Miniature Garden from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show Container Display, in 2004.
Tripping through the photo archives: A Miniature Garden from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show Container Display, waaaaaay back in 2004. It was the first year of displaying at this show, followed by 9 more years until the NWFGS rearranged itself and no longer had room for miniature gardening. (!) That is a Jean’s Dilly Dwarf Alberta Spruce in the middle, flanked by different Hinoki Cypress. That chartreuse grass in the front, right, is Miniature Sweet Flag.

Miniature Gardening 104: How to Find the Plants

~ We are continuing our beginner miniature garden series to help you get started with this wonderfully creative hobby where you can connect your love of crafting with Mother Nature simply and easily, OR as in-depth as you wish to go.

Some people enjoy this new hobby by having one or two miniature gardens to play with throughout the year, to decorate for special occasions and holiday parties. Some miniature gardeners like to make little worlds for charity raffles, centerpieces for events or to sell for their own miniature garden business.

And other people, like me, are completely obsessed about this hobby and want to continue to deep-dive into every nuance, skill and crafting techniques that this hobby comes up with along the way.

But to get started, you can begin with a little garden big on charm. You can add-on or learn more each season, grow with it each year or plant, replant or change it anytime you like.

But all miniature gardens start with one question: “Where is the miniature garden going to live?”

So, join us for this next installment of our “Miniature Garden 101 Series” that will help you get your fingers a little dirty, your creativity fired up and your imagination dancing with tiny mini garden ideas, morning, noon and nighttime too. :o)

Here are the previous posts in this series, just in case you missed them:

 Miniature Gardening 101: The Dirt (All about soil.)

Miniature Gardening 102: Indoor vs. Outdoor Plants

Miniature Gardening 103: The Water

And now here is how to find the right plants for your miniature garden.

How to Find Plants for your Miniature Garden

This quick step-by-step will walk you through how I recommend finding the right plants for your miniature garden. This is just a basic guide, if you want more information at your fingertips, try our bestselling primer on the hobby, Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World book, available through our online store or on Amazon.

If you really want to speed up your learning curve and take a deep-dive into the hobby, check out our Miniature Garden Society, a private, community website especially for miniature gardeners.

“You don’t have to wait for a season, nor have a reason,
to garden in miniature.”

Janit Calvo

So, here are a couple of examples to step you through the decision-making process so you are NOT overwhelmed nor under-informed which often leads to buying too many plants at once with not having a place to plant them.

Are you growing a mini garden outdoors?
1. – where will the garden be outdoors? (Plant in spring or fall.)
2. – in a container or in the garden bed? (Plant anytime.)
3. – what kind of light does the spot get? Full sun? Part sun or shade?
4. – what planting zone are you in? (Every plant has certain zones that they can be grown in. Banana Palm Trees can’t tolerate the winters in Wisconsin. Alberta Spruces won’t like the long, hot and dry summers in Texas.)
5. – if in-ground, what kind of soil do you have? (<~Your local independent garden center is your best place to find out if your soil needs amending but here’s a blog on the basics to get you going.)
6. – if in a container, ICYMI, here’s more on the right soil for pots.
7. – choose your plants with these answers in mind but keep their watering requirements similar for the best success.

A Couple of Miniature Garden Examples

Baby Boxwood in the Miniature Garden
A Baby Boxwood in an indoor miniature garden with Golden Baby Tears on the left and Dwarf Mondo Grass on the right.

And Indoor/Outdoor Miniature Garden: The tree is a baby English Boxwood Tree with Golden Baby Tears on the left and Dwarf Mondo Grass on the right.

This miniature garden can be grown in regular potting soil, with a regular watering schedule. Let the soil dry out until wrung-sponge-damp in between waterings to prevent overwatering. (Stick your finger 1” down into the soil to test it.) The soil should never dry out completely.

When growing Boxwoods indoors, provide plenty of light. There are indoor grow bulbs available that fit into regular lamps, find them at your local hardware store or online.

The plants in this garden can also be grown outdoors, in a part shade/part sun spot and it’s hardy to 0F. (The Baby Tears and the Dwarf Mondo Grass are the most-tender, the Boxwood is hardy to about -20F.)

A Tiny Miniature Garden: The Way to Oz
A tiny Miniature Garden I call The Way to Oz. The small, Roly-Poly Hen and Chicks, a succulent-type plant, are the perfect little plant for an easy growing garden. A mini-mini garden is the PERFECT little hostess or thank you gift that you can personalize for any occasion!

A Tiny Outdoor Miniature Garden – Look for small Hens and Chicks when shopping. Small-leafed sedum cuttings make awesome tiny miniature garden plants for your teenie tiny pots or a small garden like this one, shown above.

All sedums and succulents love sharply drained soil because their roots don’t like to be wet all the time. (Sharply draining soil is soil that is normally peppered with white bits of vermiculite throughout the soil-mix.) The soil for most sedums and succulents need to dry out between watering to prevent over-watering. If you water this type of dry-loving plant too much, the roots will rot and it’ll be a big ol’ mess.

But if you’re getting into weird and wonderful tropical succulents, note the watering requirements first as some of them need different care. Group group the plants together according to their water-needs for an easy-care garden in miniature.

Shop Miniature Gardens with Two Green Thumbs
A bird’s-eye view of our in-ground miniature garden. The trees, from left to right, clockwise: Little Heath Andromeda (Pieris japonica,) Nana Hinoki Cypress (top,) the Elf Dwarf Spruce and a Variegated Dwarf Euonymus.

And In-Ground Miniature Garden for Zone 5 – Little Heath Andromeda (Pieris japonica,) Nana Hinoki Cypress (top,) the Elf Dwarf Spruce and a Variegated Dwarf Euonymous line the path that’s about 4 feet long. The small-leafed ground covers weave together to make up the understory.

Note that for any kind of garden, full-size or miniature, it’s about the journey – NOT an event. Your garden will not stay exactly as you planted it. So if you are planning to grow a miniature garden, please realize that it will grow and change throughout the year.

THIS is where the adventure is: changing out new plants for over grown ones, swapping plants out with more like-able or new-found-plants and learning as you grow. Large or small, all plants have a dormant period and all plants will grow – it’s the slow-growing ones that we like for our gardening in miniature.

Shop Two Green Thumbs

Now Go Get Your Plants!

We would suggest your local, independent garden center or nursery but alas, for most of these stores, miniature gardening was a trend that is now gone. Unfortunately they didn’t realize people like us are actually enjoying it as a hobby.

SO, if they don’t know about miniature gardening, ask for slow-growing plants, small leafed perennials,  low growing, dwarf, miniature, baby or young plants. (Note that the words, ‘dwarf’ and ‘miniature’ refer to the growth rate, not the plant.)

Also note that if you only ask for “miniature or fairy plants” you will more than likely get the wrong suggestions for you. Again this is unfortunate as most of the regular garden centers never stopped to learn about our hobby. (They won’t tell you but I will.)

HOWEVER, we have you covered! You can find the RIGHT plants from your favorite online Miniature Garden Center Store. We have them divided up into three main categories, by indoor, sun, shade and zone.

Find the RIGHT plants for your miniature garden here.
Shop by your zone or your light. 

When you get there, you’ll find that all our plant listings have the growth rates, zone information and growing details. In each plant listings, there is a little summary on why we like to grow them in our miniature gardens. We’ve been seriously growing miniature garden plants since 2001 and we have found a nice selection of reliable plants that don’t take a lot of maintenance to grow – just water how they like to be watered and offer them little love every now and then!

Snail at the Miniature Garden watering hole.
Tripping through the photo archives: You can lead a snail to water… Random acts of cuteness may appear in your miniature garden at any time! Have your camera ready to catch it.

Up Next: Miniature Gardening 105: Miniature Garden Design

See what all our miniature garden plants are up in our Two Green Thumbs’ Garden Center store here. We’ve been specializing in offering the RIGHT plants for gardening in miniature, since 2001.

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