as a pair of trimmed BuxusTopiary pyramid cones 45/50cm tall from the bottom of the transportation pot to tip of cone.

Learn how to plant Buxus topiary into pots following our step-by-step guide here

3. Prunus lusitanica – Portuguese Laurel

This plant is commonly known as the Portuguese Laurel and it is known for its fast growth rates. It is part of the laurel family but has smaller leaves, similar to that of Bay Trees and you will be pleased to know it’s very hardy, even in harsh winters.

You can have a lot of fun with this one if you are not sure how you want your topiary to be shaped, or if you want it shaped in different ways when the mood strikes. It will grow so fast that you can cut it all the time, train it around other objects, and so on.

Really, it needs major pruning twice per year which is double that of most topiaries, and you can encourage faster growth with extra fertiliser in the spring. The leaves are a rich, green colour with a rich gloss to them. 

4. Photinia ‘Red Robin’

photinia red robin new red growth
Photinia ‘Red Robin’

This is a fast-growing plant with large leaves, bright red when young before maturing to green and produces white flowers. It is commonly sold as a shrub to use as a focal point and even as hedging. However, it also makes an excellent topiary plant.

It is a very relaxed choice, more suited to informal gardens. You can, of course remove the flowers and keep it trimmed to just the leaves if you so choose. If you do use it as a topiary plant you usually never see the flowers because they get trimmed off before they even appear but you will receive a fantastic show of bright red foliage.

YouGarden Photinia 'Little Red Robin' Standard Tree 1M tall
  • A perfect evergreen (well ever-red really!) for year round colour and impact on a classic shape
  • Photinia is a very tough and hardy shrub, and this new selection 'Little Red Robin' is perfect as a standard
  • New Spring shoots grow brightest red for a truly magucal appearance, fading to burgundy red and green
  • Perfect in large pots on the patio or as feature plants in a border
  • Supplied 0.8-1m tall inc pot in a 3L pot, ready to plant out all year

You can’t go wrong with any of the topiary plants mentioned above but Buxus and Bay trees are our personal favourites, so find the plants you like best and start trimming until the display is perfect.

Ilex Topiary

There are a few other plants that can be used as topiary, which include Ilex (commonly known as Holly), varieties such as Gold King are popular with their golden variegated leaves.

Standard Holly Tree for Gardens & Patios, Attractive Evergreen Producing Red Berries in Winter, 2 x Holly Green Alaska (Ilex) 2 Years Old Standard Plant by Thompson & Morgan
  • Holly ‘Green Alaska’ (Ilex) standard shaped tree ideal for patios and gardens, with glossy evergreen foliage and bright red winter berries.
  • This easy-to-grow and low-maintenance standard tree is resilient and hardy, thriving in most conditions. A great choice for small gardens and patio containers.
  • This evergreen variety adds year-round interest the garden with its dense green foliage. It looks great at Christmas when it will be covered in traditional red holly berries.
  • Potted garden plant; Supplied as 2 x Holly ‘Green Alaska’ (Ilex) Standard Tree, 2 years old and up to 1m tall (From bottom of pot to top of stem). Supplied with T&M's very own cultural instructions on how to care for your plants.
  • Your satisfaction guaranteed; we want you to be 100% satisfied with any product you buy from us. If you’re not 100% happy then neither are we, so let us know and we’ll replace your product or give you your money back.

Also, consider the standard Salix Flamingo that is frequently used as a standard with a ball on top. They need plenty of water and will dry out and shrivel up quickly without enough water.

YouGarden Salix Hakuru Nishiki Standard Plants
  • Striking spring tree with pink-leaves erupting into colour every year, fountains of colour
  • The leaves are an combination of green cream and powder pink, hence its common name flamingo willow
  • They are in a standard lollipop form, a clear stem with a ball of colour on top, skilfully grafted on
  • Totally hardy, this low maintenance plant is an ideal to add height to gardens or in pairs in large pots for a more formal look
  • Supplied about 1 m tall pots, they are dormant between October and March, so have no leaves

Last update on 2022-03-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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