Miniature Garden Plants: Secrets to Success

Our old miniature garden, back in 2007, dressed for Father's Day.

Our old miniature garden, back in 2007, dressed for Father’s Day. The Tompa Spruce was called a dwarf back then, now it’s  called a true miniature, with a growth rate of less than 1″ per year.

Miniature Garden Plants: Secrets to Success

I love it when a great idea comes together…

When I stumbled on to this idea at the end of the last century, (I’ve been dying to use that) I spent the first couple of years killing plants. I thought I could trick plants into doing what I wanted them to do. I thought that just because the plant had small leaves, it would make a good miniature garden plant. But, alas, no.

It was through endless trial and error that I found out what plants “work” best for the miniature garden. Way back then, when I began my quest, there were no books, no websites, no links, not a thing that I could turn to for guidance, to find out what plants to use. So, it was all about buying it and trying it – for years. And I still do it to this day.

Our old miniature garden, today, March 14, 2012. Same plants, same pot, same patio.

Our old miniature garden, today, March 14, 2012. Same plants, same pot, same patio. Just looking a little soggy in the Seattle rain…

You see, creating your miniature garden can be as simple as sending the kids out to the garden to look for small plants. You just know they will come back with the first plant they will find, including flowering weeds and baby plants.

Or, with a little research beforehand, you can create your miniature garden to include reliable and slow-growing miniature garden plants that are tried, tested and true.

The joy of miniature gardening is the blend of crafting and gardening. The crafting part is the creation of your idea and putting together your garden. The gardening part is choosing what plants suit your idea AND growing the plants together as a garden. So, you will want to use the golden rule, “right plant, right place” to find what plants work for the space where you want to grow the garden in. It’s the same rule that you use in the full-sized garden, just shrunk down to miniature. Makes sense, right?

So, here’s a quick list of what’s being suggested as good miniature garden plants on the internet that are not on the old Two Green Thumbs’ list of tried and true plants for well-behaved, miniature garden plants. It’s not that I don’t like these plants – but some would do better in a larger, in-ground miniature garden and some are better for big pots if you must use them, in my humble-but-size-obsessive-opinion. ;o)

OUTDOOR PLANTS

  • Carpet Bugle/Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) – Some varieties are very invasive when planted in-ground in some regions. The Ajuga is more successful in miniature gardens in containers because you can control it, trim back new growth when you see it. (Pictured above, it has “bonsai’d” itself in this pot, but technically the leaves are too big for the tree.)
  • Cranesbill/Heronbill/Storksbill (Erodium x. variabile) – Some varieties seed like crazy! Kinda boring when not in bloom. Use for larger, in-ground miniature gardens rather than pots. When it spreads, it is pretty when it blooms.
  • Carnation Plant (Dianthus) – Kinda boring when not flowering, which is most of the year. I have a hard time trying to figure out when and how to divide this – and disturb the beautiful mound that it grows into. But if it’s not divided, the center of the mound will start to yellow as the weather warms up to summer.
  • French Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – Culinary Thyme looks just darling as a baby in a 4” pot, but it is the ground cover variety that we want – not the culinary type. It’s okay though, we all have tried it at least once. It works great in a fairy garden where scale isn’t a necessity.
  • Golden Oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’) – See above. But the ground cover varieties spread really quickly. The leaves are a bit too big too.
Two inch baby plants being sold as "miniature garden plants' don't work too well.

Two inch baby plants can easily look like “miniature garden plants because they are small and cute – for now. Just wait a month or two.

INDOOR PLANTS

  • (Some) Begonias – A lot of the Begonias look great as baby plants, but look for the more compact, smaller-leafed varieties. Some Begonias grow to an adorable 6” – 8” high, like the Begonia Cleopatra or Begonia Maphil. Begonia partita is a particular favorite. (Pictured below.)
  • Coleus – I know, I know, it’s the COLOR! Lol! But the leaves are just too big and it grows way too fast. Admit it.
  • Creeping Charlie (Pilea nummulariifolia) – Leaf size is perfect, I wish it would grow a lot slower!
  • Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes) – I know it’s the color that we fall for but, keep reading…

Now before you go sending me emails because you found your favorite miniature garden plant on this list, know that we are scale/sized obsessed because that is our job here at Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center. But, if you do stop to think about it, would you plant a huge, fast-growing, big-leafed, pink, polka-dotted bush in your full-sized garden that you would pull out after three months because it got too big?

Or, would you choose the right plant for the right place and find something that will grow AND look good for at least a full year, or a lot longer, like a full-sized garden design?

What works? See the plants in our store to see what we have been using, with success, for years, right here.

An indoor Miniature Garden in the Miniature Garden Office

Begonia partita at right, with a Variegated English Boxwood and a Dwarf Mondo Grass. This is a reasonably well-behaved combination for indoors. The Begonia will be the first plant out grow this garden, unless we trim it into a bigger tree. The angel reminds me of my angel-loving Mom. Find the Boxwood and Mondo Grass up in the online store.

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4 Comments »

  1. Wonderful words of wisdom.. I’ve gone through so many plants that looked cute when I first started. And this has helped me in the big gardens too. Can’t wait for your book Janit.

  2. [...]  List of what NOT to use  [...]

  3. Lorian Rivers said

    One of the things I love about your mini gardens is they LOOK real…you almost can’t tell (in some cases you can’t) they are mini. I see a lot of other sites online that show and talk about mini gardens, but you can tell they ARE a mini garden when you look at them. I’m so glad I found you first….so I could see what it looked like when done right. I am also “scale crazy” and need everyting to seem to be real.

  4. […] https://minigardener.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/miniature-garden-plants-secrets-to-success/ […]

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