Not all gardeners have huge expanses of backyard to work with, but luckily there are miniature plants that provide a pint-size punch of color for small-space gardens and containers. Whether you want a border with extra oomph or a container with cheerful blossoms, these tiny plants have a big impact.
Living Large With Miniatures
While ideal for small spaces, dwarf varieties can be useful in any garden.
- Most are low-maintenance and need little if any pruning to stay small and true to form.
- They fit right into rock or alpine gardens as well as containers and troughs.
- They make excellent edging at the front of beds and borders, or along sidewalks and paths.
- PROVEN WINNERS;
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’, Zones 3 to 8
Award-winning Bobo is small in stature but big on blooms, which begin in midsummer and last up to 12 weeks. The dwarf plants grow to 3 feet and are smothered in large, creamy white flowers that mature to a blush pink.
Why we love it: Space-challenged gardeners can enjoy the reliable, long-lasting beauty of hydrangeas.
- PROVEN WINNERS;
Soft Serve false cypress
Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘dow whiting’, Zones 5 to 7
Soft Serve false cypresses are valued for their elegant stature and swirls of soft, touchable foliage. Soft Serve can reach 6 to 10 feet but grows very slowly, which makes it ideal for containers and rock gardens. Other dwarf cultivars are Nana, Leprechaun, Gnome and Hage.
Why we love it: These dwarf evergreens provide year-round interest to beds and borders.
Echinacea ‘Chiquita’, Zones 4 to 10
This dwarf coneflower is sure to turn heads! Growing just 1 foot high, the sturdy, well-branched plant pumps out large, soft yellow flowers from July through September. The 3½-inch blooms are fragrant and attract bees and butterflies.
Why we love it: Coneflowers are naturally low-maintenance, drought-resistant perennials.
Dwarf Mondo Grass
Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nanus’, Zones 6 to 11
This charmer is a miniature, clumping, grasslike plant that can be used as edging in flower beds or at the base of statues and light fixtures. It grows 2 to 4 inches high and, once established, is very drought-tolerant.
Why we love it: The slow-growing clumps are extremely low-maintenance and, if used as a ground cover, need to be mowed only once a year.
- JANIT CALVO/TWOGREENTHUMBS.COM
Pixie dwarf Alberta spruce
Picea glauca ‘Pixie’, Zones 3 to 8
This small spruce is a favorite among fairy gardeners who want the perfect tree for their Lilliputian landscapes. It has a natural conical shape—no pruning needed—and it grows 1 to 2 inches per year.
Even more to love: Pixie Dust looks like Pixie but has new growth that’s golden, as though sprinkled with fairy dust.
- WALTERS GARDENS INC.
Mighty Mouse hosta
Hosta ‘Mighty Mouse’, Zones 3 to 9
At first glance, this variegated cultivar looks like a typical garden hosta, but it grows to only 7 inches tall and 1 foot wide. It’s a sport (or mutation) of the popular miniature Blue Mouse Ears hosta, and it has blue-green leaves with soft gold edges that age to cream. In early summer, the mound will be topped with tiny lavender blooms that are attractive to hummingbirds and bees.
Why we love it: Miniature hostas are perfect for adding texture and interest to rock gardens, containers and troughs.
- PROVEN WINNERS
My Monet weigela
Weigela florida ‘My Monet’, Zones 4 to 6
Smart gardeners know to select plants that offer multiseason interest. My Monet, at 12 to 18 inches tall, has pink blooms in spring that attract hummingbirds; then, once the flowers fade, the cream, green and pink variegated foliage is showy until autumn.
Why we love it: It needs no pruning to stay small and compact.
Tiny Monster geranium
Geranium ‘Tiny Monster’, Zones 4 to 9
This diminutive perennial geranium is as cute as a button! It has a low, spreading habit and grows just 8 inches tall. When the bright pink-magenta flowers emerge in late spring, they are held above the tight mass of deep green leaves. It makes an excellent low ground cover in sun or partial shade and can also be used as an edging plant or in containers.
Why we love it: Older cultivars had a short bloom season and lots of leaf spot. Tiny Monster is the longest-blooming dwarf geranium.
- PROVEN WINNERS
Show Off Sugar Baby forsythia
Forsythia x intermedia, Zones 4 to 9
The sunny yellow flowers of forsythia light up the spring garden, but many varieties mature into 8-foot giants, making them too big for small yards. Instead, this tiny cultivar matures at 30 inches, with upright branches that flower from base to tip.
Why we love it: Sugar Baby has more blooms per inch than any other cultivar.
- PROVEN WINNERS
Lilac Chip butterfly bush
Buddleia ‘Lilac Chip’, Zones 5 to 9
Bees and butterflies love the long flower panicles of butterfly bush. Lilac Chip is a miniature masterpiece that grows to about 2 feet and forms a fragrant mound of lavender-pink blooms that continue until frost.
Why we love it: Lilac Chip is seedless, so it won’t self-sow and become invasive.
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