How to Create a Dish Garden


Dish gardens are given as gifts or made for a home or office decoration. A dish garden usually consists of a group of plants suitable for low light or indoor situations, but they can be made with plants appropriate for an outdoor display. Always choose plants with similar light and water requirements. The plants are usually small so you can fit several plants into the container and create a mini landscape by adding rocks or pieces of wood among the plants. Some plants appropriate for an indoor dish garden include pothos ivy, dieffenbachia, spathiphyllum, schefflera, English ivy, begonia and African violets. All plants will overgrow the dish garden eventually, but dish gardens are not supposed to hold all the plants to maturity, they are an attractive way to display a collection of small plants.

Step 1

Spread newspaper over your work area to protect furniture, and make clean up easy.

Step 2

Spread a 1-inch layer of potting soil over the bottom of the container you are using for the dish garden.

Step 3

Remove small plants from their pots and add them to the planting dish, making a display with taller plants in the back of the garden if garden will be viewed from one side and in the middle if garden is to be viewed from all sides. Put smaller plants in the front or on the sides of the dish garden.

Step 4

Push potting soil between the plants using the spoon so all the plants' roots have contact with the potting soil. Add sphagnum moss over the soil to secure the soil and plants in place. Add a few rocks or other items to create the appearance of a small garden.

Step 5

Mist the plants and the sphagnum moss heavily, washing any potting soil from the leaves of the plants and slightly adjusting the plants until they look natural. Display the dish garden in a bright area but not in direct sunlight unless the dish garden is planted with cactus or other plants appropriate for the outdoors. Since dish gardens usually don't have drainage holes because they are generally displayed on furniture, be careful not to over water. Most plants will begin to decline if they are left sitting in water for more than 36 hours. Plants that are overwatered will turn yellow and wilt and the roots will begin to rot. Water lightly when the soil surface is dry to the touch.

Things You'll Need

  • Shallow container with no drainage holes
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Potting soil
  • Small plants in 4-inch pots or smaller
  • Newspaper
  • Small rocks
  • Spoon
  • Water mister


  • The Garden Helper: How to Create Dish Gardens
  • Florida Plants: I Love Dish Gardens
  • Robs Violet: Dish Gardens
Keywords: making a dish garden, dish gardens, european dish gardens

About this Author

Based in Rockdale Texas, Jim Gober has been writing garden-related articles for 25 years. His articles appear in several Texas newspapers including The Rockdale Reporter, The Lexington Leader, The Cameron Herald and The Hearne Democrat. He is a Master Gardener and Certified Texas Nursery and Landscape Professional. He holds bachelor degrees in English Writing from St. Edward's University and Finance from Lamar University.