En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - July 18, 2013

From: Sparta, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grass for a Miniature Garden
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


Please let me know what kind of grass is nice and short and tight for a miniature garden in a wooden box. I want to grow this grass in the box and I also want to know if I need to drill holes in the bottom of the wooden box for drainage. Thank you.


Many people who create bonsai, penjing (Chinese miniature landscapes) or garden railroads that require plants to be of a scale that looks appropriate use moss or dwarf Carex sp. (miniature sedges) to simulate grass-like groundcovers. There aren't any grasses that will stay short and dense enough to be in scale for most projects.

There are some native sedges that look like grass such as Carex pensylvania, but look at the heights to make sure they are in scale. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's website has 217 entries for native Carex (sedges), 27 that are under 1 ft. To view these, visit the Plant Database, enter Carex and select the 0-1 ft height category. You might like to look at the Juncus and Sagina (pearlworts) as well. Juncus ambiguus is under 1 ft in height and has a grasslike appearance.  

Some non-natives that have been used to simulate grass are Scleranthus uniflorus, Irish or scotch moss (Sagina subulata), or Carex berggrenii.

To answer your drainage question, yes you need to drill holes for drainage. Your plants will grow much better with adequate soil drainage. For some tips on planting a miniature garden visit The Mini Garden Guru's website. And if you are going to use any mosses, take a look at George Schenk's book on moss gardening.


From the Image Gallery

Poverty rush
Juncus tenuis

Cherokee sedge
Carex cherokeensis

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Plants for October wedding in Texas Hill Country
October 16, 2009 - I am planning an October wedding at a Texas Hill Country vineyard. I would like to incorporate some local, seasonal plants in the floral design. Can you recommend some hill country plants, flowers, ...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for field in Fairfield, TX
August 21, 2008 - We are clearing youpon, briars and small trees from 13 acres of woods near Fairfield, Texas. We want to plant native grass(s) that can tolerate shade and part shade, but also tolerate mowing(shredder...
view the full question and answer

Interaction of Habiturf and St. Augustine grasses from Willow City TX
April 16, 2012 - How does Habiturf and St. Augustine interact? Does one dominate the other? Can you plant them in close areas? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Problem with Habiturf. Is it dormant or dead?
July 24, 2013 - We planted habiturf in spring 2012. It's beautiful. But since last summer, we have had one area that seems to go dormant much more rapidly than the rest, even though it receives the same amount of ...
view the full question and answer

Plants wilting too quickly in Toledo OH
May 27, 2012 - The garden I have had recent issues with plants wilting all too quickly. I would like to know what types of plants would be hearty for the climate in Toledo, Ohio. I have a partly sunny front yard and...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center