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How to Make a Small Zen Garden

By Jenn Mercer ; Updated September 21, 2017

A Zen garden is a place for peaceful meditation, but there is no minimum required size. The elements which make up a Zen garden can be sized down to fit whatever space you have available. Zen gardens contain few plants, but are composed of natural materials such as rock, gravel, wood and bamboo. This means that although they require some effort to set up, there is little required maintenance. In fact, even the maintenance of smoothing the gravel can be a meditative act.

Mark out the area which you would like to use for your Zen garden. Traditional Zen gardens are rectangular, but do not be afraid to work with what you have.

Clear and level the area for your garden as much as possible. Any irregularities can be used as bases for rocks or masked with a bridge or dry stream bed.

Choose medium sized rocks or statuary as a focus for your garden. Keep them in proportion to your smaller space.

Place the rocks in an irregular manner. Use larger rocks in the back and smaller ones in the front to make your garden appear larger.

Fill your garden with 2-to-4 inches of gravel, small rocks or sand. If the area is still not level, add large pebbles to make a dry river bed and cross it with an ornamental bridge which is sized for your garden.

Line three sides of your Zen garden with bamboo screening. If your garden already backs against a stone or brick wall, you can leave that bare.

Add potted bamboo or plant clumping varieties along the back wall. If there is space available, add a small Japanese style water fountain off to one side.

Rake the gravel into geometric shapes. Start by circling the stones and move outward. Take your time in making these patterns. Remember this is not a task, but a reward.


Things You Will Need

  • Rocks
  • Gravel , small rocks, or sand
  • Ornamental bridge (optional)
  • Bamboo screening
  • Bamboo plants
  • Small Japanese-style fountain (optional)


  • Place a small bench in front of your garden to provide a peaceful place to watch it without disturbing the gravel.

About the Author


Jenn Mercer is a Writer, Poet, and Translator (French > English) living in Raleigh, NC. She has Bachelors degrees in both English (Creative Writing) and French from NC State University. Mercer has been published in the Grapevine, Astropoetica, Talkin Blues, Nth Degree, the CATI Quarterly, The Fix, and Uncle John's Bathroom Reader for Kids.