Miniature Garden Plants: Examples of What to Look For

Miniature Garden Plants

The subtle flowers on the barberries flush out with the spring growth.

Miniature Garden Plants:
Examples of What to Look For

It’s that time of year again. The garden is calling but the weather is not welcoming. Gills are starting to grow around my jawbone with all the rain we’ve been having here in Seattle – as I watched a major snow storm cut through the middle of the US, up to Canada and moving north and east this morning – oh wait, look, it’s changed to a severe storm with tornado warnings. Great! Ugh. Does anyone have a magic wand?


Weather be damned!

At least you can start preparing and planning your plantings, eh?

Here are some new trees that we enjoy in our miniature gardens that we’ll use as examples of what to look for. Beware of the “fairy garden plants” that are being sold these days, most of the recommended plants that we are seeing out on the Internet this season will not work out well in the miniature garden. Not all plants are a miniature garden plant! When someone says that, you know they don’t “get” what we do. If you don’t buy from a trusted source that knows about miniature gardening, do your own research before purchasing. Plants are an investment and, with a little diligence, you can find one that will suit your idea AND your growing environment to create a low maintenance miniature garden that is a joy to own.

Points to remember when miniature plant shopping:

  • Look for slow growing plants – example: miniature conifers that grow 1” per year or slow-growing dwarfs at less than 3″ per year.
  • Look for small-leaves with small branches or stems – example: miniature daisies, the leaves AND the flowers are both tiny and stay tiny.
  • Look for plants that can stay small, example, the Jacqueline Hillier Elm is a naturally dwarf tree that can be pruned in the winter to slow down the growth rate even more.
  • Decide where your mini garden will live, then pick the plant to suit that spot. “Right plant, right place.”

Here are some more examples from the online store:

Miniature Garden Plants - Dwarf Wisteria

The Dwarf Wisteria is a perfect miniature-looking shrub with leggy trunks and a feathery green canopy.

Dwarf Wisteria or Millettia japonica ‘Hime Fuji’

This Dwarf Wisteria is not like the full-sized wisteria that we see as huge vines taking over arbors and buildings. We’ve been testing this one for the last 5 years here at our studios and this rare gem is well behaved and low-maintenance. The dwarf Wisteria will eventually grow into a bushy adult plant but, in the meantime, it looks like a shrub in miniature with its bare legs and leafy canopy. It grows much slower than listed here in our Seattle climate. It’s listed as hardy to zone 6 or -10F, but you can treat it as a tropical plant and move it inside for the winter. See more details on the Dwarf Wisteria here.

Miniature Garden Plants - Boyd's Willow

Boyd’s Willow grows slooowly to 12″ tall. The furry gray leaves add a different color and texture to the miniature garden bed.

Boyd’s Miniature Willow (Salix boydii)

A miniature willow for the miniature garden!
 Yeah, I know, it’s just too stinkin’ cute! Boyd’s Willow was discovered in Scotland and grows really slowly to about 12 inches tall. It’s a hardy little gem for just about any miniature garden scene. Round, furry, blue-gray leaves are perched on little gnarled branches. Needs sharp, well draining soil (add sand or extra perlite) and is tolerant of many challenges, including deer, drought, pollution, and salt . The grower has this listed as a zone 4 plant, or hardy to -30F. See more details on Boyd’s Willow here.

Miniature Garden Plants - Silver Fox Hoary Willow

You can tell by the name, Silver Fox Hoary Willow is from Newfoundland. The word “hoary,” means grayish-white. They are just starting to flush in for the spring above.

Silver Fox Hoary Willow

Discovered in Newfoundland, the Silver Fox Hoary Willow will grow slowly and change with the seasons in your miniature garden. The tiny silver leaves are a new texture to add to your scene, they’ll drop the leaves in fall and show off their wonderful yellow stems throughout the winter. The Silver Fox Hoary Willow prefers wet soil or boggy areas and does best in a cool climate. A trusted Bonsai subject too – so we know it can tolerate pruning to slow down the growth rate even further (prune in winter.) Hardy to zone 3 or -40F. See more details on the Silver Fox Hoary Willow here.

Miniature Garden Plants - Golden Devine Barberry

Golden AND devine! The Golden Devine Barberry is proving to be a really sweet miniature garden tree. Turns yellow-er in the sun, more chartreuse in the shade.

Golden Devine Miniature Barberry – Berberis thunbergii ‘Golden Devine’

Yep! We are calling this one “miniature” because it only grows 1 to 2″ per year. The adult size is only 12″ tall and spreads to 18″ but we can keep it trimmed to slow the growth rate down even further. The Golden Devine Barberry has fantastic coloring with the pink buds and green leaf combination. Leaves stay small and it’s a lovely overall shape too – like a typical shrub! Small flowers bloom in the early spring. Foliage turns greener in the shade, or more yellow in the sun – and will get a bit pink in the hot, summer sun – but it is best for a part sun/cool sun spot.
 Barberry’s can be grown in containers or right in the ground. Deciduous, has thorns, drought tolerant once established – perfect for a low maintenance miniature garden. Zones 4 to 8. See more details on the Golden Devine Barberry here.

Miniature Garden Plants - Golden Tourch Barberry

The Golden Torch Barberry flushes out in pink buds in springtime, and will get a bit of pink around it’s leaf edges during the summer. Pretty!

Miniature Garden Plants - Helmond Pillar Barberry

Helmond Pillar Barberry’s berries. It holds on to the berries into the winter, after the leaves have dropped. Flowers in the springtime, red leaves in the summer. Very cool!


Golden Torch Barberry – Berberis thunbergii ‘Golden Torch’


Helmond Pillar Barberry – Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond Pillar’

We group these two barberries together because the only difference we see so far it the color and the growth rate – the Golden Torch is a little slower growing than the Helmond Pillar. Both grow in tall columns, bloom in spring, can tolerate pruning (that will encourage branching,) drought tolerant and oh ya, THE COLORS!! You can’t beat a splash of color for your miniature garden scene. Plant several in a row for a wee hedge.
 Deciduous, has thorns,  hardy zones 4 to 8 or -30F. See more details on the Golden Torch Barberry here and the Helmond Pillar Barberry here.

Miniature Garden Plants - Tom Thumb Cotoneaster

The Tom Thumb Cotoneaster can be kept trimmed into the cutest little ball. The tiny leaves are perfect for your miniature garden. Planted here in the center of the pot.

Tom Thumb Cotoneaster – Cotoneaster apiculata ‘Tom Thumb’

The Tom Thumb Cotoneaster is fun little shrub for the miniature garden. The leaves are tinier than most of the other Cotoneasters and the lil’ Tom Thumb can lend itself to the smallest of settings –  AND he turns color and drops its in autumn too for extra added pleasure. A perfect companion to conifers, it grows slowly (2” to 4” per year) into a low spreading mat that can be kept trimmed anytime but preferable when it is dormant in the winter. Pretty white flowers turn to ornamental red berries by fall. Hardy, rugged, drought tolerant and a pleasure to grow. Hardy to zones 5 to 7 or -20F. See more details on Tom Thumb Cotoneaster here.

Miniature Garden Plants - Thyme-Leaf Cotoneaster

The Thyme-Leaf Cotoneaster shown trimmed into an apple tree form. It will get better and better with age. Flowers in early summer followed by bright red berries for the rest of the year.

Thyme-Leaf Cotoneaster – Cotoneaster microphylla ‘Thyminifolius’

A darling little shrub that we have been searching years for is now available in limited supply. It is highly coveted as a tree for the miniature garden because it can be trained into an apple tree – the cotoneaster berries look like wee apples (but not edible!) Can be trimmed or pruned anytime but preferably in the winter so you don’t cut off the white flower buds that flush out in early summer. The pretty red berries follow and some will hang on until the following spring. Great in pots and loved by bonsai artists. See more details on the Thyme-Leaf Cotoneaster here.

Need plants for your Miniature Garden? We’ve been serving the miniature garden hobby since 2001. Visit our store here. 

Did you know? We can hold your order until you are ready for them! Go ahead and place your order with us and let us know when to ship it. If spring happens sooner than expected, let us know and we’ll ship it – if winter is still hanging on, let us know and we’ll hold them for another couple of weeks.

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  1. Lori Ono said

    I love this article. I live in Tokyo and have really small spaces to work with. I’m getting lots of ideas from this blog. Thanks!


  2. Reblogged this on gwenniesgarden and commented:
    For those who don’t know about miniature gardens yet, they are so cute and need very little space !


  3. Found this from gwenniesgarden and love the idea of mini-gardens. I’ve been working on a series about the tiny little roadside jewels you can find if you just look down at your feet.


  4. […] […]


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