Growing Standards and Topiaries

A standard or topiary is a woody plant trained to a long, single stem. The stem is crowned with a round head of foliage and flowers. This arrangement is beautiful but requires a little extra effort on the part of the gardener to maintain it.

Staking: To keep your standard or topiary standing, put it out of reach of strong winds and support it with a stake that has a diameter at least as large as the stem's and long enough that when plunged into the pot or the ground it just reaches inside the head. Fasten the standard to the stake at several points with garden twine or green plastic tie tape looped in a figure-eight around stem and stake. Check the ties periodically during the growing season and loosen them if they constrict the outward growth of the stem.

Pruning, fertilizing, and repotting: Maintain the shape of the head with selective pinching of the new shoots (overzealous pinching will prevent the formation of flower buds). Pinch each shoot between thumb and forefinger or cut with pruning shears. Do not shear the plant as though it were a hedge. To keep your plants growing and flowering in summer, we recommend that you water with a water-soluble fertilizer (such as 15-30-15), mixed and applied as directed. If you find that your plant dries out quickly in the container after watering, it probably needs a larger pot. Lift it from its current pot, make four deep vertical cuts in the root ball, and place it in a new pot that is 2" wider and taller than the old one, filling in around the root ball with fresh potting mix. Water thoroughly after repotting.

Overwintering: Most standards and topiaries require special care to overwinter. In cold winter climates, bring them indoors before frost and place them in a cool room with bright indirect light. Water just enough to keep plants from drying out completely, and do not fertilize while plants are in this not-quite-dormant period. Set back outdoors in spring when nighttime temperatures remain consistently above 55°F.

Rosemaries will survive the winter in the ground in Zones 7 and warmer. In colder zones, bring your potted Rosemary indoors in the fall. Cut your Rosemary back by about one-third before bringing it indoors to overwinter. Do not repot it often as this causes shock. Place the plant in a spot that receives a lot of sun but that stays under 60°F. A cool, sunny enclosed porch is ideal. Keep the plant away from heat sources and on the dry side. Do not fertilize.

 

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