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What is a Dish Garden?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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A dish garden is an arrangement of plants placed inside dishware. Unlike plant pots, dishes don't have drainage holes. The main difference between a potted floral arrangement in a gardening pot and a dish garden is that actual dishware is used. The dishware used in these gardens may be everyday items such as cereal bowls or coffee mugs or they may be ornamental pieces.

Popular plants for dish gardens include pretty greenery such as ivy and fern as well as flowering plants with bright colored blooms. A European style garden is often filled with flowers such as gerberas, azaleas and begonias. European and other types of dish gardens are often displayed in beautifully woven baskets. These basket-covered gardens make beautiful gifts and may include a decorative floral pick that reads "Happy Birthday" or other celebration message.

A dish garden without a basket may also make a great gift. For example, those planted in colored glass brandy snifters can look elegant, as these glasses feature footed stems. A plant that hangs down such as ivy can look attractive near the middle front of the snifter, while bright, upright flowers such as marigolds could add contrast on one side. Purple African violets next to the marigold plant could provide an interesting contrasting color to the yellow marigolds.

Dish gardens typically contain at least three different kinds of plants. Growing several plant varieties in a container without drainage holes can be challenging in terms of keeping all the plants adequately watered. It's best to feel the soil to see if it needs moisture and then water carefully just in that area. Using a small watering can with a long spout can make the task easier.

Plants in a dish garden usually require frequent trimming. If they outgrow the container, it's best to remove them and replant the plants in an outdoor garden or other planter. Some people like to try their hand at larger related gardening projects such as terrariums. A terrarium is similar to a dish-style garden, but is larger, more enclosed and totally transparent, like an aquarium or large fish bowl.

A dish garden can be the perfect size as a centerpiece for an outdoor patio table. They can also make ideal housewarming gifts since they can add a natural touch to a new home. While many people purchase their own containers or use dishware they have at home, kits are also available that include dishes for the gardens.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By akbar5199 — On Nov 09, 2013

The only dish garden I have ever tried was a cactus dish garden and it was a miserable failure. I was only able to keep the plants alive for a few months, and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. I do not think I have the patience for these types of gardens. I do much better with outdoor gardens where the plants are not as finicky.

By anon320876 — On Feb 20, 2013

I think personally that a dish garden is a challenging and exciting, because you have to be patient in caring for those transferred plants and see the beauty of it. Young as I am, I've experienced making and caring for one. I just love doing it!

By PelesTears — On Jan 15, 2011

@ Cougars- You may want to change your soil mixture to a more coarse soil mix that has more inorganic material. This will create a quicker soil that you will need to water more frequently, but it will allow the roots of your plants to breathe.

You may also consider trimming the root ball after you repot your plants. Most plants can tolerate losing up to half of their roots, and it will cause considerable growth. In between repotting, you can also use a chopstick to aerate the soil and break it up. This will give your plant a quick revitalization.

By cougars — On Jan 13, 2011

How do you prevent the soil from becoming compacted in a dish garden and houseplants?

By FrameMaker — On Jan 11, 2011

The only dish garden I have ever tried was a cactus dish garden and it was a miserable failure. I was only able to keep the plants alive for a few months, and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. I do not think I have the patience for these types of gardens. I do much better with outdoor gardens where the plants are not as finicky.

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