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Our plant specialists are gardeners too and will be happy to help you!


3029 Davenport Rd
Knoxville, TN, 37920
United States

(865) 573-9591

Stanley's Greenhouse is a family owned and operated plant farm and garden center in Knoxville, Tennessee.

A Step-by-step Guide to Making a Fairy Garden

Ideas You Can Use

Check out our answers to commonly asked questions and the latest tips from our plant specialists!


A Step-by-step Guide to Making a Fairy Garden

Anna Montgomery

Types of Fairy Gardens

  • An indoor fairy garden (located in a home, office, enclosed porch, or sunroom) with an open container
  • An indoor fairy garden with a closed container with care similar to a terrarium
  • An outdoor fairy garden with an open container or growing space
  • An outdoor fairy garden with a closed container with care similar to a terrarium

Indoor vs. Outdoors Considerations

  • An indoor fairy garden allows you to control the temperature, water, and wind that affect your garden
  • Indoor fairy gardens bring a bit of the natural world into your interior environment
  • Outdoor fairy gardens benefit from being in an environment where beneficial insects can help control the presence of deleterious insects
  • Outdoor fairy gardens benefit from rainwater which does not have the chemicals and hard metals sometimes found in tap water
  • Most outdoor fairy gardens will need to be brought indoors before the first frost

Container Possibilities

  • The ideal container choice for a fairy garden is a medium-to-large-sized dish garden: a low, shallow-sided clay, terracotta, or ceramic container with a hole or holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain
  • A clear-glass terrarium container or empty fishbowl can be used, but remember the need for greater care when watering a container that has no holes for water to drain. If you choose a closed or open container terrarium, take a look at our step-by-step terrarium instructions at:
  • An old glass jar, jug, or bottle
  • Helpful tip: thoroughly clean any container before using it for your fairy garden

Decide On a Design Theme

  • Woodland, tropical, or desert
  • Add your favorite fairies, gnomes, and other fabled creatures
  • Choose interesting accessories such as sticks, wood, seedpods, and bark
  • Add ceramic figures such as frogs, mushrooms, and snails
  • Add a house, furniture, dog, cat, birds, insects
  • Use your imagination to create a tiny world all your own, but avoid using too many accessories

Soil, Watering, and Drainage

  • Because most fairy gardens are built in small, confined, shallow spaces, less soil is used, so it it very important to use a high-quality growing medium
  • Ready-mixed, peat-lite terrarium mix is an excellent soil choice with its blend of peat moss, vemiculite and perlite. Potting soils sold at garden centers and nurseries have been sterilized and may contain fertilizers which will boost plant growth and health
  • If you are using a terrarium without drainage holes, use great care not to overwater your fairy garden
  • For an outdoor location fairy garden, sun, wind, and rain will dictate how much watering you will need to do. More sun, wind exposure, and less rain call for more watering of your fairy garden
  • Too much rain, can cause your garden to develop fungi and other pest issues, so if you are experiencing severe rainy conditions, bring your outdoor fairy garden inside or under cover

Materials and Useful Tools

  • The container
  • Plants
  • Growing medium high in organic matter such as pre-packaged peat-lite mix (blend of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite) or potting soil with fertilizer added
  • Pebbles or gravel for drainage
  • Sticks, rocks, seedpods, or bark for decorating
  • Spagnum moss is a lovely addition to your garden--especially if you are using plants that prefer partial shade or full shade sun exposure
  • Small ceramic figures to suggest a natural setting
  • A small gardening spade

Choosing Plants

  • Plants that have a low and dense growth habit work best. Choose only plants that are healthy and disease free
  • Choose plants that fit the size of your container with plenty of room to grow. Choose plants of differing heights -- tall in the back, medium height in the middle, and short in the front
  • Choose plants that require the same amount of moisture and light (don't use tropical plants with plants native to the desert)
  • If you are using a closed-container terrarium container, use care with choosing succulents and cacti because moist conditions can cause plant rot

Full Sun

  • Full-sun = 4-6 hours of sun exposure
  • Full-sun plants offer a more colorful display, however, the combination of wind and full sun can be too much for less hardy flowers
  • Succulents, kalanchoe, short varieties of sedum, and crown of thorns are excellent choices for full sun--and all of them flower as well
  • For summer planting, dwarf zinnias are an excellent choice because zinnias are hardy, colorful, and love full sun
  • Pansies (available in the fall, winter, and early spring) are a hardy flowering plant, full-sun choice

Part Sun/Part Shade

  • Part sun/part shade exposure = 2 -4 hours of sun or dappled shade
  • A great diversity of plants adapt well to this sunlight category
  • Asparagus fern, selaginella moss, streptocarpus, rex begonia, baby tears, and tillansias (air plants) are excellent part-shade choices
  • Panolas (a cross between pansies and violas) are good flowering options for partial sun/partial shade conditions and are sold in the fall, winter, and early spring
  • Be sure not to overwater part sun/part shade plants since they do not have the drying action of full sun exposure

Indirect Light/Full Shade

  • Full shade/indirect light is categorized as dappled shade all day or up to 2 hours of morning or evening light
  • Indoors you can achieve indirect light beautifully if you have a large window that has some shading such as glass block or half closed window shades
  • Hardy violas, ferns, lenten roses, heuchera (coral bells), and arum respond well to full shade conditions
  • Here again, be careful not to overwater plants that do not get direct sunlight

Building Your Fairy Garden

  • Make sure your container is clean and dry

  • Add the drainage material: pebbles, rocks, gravel, or marble chips

  • Add the growing medium which should be slightly moist, usually you will need at least 1-1/2 inches of medium to provide sufficient volume

  • Choose a distinctive plant for a focal point, and add plants of varying heights for visual interest

  • Before placing the plants, dig holes in the dirt with a pointed stick or wooden chopsticks

  • Remove the plants from their original pots and along with any extra soil to expose the roots. Place the plants in the growing medium and tamp down to firm it

  • In a closed container, try not to touch the roots to the side of the container

  • Mist the plants to remove excess dirt, and water carefully to ensure the plants get enough water but not too much

Early Days

  • Watch your fairy garden closely over the first few weeks as the plants are extending their roots and getting used to their location and new habitat
  • Adjust water, sunlight, and placement of your fairy garden according to how happy your plants appear
  • If your plants remain green and grow steadily, you have chosen good plants matched with a location that suits them
  • If one plant is not happy, no cause for concern--just swap it out with another plant rated for your sun level
  • If all your plants begin to die, you may be over- or under-watering them, or they may be getting too much or too little light


  • If you want to add to your fairy garden accessory collection, come see us at Stanley's because we are always getting in new fairy garden items
  • If you have questions about your fairy garden, come in or give us a call at 865-573-9591
  • Enjoy your small-scale garden--with or without fairies!