How to Plant a Miniature Rock Garden

Do you love the look of a rock garden, but don’t have the garden space to create one? A simpler solution is to plant in a container that looks like a rock, but it’s not.

Hypertufa planters look like they’re made of stone or rock, but they’re lightweight containers made from cement mixed with other materials like vermiculite, perlite, peat moss and sand.

You can Google around to find instructions for mixing up your own containers or you can do what I did and let someone else make one for you. I bought my planter at a garden club plant sale, but I’ve seen these at garden centers, too. My planter is a rectangle 21″ long x 14″ wide and 5″ deep.

The most attractive miniature rock gardens include a variety of shallow-rooted plants in different shapes, sizes and colors. Some produce tiny blooms that add to their appeal. Succulents, alpine plants and various groundcovers do especially well in hypertufa containers.

Be sure to select plants with similar light and water needs. My combination included (from left to right) Duchesnea indica (mock strawberry), Sempervivum ‘Red Rubin’ (hens and chicks), Echeveria ‘Pearl Von Nurnberg’ and Sempervivum calcareum. I also planted a small pot of Delosperma (ice plant).

To save money on my little rock garden, I clipped and transplanted cuttings from several kinds of sedums that were already growing in my landscape.

Fill the container with a lightweight potting soil that drains quickly. A good option is to mix equal parts of a standard potting soil with cactus or succulent soil. Another way to aid drainage is to elevate the planter by placing bricks or paving stones underneath it.

Arrange the plants so larger ones are placed at the back of the container and the groundcovers planted in front or along the edges.

After planting, “landscape” the garden with gravel, rocks and an assortment of interesting objects. Small pieces of driftwood, seashells and smooth pieces of glass make charming garden decorations. I added a plastic frog to watch over the garden and to perhaps attract a few friends.

Water plants in and then wait for the soil to dry slightly between waterings.

Over the summer, the plants will fill, spill and start to bloom.

In warmer climes, a hypertufa like this will probably survive a mild winter. For cold-weather areas, you can dig up the tender perennials, repot them and invite them to spend the winter inside.


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