By Keri Byrum
Whether you are limited on space or just looking for something new, miniature gardens offer a great way to get creative. Use some of your favorite plants and build a conversation piece for your porch, deck, or balcony. A tabletop garden helps show off these miniature plants and their unique shapes in a setting that suits their small size.
Select a wide but shallow container. Succulents do not grow a deep root system, and the shallow container keeps the garden lighter than a deep bowl. Many options meet this need; terra cotta, ceramic, and plastic containers are all suitable.
Select succulents with a mature size less than 6 inches tall. The smaller size keeps the miniature garden proportional to the container and lasts much longer. Very rigid or angular succulents look out of place.
Instead, to enhance the effect, look for three to five plants without many spines and with a curving or sealike shape. The plants here include four “mimicry plants.” Because of their tiny size, they can be hard to use in the landscape, but they are perfect for this project. Shown, left to right: Anacampseros rufescens, Titanopsis calcareum, Gasteria aristata.
Planting and Care
When adding soil, make sure to add some hills and valleys to simulate the undulating ocean floor. Plant the succulents in a random arrangement, avoiding straight lines and a design that appears too formal or planned. Lightly press the soil around the succulents to maintain the topography and secure the plants in the soil.
Extra touches make the difference when creating the undersea effect. As the top-dressing sand enhances the look, spread it about ¼ inch deep around the succulents. I found that after adding the sand to the miniature garden, there was still something missing to pull together the design. So I started looking for the final pieces.
These small glass beads add “water” to the garden. I used them informally and mixed them in and around the plants. Seashells are a must because they add the finishing touch to this under-the-sea succulent garden.
All the succulents used here require water approximately every two weeks, and even less frequently during cooler winter weather. These plants grow well outside and appreciate some protection from intense afternoon sunlight. I placed my miniature garden on a small table on our front porch. It gets very bright, indirect light and protection from heavy summer rains.
This undersea succulent garden is a fun way to grow small and unusual succulents in a unique way. Don’t be surprised if friends ask if the plants are real. I’ve even seen our busy letter carrier stop and take a look, trying to distinguish these amazing plants from their background.