Elegant Standard Trees

Standard trees make a bold statement in the garden but can be expensive to buy. With a little patience and the right care you can create your own, as long as the plant has a strong lead shoot.

Tree Shaped Holly

Tree Shaped Holly

Variegated holly, shaped into a standard tree, brings strong color, structure and style to any mixed planting or group of containers.

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Variegated holly, shaped into a standard tree, brings strong color, structure and style to any mixed planting or group of containers.

When to Start: Autumn
At Its Best: All year round
Time to Complete: Initial pruning, 30 minutes

Materials Needed:

  • a variegated holly, such as Ilex x altaclerensis ‘Golden King’ used here
  • large container
  • a stake
  • twine
  • clippers

Assess the Plant

Look at the plant from all angles before pruning. Decide how long you want the clean stem to be and what growth you are going to leave to make up the lollipop top.

View Plants From All Angles Before Pruning

View Plants From All Angles Before Pruning

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Remove Side Shoots

Prune the lowest side shoots from the main stem, but don’t remove all of them at once because they help pull sap up the plant. Once the plant has a round head, you can cut them all off.

Remove Side Shoots

Remove Side Shoots

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Tie and Shape

Shorten the growth left at the top of the plant slightly to encourage it to bush out and form a rounded head. Push a stake into the soil to support the main stem, which will be quite weak at this early stage; tie securely in several places. Trim the head to shape each year.

Globes of Flowers and Foliage

Almost any plant can be grown as a standard, and if you have the time it is worth experimenting to see which work best. Roses are traditionally trained as standards, and are particularly effective grown in this formal way with less traditional mixed cottage-style planting beneath them. The same is true of wisterias. Other commonly grown standard lollipop trees include boxwood and bay, often used for topiary, and decorative evergreens, such as rosemary, Euonymus fortunei, and Photinia. You can also create interesting foliage and structural effects with large deciduous trees, such as acers and oaks, trimmed into standards, as long as you prune them regularly.

Planting Options:
Rosmarinus officinalis (image 1) has silvery growth and looks good rising above a planting of cool whites and purples.

Euonymus fortunei (image 2) provides brightly colored variegated foliage all year round, even in shady corners.

Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ is green all year but produces a flush of bronze-red new foliage every spring.

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