Have you ever grown a dish garden? If you don’t know what a dish garden is, you can picture it like a mini landscape in a shallow container. It usually grows indoors rather than outdoors. The peperomias I just recently picked up inspired me to make one, even though I had not made one for several years. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about dish gardening – the plants that you can use and their maintenance.
MAKE A DISH GARDEN 2 WAYS
These 2 ways are shown in the video below. One of them keeps the plants in their grow pots. The dish garden you see in the photo has the plants directly planted in the soil. I prefer it this way and the majority of dish gardens are made this way. With the long haul in mind, I am planning to install the turquoise ceramic in my dining room.
Some reasons to leave your plants in grow pots include: it is lighter, there is no need for soil, the individual plants can be easily changed out, the container you use has no drain hole, and if you want to take them out individually to plant them. You can also do this if you’re doing a temporary planting.
Temporary vs Permanent
Temporary plantings can be done for an event, as a gift or for a holiday such as Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter. These can include any combination of plants since this is short lived.
A permanent planting is one that will last for many years, therefore it is important to carefully select plants that will grow well together. For example, one of the dish gardens is a combination of peperomias and the other is a cactus garden.
Style / Design
You can choose a design or style if you prefer. Popular options include desert, fairy, old fashioned, Japanese, tropical, sleek & modern, & festive holiday.
Any occasion can be celebrated with these, and they can even be used as wedding centerpieces.
Choices in Containers
It is here, too, where you can be creative, with the plants & adornments you choose. The most popular dish garden pots are baskets, ceramics & terra cotta. Resin (or plastic), metal & glass may also be used.
Find containers out of the ordinary at flea markets, garage sales, and your attic. I used my dad’s childhood dump truck, shown below, as an example of how a boy could make a fun dish garden.
You need drainage in dish gardens, so follow these instructions using pebbles and charcoal if your container does not have drain holes.
Choosing the right plant
It’s important for me to use plants that vary in height, texture, shape and color. This is why I love a cactus or succulent dish garden made entirely with low plants. Anything that catches the eye is a plus.
It is important to keep in mind that the plants you are combining must have similar watering and exposure requirements. For instance, I would not combine cacti (high light, low water) with peace lilies & pothos (low light, more water).
The yellow kalanchoe planted in the front had an open space in front of it until the peperomias filled in.
When you’re making a temporary garden, you can use whatever you like!
In smaller dish gardens, 2′′, 3′′, and 4′′ plants are used. For larger container gardens, 6′′ combined with 4′′ is usually the size we use.
Flowers you can use include bromeliads, kalanchoes, cyclamen, mini roses, African violets, begonias, Easter cactus, mums, Christmas cactus, and poinsettias.
Pothos, English ivy, the creeping fig, arrowhead philodendron, and heartleaf philodendron.
Aglaonema, dieffenbachia, neanthebella palms, spathiphyllum, peperomia, snake plants, jade plants, button ferns, bird’s nest ferns, succulents.
For my Peperomia bowl:
3 – 4″ Peperomias
1 – 2″ Kalanchoe
14″ wide x 7″ high ceramic bowl
A mix of half potting soil and half succulent & cactus mix. I use a locally produced s & c mix. Fox Farm Smart Naturals potting soil has a lot of good stuff in it.
Charcoal. This is optional, but it must be used in any indoor potting project to improve drainage and absorb impurities & odors.
Several handfuls of compost from local facilities.
I love worm compost, and I use a light top dressing sparingly because it’s so rich. Here’s why I like it so much.
DISH GARDENING 101: THE EASY STEPS
It’s best to follow the steps in the video. The garden planted in soil begins at 9:18. The garden with the plants in their grow pots in a basket lined with plastic is before that.
A dish garden can be dressed up in any number of ways. Glass chips, crystals, rocks & shells, along with driftwood, have been used in my garden as well as miniature accessories. It really lets you go crazy with that stuff.
Some people top dress their dish gardens with moss. There are a variety of types and colors of moss available. I used moss for the basket dish garden since it hides the grow pots.
You can transform your dish garden into a living work of art if you use your imagination.
A BEAUTIFUL DISH GARDEN REQUIRES MAINTENANCE
Make sure to water your dish garden plants a couple of days before the planting to prevent any stress. Make sure to water the plants again after the planting.
I tend to water each plant root ball individually rather than the whole garden as a whole. This prevents it from staying too wet. A watering can with a long, thin neck is perfect for this. You’ll see this one in the video.
Here in Tucson, it is still quite warm, so I am watering my peperomia dish garden every 2 weeks. In the winter, I will back off to every 3-4 weeks.
Your results will vary depending on what type of plants you use. whereas my peperomia grows in my dining room near a bay window and receives extra light throughout the day, my cactus dish garden grows outdoors in full sun here in Tucson. It’s about 10′ away from the window.
Keep your dish garden from being fertilized too much. It usually doesn’t require much fertilizing since they’re planted in small containers and salts and other minerals can accumulate. If you’re worried about them needing it you can give a shot every spring.
I suggest using either liquid fish emulsion or kelp as well as a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer (5-5-5 or lower) if you have that. Dilute any of these to half strength and apply in spring.
During late fall or winter, houseplants are supposed to rest. Avoid fertilizing houseplants which are stressed, such as bone dry or soaking wet.
Each spring I give my dish gardens and all my houseplants 1/4′′ layer of worm compost with a light covering of compost on top. It is so easy and so effective. You can find out about my worm composting and compost feeding here.
A dish garden requires little maintenance in general. Sometimes you will need to remove an occasional damaged leaf or replace a plant that is not growing well or has gotten too big. Keep an eye out for pests (check your plants before planting to make sure there are none) – certain dish garden plantings are prone to spider mites.
Tips for Dish Gardening
Some plants will need to be changed or replaced as they grow too big or too crowded.
In order to prevent it from sinking into the ground completely, it’s good to position your plants slightly above the soil line.
Are your plants close together? Have you used any top dressings such as moss, glass chips, or rock? That can slow down the soil from drying out, so water them less often if that is the case.
If your potting soil is on the heavy side and requires greater aeration, consider adding perlite or pumice. Using a mix of 1/2 potting soil and 1/2 succulent & cactus mix will also work. You want the mix to be light and well drained. If you’re using only succulents, use a straight succulent & cactus mix.
Dish gardens should not be watered too often as they can easily rot out.
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