The curse of good drainage in a full-sized garden is that it’s difficult to grow interesting sedges and rushes that need wet feet. You can still enjoy these plants without a hike to the swamp by planting a miniature water garden. By planting it in a birdbath, you can more easily enjoy the unique shapes and forms of the plants.
Plant what’s available and hardy in your area, and whatever has a relatively small and shallow root system. Birdbaths aren’t very deep.

Tired of scrubbing out the birdbath? Plant a miniature water garden in it.


The focus of this garden is the plants, not the accessories; however, a bunny in a little canoe wouldn’t be out of place.


Pea gravel is used as mulch around the plants to keep the soil in place.


Plants, clockwise from top left:

  • Cyperus prolifer, dwarf papyrus
  • Juncus filiformis ‘Spiralis’, Corkscrew rush
  • Acorus gramineus ‘Aureopusillus Minimus’, miniature variegated sweetflag
  • Adiantum spp., maidenhair fern


A concrete birdbath on a pedestal or any shallow container without drainage will work.

Potting Soil

The plants are planted in playground sand as it’s heavy and less likely to wash out.

Miniature Water Garden Step by Step

Fill the birdbath with sand

Fill the birdbath with sand. Playground sand is certain to be clean and uniform.

Break up plants

Break up plants that you want to use in multiple pieces. Breaking up the plants helps reduce the size of their rootballs, thus allowing them to more easily settle into the shallow birdbath container.

Plant the plants.

You can break up the rootballs and spread them out horizontally in the birdbath. Cover the roots with sand. Sand does not have the same amount of nutrients that soil would, but by allowing the water to collect in the garden (along with leaves and stray
bits of plant debris that falls into it), the plants will receive nutrients.

Topdress the garden with pebbles

Add pebbles until the sand is covered. The rocks will help keep the sand from running out when it rains and will help hold the plants upright.

Water the garden

Water the garden until water spills out over the sides of the birdbath.

Care and Maintenance

This garden needs virtually no maintenance other than watering. Make sure that the plants stay watered if you don’t get rain for more than a week.
Some of the plants are hardier than others. After winter is over, take stock of what has returned for the season and what hasn’t and replant. Replanting is a good excuse to try new water plants.