How to Make Your Own Mini Indoor Zen Garden

The term “Zen” has almost become a cliché in modern day, but the basic message of Zen Buddhism is that by slowing down and being more mindful in our lives, we can find greater calmness, compassion and wisdom.

Zen Buddhism emphasizes meditation practice as the most important way to get in touch with your inner nature. But meditation can take many forms, including using small tasks as a way to focus on the present moment.

An indoor Zen garden can provide the perfect focal point for a short meditation when you need a time out from the busyness of life. You can have a mini Zen garden on your desk at work, in your living room at home, or next to your bed.

Indoor Zen gardens are easy to make and can be tailored to your individual needs and living spaces.

Simple black zen garden

CLASSIC INDOOR ZEN GARDENS

The Japanese name for a Zen garden is kare-sansui, or dry landscape garden. The purpose of a Zen garden is to imitate the essence of nature and remind us of the profound beauty found in simplicity.

You can use your indoor Zen garden as a meditation aid by raking the sand and moving the rocks around in your garden. It can also be used as an object to focus on during a still meditation. Or your garden can simply be a tranquil decoration that provides a moment of relaxation when you see it.

Assembling your own mini Zen garden can also be a lot of fun. The following are some of the key features of an indoor Zen garden to give you some ideas. But feel free to get creative and make a Zen garden you’ll love to spend time with!

1. Container

Almost any container with an open top will work to hold your Zen garden. A classic container is a low, wooden tray or box. You can also use wide glass jars, cookie tins, plant pots or vases, pieces of wood bark, metal trays or buckets, or any other container you find attractive.

If the container has holes in the bottom, like a plant pot, you can simply cover the bottom of the container with a layer of thick fabric or plastic before you fill it with sand.

You can also add dividers to your container to create different sections. For example, you can have one section for the sand and another that has a few decorations or ornaments. Dividers can be made of flexible wood, metal or plastic.

Different types of sand

2. Sand and Rocks

Sand and rocks are important features in a Zen garden, especially if you enjoy raking the sand and moving the rocks around for relaxation. You can use any type of sand, whether the texture is fine or coarse. A Zen garden only made out of rocks can also work well. You’ll still be able to move the rocks around for a meditative element.

Many different colors of sand and rocks are available. If your local craft or hardware store doesn’t carry what you want, you can find lots of Zen garden supplies online. And if you live near a beach, you can simply collect some sand and rocks next time you’re out walking.

Sand patterns

3. Rake

Rakes are another classic element in a mini Zen garden. You can find them in craft stores or online. You can also make your own out of sticks or small dowels. The Magic Onions has a great overview on how to make your own mini Zen garden tools.

Once you have your rake, experiment with the designs you can create in your sand. Try blending circles, spirals, dots, wave patterns and classic straight lines.

4. Ornaments

You may feel your garden is complete with sand and rocks. But if you’d like to dress it up a bit, consider adding some other elements.

Check craft stores or garden centers for small ornaments you might like in your Zen garden, such as small houses, bridges, figurines and statues, gem stones, or natural elements like moss or wood bark. Candles can also add interest.

Also keep an eye out for attractive stones, twigs, seed pods, driftwood, shells or other items you can collect in nature.

Hippo in pot

ADDING PLANTS TO YOUR ZEN GARDEN

Classic indoor Zen gardens typically do not include water. Adding plants to your Zen garden can provide a vibrant, living feature, but you’ll need to consider how water will work into your garden design. You can approach this in a couple different ways.

1. Add a water-tight potted plant to your Zen garden

The easiest way to add a plant to your garden is to simply put a potted plant on the sand. But make sure your plant is potted in a water-tight container. This will keep your sand dry.

You could also put a divider in between your sand and potted plant if you want to keep them in separate sections. Good low-maintenance plants for a Zen garden include cacti and succulents, air plants, small creepers, lucky bamboo or even a small bonsai.

Terrarium with lotus pod

2. Include plants directly in your Zen garden

Another option is to include plants within your actual Zen garden. You can do this in a couple different ways.

You can add a divider within your garden container and plant a plant directly in its own section, separate from the sand. Make sure you line the plant’s section with plastic to prevent any leakage into your sand.

Making a terrarium-style Zen garden is another good approach. For this kind of garden, you would plant a container with one or more houseplants, then create your Zen sand and rock features on top of the potting soil.

As a starting point, Real Simple has excellent instructions on how to make a terrarium. You’ll need a water-tight container, some rocks for drainage at the bottom, potting soil, plants and sand to cover the soil when you’re done. It often works better to top a terrarium-style Zen garden with coarser textures of sand or gravel. Fine sand can easily sink into the potting mix and get lost over time.

Real Simple uses a container with fairly high sides, which is fine if you’re using your Zen garden as a focal point or decoration. But if you’re planning on actively working with the sand and rocks, you can use a container with lower sides.

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94 comments

Barbara S
Barbara S14 hours ago

thank you

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Leo C
Leo Cyesterday

Thank you for posting!

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Vincent Tyesterday

thank you for posting

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Chad A
Chad A3 days ago

Thank you.

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Mona P
Mona Pietsch3 days ago

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Leo Custer
Leo C5 days ago

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Leo C
Leo C7 days ago

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Greta L7 days ago

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Maria P10 days ago

tyfs

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Leo Custer
Leo C11 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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