This is the fun part…

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You might have some hypertufa pots that need planting – if you got busy and built them last fall, like I did, they will require some attention now.  Plants don’t always overwinter, so sometimes you’re refurbishing an older planter to refresh it.

First you have to decide on the style of your planter; will it be planted with alpine plants, like this hypertufa trough?


I’ll show you how I go about making a miniature garden with a hypertufa trough or shallow dish. This one is more like a cliff edge, and small plants to make it look like a mountain side. 

There are many ways of getting this kind of look, starting with Penjing, the Chinese style of making scenery, to fairy gardens and moss gardens.  I like something that just looks like a scene from nature, but go with your inclination on this one – it’s your garden, after all.


You can also use any other type of container, if you don’t already have a hypertufa one – shallow clay bowls, wooden trays, even plastic containers are fine – the only requirement is that they have drain holes.

So, now you’ve got your shallow hypertufa (or other) dish ready, complete with drain holes.  Now what?  Choose your plants of course!


Hypertufa made into shallow trays can look fabulous planted with some of the plants that I grow. 

I collect those that are small in stature and have tiny leaves, creep along the ground very low, or have other smallish growth characteristics. 

I’ve had a lot of fun making miniature gardens, with tiny bird houses, benches, patios and so on.

This is always the fun part of planting.  Sometimes you have plants already that you want to find a home for, which is fine.  If you’re already a step ahead you’ll have several plants that need to be planted.

If they’re succulents, you know what kind of soil they need, so gather together all the ingredients.

Miniature Garden Soil

For any kind of miniature garden, the soil is crucial.  Shallow pots need drainage, and very porous soil to keep the plants happy.  Here’s what I use;

  • One part each recycled potting soil

Save this from planters from the previous year, but make sure if there were any problems with the container that you sterilize it; put it in a plastic bag and put in the microwave – I recommend an old one that you won’t want to use for food again – microwave on high for a minute or two – don’t melt the bag!

  • Smallish pea gravel

This should fit through a 1/4″ sieve, but also remove the finest particles as these will clog up the soil pores.

  • Pumice/Perlite or a mixture

 You can also use lava rock or scoria, whatever you have available.  This adds drainage, but also adds somewhere for the roots to grab a hold.  Again, sift out the fines to get rid of any dust like particles.

  • Tiny amount of Steer Manure, sterilized

For a miniature garden, it’s crucial to have a few rocks, whether as a focal point or a tiny walkway or patio.  I seem to always find flat small rocks as I ramble around, but if you have a beach close by this would be a good place to collect them. 

Don’t have anything like that?  Make a little deck or boardwalk out of popsicle sticks or other small craft twigs either from a dollar store, or collected out of your own garden.


Decide on if you want to have a tiny tree too.  Some of my favorite little ‘trees’ are actually a type of stonecrop, Sedum populifolium.  I train tiny cuttings into little trees, and in time they resemble apple or other fruit trees, in perfect proportion.

If that’s not possible, make a little arbour out of twigs to give some height to your garden.  Even without anything growing on it, it’s still going to add that rustic look.  Glue and thread are our friends; don’t be afraid to innovate.


In just a few short weeks, the plants will be established and growing happily.


Show off your garden planter, whether it’s hypertufa or anything else.  Post it on the Facebook page here; Drought Smart Plants on Facebook.

Later (much later) the plants are established;