Gardening in Miniature


Best Plants for Miniature Gardens and Fairy Gardnes

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Soon I’ll be up to my elbows in dirt outdoors, cleaning up beds, spreading mulch and planting the first cool-weather veggies. In the meantime, I’m creating and caring for gardens in miniature, the ones that have kept me a happy person all winter indoors.

A planter, hanging air plants, terrarium, and assorted miniature gardens (including a fairy garden) have brightened windowsills and my heart through days of limited sunlight and the occasional snow.  Kids love them, too.

I started with a few small succulents. I found a glass bowl but you can have good luck finding planters or bowls at Goodwill. (Make sure there are drainage holes.)  Add soil. 

Place your miniatures(s) which can be anything from a garden gnome, a ceramic frog, or a small building. I added a miniature house. Any crafts store has fun miniatures or find something from nature!
Then, plant your succulents or small plants. To that, add pebbles or pea gravel.  That’s it!  What a delight in wintertime. 

My first attempt at constructing miniature garden was simple.  I used succulents that needed little water or care. Image: asharkyu
My first attempt at constructing miniature garden was simple.  I used succulents that needed little water or care. Image: asharkyu

Air Plants and Rainforest Drops

Then garden geek friend, Steve Asbell from Jacksonville, Florida, sent me what he calls a Rainforest Drop. He packed a grapevine ball purchased at a hobby store with shredded orchid bark and poked rhipsalis plus a couple of other epiphytes (plants that grow in the air) including a blooming tillandsia , into the ball.  It had a long wire attached, and I hung it above the kitchen sink in an east-facing window.  It’s grown greener and thicker all winter, and I enjoy it every time I go to the sink.

My second tiny garden, with thanks to Steve Asbell, contains air plants stuffed in a ball.  I only water it twice a month!
My second tiny garden, with thanks to Steve Asbell, contains air plants stuffed in a ball.  I only water it twice a month!

I was bitten with the bug, after those two easy successes, and started researching miniature gardening.  I spent two happy afternoons at area garden centers, looking at their plants and accessories, and formulating ideas.  Miniature gardens are trendy, especially fairy gardens.

Fairy Gardens

What are fairy gardens?  I asked my friend Betty Earl, who has written the book, Fairy Gardens.  She say fairy gardens are miniature ones that give the illusion of tiny creatures living in them.  They located in small, secluded parts of the garden and in containers full of miniature plants, structures and whimsical accents.  “Above all,” Betty says, fairy gardens are about letting our inner child out and having fun.”

I had to make a fairy garden after that conversation!

My fairy garden was fairly easy to make.  I love the way she peaks out from the tree to look at the world.

Mine started with ten-inch square container, fast-draining soil, pebbles, moss and a fairy.  An English boxwood, trained into a narrow tree, two pots of silk flowers and a tiny frog soon joined them.  The fairy hides under the low-limbed tree, surveying her world and casts spells upon intruders.  It’s magical!  And, it’s low maintainence.  The English boxwood is slow-growing, thrives in dim light and doesn’t mind being pruned.

Plants Suited for Miniature Gardens

Here’s list of other plants suitable for miniature gardens.

  • Baby tears
  • Blue moneywort
  • Miniature Mondo grass
  • Irish moss
  • Pink creeping thyme
  • Little stonecrop (sedum)
  • Jade tree (train succulent as a small tree)
  • Rosemary (train into a tree)
  • Primrose
  • Creeping fig (it climbs over fences and arbors)
  • Heron’s Bill—pink, white or lavender flowers on a tiny mound of green foliage)
  • Terrariums (miniature gardens under glass) are also a lot of fun. See my colleague’s post on How to Make a Terrarium
About The Author

Doreen G. Howard

Doreen Howard, an award-winning author, is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day. She has gardened in every climate zone from California to Texas to Oklahoma to the Midwest. She’s especially fond of unusual houseplants and heirloom edibles. Read More from Doreen G. Howard

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