Create a Peaceful Space with Miniature Gardens

Miniature terrarium created in less than 30 minutes as a family activity
Miniature terrarium created in less than 30 minutes as a family activity | Source

Copyright 2012 - Kris Heeter, Ph.D.


The therapeutic use of plants has been an ancient art that dates back for centuries.

The medicinal and therapeutic use of plants is often associated with their chemical properties. The use of teas, tinctures, and essential oils derived from plants has been common in Eastern medicine and has become a more common practice in an alternative medicines in the Western culture.

In recent decades research has confirmed what some Asian cultures have known for centuries: plants can be therapeutic on a much larger and different scale.

Plants and gardens have been recognized as being an important component in promoting emotional, mental, physical and intellectual well-being.

As a result, the field of “horticultural therapy” and the practice of creating relaxing garden spaces has become a common healing modality.

Creating a peaceful space can be done outdoors or indoors and can be an easy project for both kids and adults.

Something as small as a miniature indoor garden can have profound positive affects on day life and health.


Benefits of creating indoor plantscapes

There are a number of personal benefits to engaging in and creating one’s own indoor garden for both adults and children alike:

  • It is an activity that brings enjoyment
  • It can be a relaxing activity
  • It allows for creative expression
  • It creates stimulation for the senses
  • It promotes a sense of accomplishment and productivity
  • It can improve mood

In addition, it’s been show that those that actively engage in gardening activities, creating indoor or out plantscapes, are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who have more passive interests (e.g. watching television).


Health benefits of plants

Indoor plants can provide a number of health benefits both in the home and the workplace.

  • Plants improve indoor air quality by removing indoor pollutants (e.g., formaldehyde from new carpet, and benzene from inks and paint).
  • Plants can increase worker productivity
  • Plants produce a sense of tranquility
  • Viewing natural settings and gardens can lower blood pressure and reduce muscle tension.
  • The presence of plants and viewing gardens has been show to reduce the recovery time of patients in hospitals


Series of Step by Step "How-To" Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Steps 1 and 2 - Start with a base of loose pebbles and activated charcoal Step 3 - Add potting soil to cover the bottom third of the fishbowl Kids LOVE to play in the dirt Step 4 - Once the soil is added, make holes where plant cuttings will go Step 4 - continued: Add plants - here we've added a fern, a baby spider plant, and a small red leafed plant Step 5 - Optional - add shell and small accent rocksChoose an appropriate indoor space to display your garden.  Here we added our miniature garden to a background of other potted indoor plants.
Steps 1 and 2 - Start with a base of loose pebbles and activated charcoal
Steps 1 and 2 - Start with a base of loose pebbles and activated charcoal
Step 3 - Add potting soil to cover the bottom third of the fishbowl
Step 3 - Add potting soil to cover the bottom third of the fishbowl
Kids LOVE to play in the dirt
Kids LOVE to play in the dirt
Step 4 - Once the soil is added, make holes where plant cuttings will go
Step 4 - Once the soil is added, make holes where plant cuttings will go
Step 4 - continued: Add plants - here we've added a fern, a baby spider plant, and a small red leafed plant
Step 4 - continued: Add plants - here we've added a fern, a baby spider plant, and a small red leafed plant
Step 5 - Optional - add shell and small accent rocks
Step 5 - Optional - add shell and small accent rocks
Choose an appropriate indoor space to display your garden.  Here we added our miniature garden to a background of other potted indoor plants.
Choose an appropriate indoor space to display your garden. Here we added our miniature garden to a background of other potted indoor plants.

Planting a small indoor and outdoor mini-gardens

Creating a miniature gardens can be very simple and provide aesthetic qualities and can turn a small space into relaxing environment. Small container gardens are easy put together.

The pictures below represent a step-by-step view of how to create a miniature terrarium. This was a fun activity that both adults and kids and engage in together.

Starting materials:

  • A suitable container (here we used a fish bowl obtain through a thrift store)
  • Small rocks
  • Charcoal (available through any pet store in the aquarium aisle)
  • Potting soil
  • Small plants or cuttings from existing houseplants
  • (Optional) Shells or large rocks for ornamental

Wash the container carefully with warm soapy water and rinse. Then follow these simple steps:

  1. Rinse small rocks and place a small layer in the bottom of the container.
  2. Rinse a handful or two of charcoal under cool water (this activates he charcoal - see extra note below) and layer it on top of the small rocks
  3. Place some good quality potting soil on top. In this case, we brought it up to fill the bottom third of the bowl.
  4. Choose two or three small plants or cutting and place in the soil – spacing them apart.
  5. (Optional) – add decorative shells or rocks. Here we added shells that our kids had collected from a beach in Chicago and a beach in the Philippines.
  6. Water gently with either filtered water or tap water that has sat in an open container overnight (tap water is often treated with chlorine and ideally that should be allowed to off-gas).

Water frequency will depend upon the type of plants chosen, the indoor temperature levels, and the indoor humidity levels. Given that those ten to change with the season, water frequency may need to change as well.

If plants get to big, they can either be cut back, divided or removed to a bigger container.

NOTE: The charcoal serves as a natural water purifier. It helps prevent bacteria and fungus from growing as water collects at the bottom of the terrarium. It's needed for those miniature gardens that thrive on moisture.


3 miniature glass gardens  (5-6 inches tall)
3 miniature glass gardens (5-6 inches tall) | Source

Good indoor plants for miniature terrariums

Tropical plants are great for indoor glass containers, fishbowls or old aquariums converted into terrariums.

Some plants to consider:

  • Small ferns
  • Small spider plant “babies”
  • Coleus
  • Ivy
  • Dragon Tree Dracaena
  • Moss
  • Miniature Palms
  • Carnivorous Plants (e.g., Butterwort, Pitcher Plant, Venus Fly Trap)


Succulent Miniature Garden - Day 1
Succulent Miniature Garden - Day 1 | Source
Succulent Miniature Garden - 6 weeks after planting -  "baby toes" in bloom
Succulent Miniature Garden - 6 weeks after planting - "baby toes" in bloom

Gardening with indoor succulents

Succulents and semi-succulents are also suitable for creating indoor miniature gardens.

Succulents are ideal for those that don’t want to be bothered by frequent watering.

The growing medium or soil is courser and should provide good drainage. Pre-mixed cactus and succulent soil is usually available at most gardening centers. Succulents prefer dry soil, usually sunny windows and infrequent watering.

Some semi-succulents to consider are:

  • Peperomia
  • Kalanchoe


Some examples of succulents to consider:

  • Crassula
  • Sempervivum
  • Aloe
  • Jovibarba
  • Haworthia
  • Echeveria

The succulent garden shown on the right contains Crassula mesembryanthemoides, Crassula marginalis rubra "variegata", Echevera subsessilis, and "Baby Toes" among a few other succulents.



Small fishbowl terrarium made as a family project
Small fishbowl terrarium made as a family project | Source

Have fun and enjoy the creative process

There is no right or wrong way to create your miniature garden. You can't make a mistake and if something does die, don't worry, it can easily be replaced.

There are endless possibilities. Don't be shy about trying different containers and grouping different plants together - think outside the box and have fun!

This can be a wonderful personal and meditative activity as well as a fun family activity.


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Comments 17 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Very nice Kris; excellent suggestions and ones I completely agree with. We need peaceful places in our lives and they certainly do not have to be large to succeed. Great job!


vox vocis profile image

vox vocis 4 years ago

Succulents and semi-succulents sound like the right plants for me. I'm off to water the ones I have at home - keep forgetting to do that regularly :( Interesting hub!


picklesandrufus profile image

picklesandrufus 4 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

These are some lovely gardens. Good suggestions. Like you, I love having plant life around me. Nice and helpful hub.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Awesome, creative and a fun hub. Plants and their various parts have had beneficial effects on the mind, body and soul in traditional therapies.

Loved the excellent pictures that go with creating the indoor garden.

Voted up, useful and awesome. Shared it.


Mama Kim 8 profile image

Mama Kim 8 4 years ago

I adore the fish bowl terrarium! This is a great hub! I have a lot of plants inside and out but I've never planted in a fish bowl before. I have a couple collecting dust that I'm going to have to use right away ^_^ What is the purpose of the charcoal?


ishwaryaa22 profile image

ishwaryaa22 4 years ago from Chennai, India

A helpful and delightful hub! I totally agree with you about various benefits of plants at home. Your ideas of creating a minature indoor garden are cool. Your instructions are clearly explained with helpful photos. Your terrarium and succulents ideas are smart and economical. Your photos looked very attractive. Well-done!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome, Beautiful & Interesting. Voted up


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina

What a great hub. I like the fact that you included health benefits of creating indoor and outdoor gardens.

I also like the suggestion to include children in the creation of a garden as it helps increase their appreciation of nature.

Voted up across the board except for funny.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@picklesandrfus and @rajan jolly - thanks for commenting. Rajan, I had a fun time making these mini gardens with my family and the kids loved having the pictures taken to document their final masterpiece!


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@Mama Kim 8 - that's a great questions and one I should address in the article! The charcoal helps purify the water when it drains to the bottom so that it doesn't start to grow unwanted bacteria or fungus.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@ishwaryaa22 and Happyboomernurse - thanks for the votes and sharing! I had a fun time writing this hub. I have one more photo to add....one other terrarium we made that day in a smaller fishbowl. I'll try to get that up soon!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Hello Kris -- Very nice hub. Wish I had read something like this when my boys were still at home. Hope you are having a good weekend. :)


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

This looks like fun! I might have to make one myself! But I'm definitely sharing this with my sister, who likes this sort of thing! Voted up!


Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 4 years ago from Somewhere in Asia

Everyone finds the outdoors relaxing. A walk in the country, or some time sat in your garden can do wonders. So, why not bring it indoors with miniature gardens. This would be perfect for those restricted to working in cities and living in apartments.

Up, awesome, useful, shared, tweeted and pinned.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@Brett.Tesol, phdast7, and internpete - thanks all for stopping by and adding to the discussion.

I agree with Brett, these are wonderful for city dwellers and those living in apartments. And for those of us cold and snowy winters, theses little gardens are a great "pick me up".

We just added a carnivorous plant to one of the terrariums and are having fun watching it catch tiny flies!


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

You know I agree with you that plants can be relaxing. My mom likes to garden as a way to relax. I like the points you discuss here and am glad you found me on HP so now I can follow your hubs too!


Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 4 years ago from The North Woods, USA

I wrote a hub on my terrarium experience, so am always interested in other perspectives and ideas on the topic. I'm so glad I hit on this one.

There's nothing quite so peaceful and relaxing as having a bit of nature indoors. I love these little oases of life that you've created in such interesting containers. Wonderful photos as well.

Voted up, useful, beautiful, and interesting


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@Faceless39 - thanks for stopping by. I'll have to check out your hub. I've had fun making these and I'm always glad to run into others who share similar interests!

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