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Updated: Feb 14, 2022


There’s a place where magic and gardening come together: In the secret world of fairies. Fairies are always on the lookout for miniature gardens to inhabit where they can play and employ their magic.

Besides the Tooth Fairy who slips a gift under your pillow or Tinker Bell, that capricious fairy who can be both sweet and sassy to Lost Boys, there is a host of magical beings who love gardens and will be more than delighted to take up residence in one that you create. The more imaginative and creative your garden is, the better.

Fairy Gardens are miniature gardens with living plants as well as structures (where the fairies can take up residence, of course).  The Fairy Gardening site says that these diminutive gardens first appeared in the U.S. in 1893. They were a variation on the bonsai dish gardens featured in the Japanese Pavilion at the Chicago World’s fair in that year.

Delight Your Fairies with Key Ingredients

Apples are a favorite fairy food.

Before you start your fairy garden, there are some things to keep in mind. For starters, know what attracts fairies. Admittedly, the mighty oak is their favorite dwelling place, but you can create an equally hospitable domicile with the following:  

  • Apples — These are used in fairy magic, especially love potions

  • Pansies — Used in love potions (kind of getting the idea they are somewhat romantic?)

  • Poppies — Bring fairies into your garden

  • Thyme —  Wearing it increases your ability to see the wee ones.

  • Roses —  The soft petals and sweet fragrance lure the fairies into the garden

  • Tulips —  Used for clothing

  • Daisies — A symbol of loyalty and innocence.  It is said to be an ingredient of choice in fairy magic

The sound of water is a magnet to fairies, so consider adding a small water feature or bird bath.  Shiny wind chimes, gazing globes, and colorful garden flags also help attract gnomes and elves.

Use blue rocks to simulate a stream or pond.

In addition to these magical elements, fairies love all sorts of herbs, ferns, succulents, and other greenery. Marshall Grain offers a selection of diminutive plants that stay small, making them the perfect size for your fairy garden. Many other plants can be pruned in a variety of shapes to fit your garden.

Many herbs fit naturally into a miniature fairy garden.

Getting started

Since fairy gardens don’t magically grow, you’ll need to decide about location, containers, design and soil, besides choosing the plants and design you want.

Location:  Inside or outdoors?  Fairy gardens are adaptable to both, though most are created in containers for inside the home or to add warmth to a home office.  The location you choose will affect the amount of sun and shade you have, which means you’ll need to choose plants accordingly.

This outdoor fairy garden fits perfectly under a tree.

For outside locations, keep the following in mind:

  • Part shade = 2 – 4 hours of cool sun or morning sun

  • Full shade = less than 2 hours of sun, and never hot afternoon sun

  • Full sun = 6 or more hours of sun

For indoor locations, the direction window faces will determine the amount of sunlight your plants receive. West windows tend to be too hot for most plants while north windows will be dark. You can reduce the amount of light using drapes or blinds to create shade.

Containers: The choices are vast. You can create a fairy garden in anything from a broken pot, saucer, an old shoe, a child’s wagon or a wheelbarrow. Just make sure your container fits the landscape around it. An old shoe might look unique in your home office; a little red wagon can stand out in the midst of your backyard garden.

Bits and pieces such as broken pots make excellent fairy garden decor.

Design: Scale, view and accessories all are design considerations.  If you are planning to keep your fairy garden in the middle of a dining room table, you won’t want plant material that is so large it will block the view of people sitting across from each other. If your container is to be viewed from all sides, consider a central structure in the middle of the container. If the container is going to rest against a backdrop; the dominant structure should be placed towards the back of the container. Try out a few different arrangements with the plants and structures before you plant.

This garden is designed to be viewed from one direction.

Soil: At Marshall Grain, we recommend good, organic potting soil that allows for proper drainage and moisture retention. We carry several brands of organic potting soils, including Espoma and Fox Farm. Remember to feed the plants in your garden regularly to keep them healthy. Lady Bug 8-2-4 All Purpose Fertilizer is a good all-purpose food.

Scale: Fairies come in several different sizes designed for environments as small as a teacup to as large as a backyard flowerbed, so the first thing you’ll need to decide on is the scale, then choose plants that fit the space.

Be sure to match the size of your fairies (or guinea pigs) to the rest of your garden.

Planting Your Gardening: We recommend that you soak the plants in liquid seaweed to alleviate plant shock before you gently remove them from their pots to replant in your Fairy Garden container. Also moisten the hole with seaweed to insure good root growth and when planting press gently to remove air bubbles. 

Unlock your imagination and welcome the fairies into your garden. Then sit back and enjoy.

Group classes are a great way for your scout troop to earn a badge.

Still don’t know where to begin? Marshall Grain offers private Fairy Gardening Workshops for groups of 8 to 20. It’s a great birthday party activity for fairy-loving kids – or even adults. Or check our events calendar for upcoming public workshops. Of course, we’re happy to help individuals, too! Stop by Marshall Grain anytime and our team will help your get your Fairy Garden growing.


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