Dwarf Plants for Trough Gardens

Written by beth asher
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Dwarf Plants for Trough Gardens
Trough gardens are miniature landscapes that need slow-growing plants. (horse trough image by haemengine from Fotolia.com)

Trough gardens present challenges because the plants must be small and grow slowly so you don't have to replace them often. Use a mix of alpine plants, succulents and herbaceous perennials in a trough garden for variety and effectiveness.


Crocuses, with their 4- to 6-inch height and early habit, are suited to trough gardens. Miniature dwarf bearded irises do not exceed 8 inches, according to the Dwarf Iris Society of America. Both add perennial colour without overgrowing your container.

Dwarf Plants for Trough Gardens
Crocuses are easy-care bulbs that come up reliably every year. (crocus image by Dusan Radivojevic from Fotolia.com)

Herbaceous Perennials

Plant fragrant herbs such as 4-inch tall lemon thyme. Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasque flower) is a long-lived 9-inch perennial with purple flowers. Hardy Armeria maritima reaches a height of 10 inches.

Dwarf Plants for Trough Gardens
Armeria maritima is a tough herbaceous perennial with 12-inch bloom stalks. (armeria image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com)

Miniature Conifers

Miniature conifers grow less than 3 inches a year. Arbor vitae "Tiny Tim" and Chamaecyparis obtusa "Gold Sprite" are two globe-shaped choices. Norway spruce "Little Gem" forms a 1-foot mound.

Dwarf Plants for Trough Gardens
Miniature conifers grow slowly and add evergreen structure to trough gardens. (conifer background image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com)

Rock Garden Plants

Four-inch ajuga "Chocolate Chip" and plox subulata are prostrate creeping plants. Coreopsis auriculata "Nana," which grow about 6 inches, and 8-inch Dianthus "Tiny rubies" provide floral interest. Primula species have basal leaf clumps of up to 5 inches producing flower spikes from 3 to 18 inches.

Dwarf Plants for Trough Gardens
Primroses have varied foliage shapes and many flower colours. (Fiori di Primula , Primule Gialle - Yellow Primrose image by doctor 46 from Fotolia.com)


Small succulents such as lithops grow 4 inches tall. Sempervivums and echeverias are tough 3- to 8-inch tall plants with many leaf shapes and colours. Some cultivars have leaf rosettes up to 12 inches across.

Dwarf Plants for Trough Gardens
Echeverias provide textures for the trough garden. (echeveria due image by photografika from Fotolia.com)

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