Miniature House Plants for Small Spaces

Miniature House Plants for Small Spaces Featured Image

Some apartment dwellers, or those with small homes, may relish the idea of filling living spaces with big, clambering house plants for a jungle-like look, but others can take a subtler approach with space-saving miniature plants. They demand less care and provide more elbow room while keeping the water bills low.

A sunny tabletop can hold several small plants rather than one large specimen and still have a place for magazines and a cup of coffee. Our favorites look like popular big house plants, only miniature or micro-miniature, and all are full-on cute.

(One important caveat when choosing mini-plants: Don’t be fooled by small-looking plants sold in tiny pots. Lots of plants sold in tiny pots will grow quickly and eventually become large. Always look at the final height and width of a plant on the tag before purchasing it.)

Miniature Flowering House Plants

Colorful miniature flowering house plants

There is no shortage of microminiature (maximum of 3″) and miniature (maximum of 6″) African Violets (Saintpaulia hybrids). Their tiny clusters of blooms come in all colors, and the little plants grow just like larger varieties. (Click here to learn more about mini African Violet care.)

Miniature Golden Begonia (Begonia prismatocarpa): This is one of many tiny begonias. The little begonia reaches 5-6 inches and originates from the forests of western Africa. Its small habit, bright green leaves, and little golden-orange flowers are truly beautiful.

Miniature Cape Primroses

Miniature Cape Primroses (Streptocarpus hybrids): Big, colorful tubular flowers in shades of white, pink, purple, and lavender appear on little plants periodically throughout the year, particularly from fall to summer. Water from the base of the pot, as you would an African violet, and place it in bright, indirect light. Be sure to keep the foliage dry.

Miniature Wax Plant (Hoya lanceolata subsp. bella): When compared to most vining hoya, which reach several feet in length, 12-18 inches is quite small. This lovely wax plant develops clusters of pink-centered white flowers with fantastic fragrance. It makes a perfect hanging basket specimen for a partially sunny spot.

Lightning Bolt Jewel Orchid leaves
Lightning Bolt Jewel Orchid stays small but has bold, eye-catching leaves.

Lightning Bolt Jewel Orchid (Macodes petola) is an outstanding small foliage plant from the forests of Indonesia. Its leaves look as if riddled with nerves or lightening bolts. Ten-to-fourteen-inch spires of white or pinkish-orange flowers rise from the stems yearly, but the foliage stays low and compact–usually to 6 inches. Plant it in loose sphagnum peat moss and water with distilled, room temperature water to keep it moist. Bright, indirect light is preferred.

Miniature Foliage House Plants

Aloe 'Pepe'
Aloe ‘Pepe’ reaches just 3 inches tall and is very cute.

Miniature aloe (Aloe ‘Pepe’) maxing out at 3 inches, this little aloe is as tiny and cute as can be. Plant it in tiny pot alongside tiny cacti and succulents or in a mini terrarium. (Click here for a more expansive list of mini succulents.)

Easter lily sea urchin cactus (Echinopsis subdenudatum ‘Dominos’) reaches 3-4 inches Easter lily sea urchin cactus and is spectacular in bloom. The non-prickly little cactus ‘urchins’ has sparse tufts of white spines. In spring or summer, is bears huge, 6-8-inch-long, white, tubular flowers are produced that are fragrant and night-blooming. (In the wild, bats and moths pollinate them.)

Dominos Easter lily sea urchin cactus
Dominos Easter lily sea urchin cactus are small and green, but variegated forms also exist.

Baby rubber plant (Peperomia obtusifolia) and Ruby Glow Peperomia (Peperomia graveolens ‘Ruby Glow’) are two compact, succulent peperomias that are very easy to grow and attractive. The 6-inch Ruby Glow has curved, succulent leaves with attractive red undersides. Baby rubber plant looks much like the large rubber plant (Ficus elastica), but it is tiny in comparison maxing out at around 12 inches rather than many feet. Be sure to provide them pots with drainage holes and porous, high-quality soil such as Fafard Professional Potting Mix. Allow the pots to become moderately dry between watering.

Peperomia graveolens 'Ruby Glow' leaves
Peperomia graveolens ‘Ruby Glow’ leaves have pretty reddish undersides.

Most living stones (Lithops spp.) are so small that they stay under 1-inch in diameter. Others grow a bit larger, reaching 3 inches maximum. They form little clumps of pebble-like plants. Mature plants will flower, producing one starry yellow, pink, or white flower per stone, depending on the species. The plants themselves can be grey, blue-green, green, brown, and even reddish and orange hues. Some are even have textural markings across the top like real stones. Give these true desert plants the sharpest draining pots, and plant them in pebbly soil. The top 1 inch of medium should just be fine gravel. Water sparingly and keep in partial to bright, indirect sunlight.

Colorful Living stones
Living stones come in all colors are remain very small. Just be sure you do not overwater them!

Bold serrated leaves make Philodendron ‘Little Hope’ look like big varieties, but it stays comparatively small at 1-2′. Indirect light and regular moisture are recommended for this rain forest plant.

Any one of these little house plants would light up a small space in your home. And, small means that you can have more, so choose them all.

Little pot of a cluster of living stones
This little pot shows a cluster of just one living stone species.

Growing Miniature African Violets

Growing Miniature African violets Featured Image

Miniature African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha hybrids), look and act very much like their larger violet siblings. The big difference is the small size. Minis feature a basal leaf rosette that is only 3 to 6 inches in diameter, making them perfect for limited growing space, terrariums and other special situations.

African Violet History

African violets
Traditional purple African violets can come in miniature and micro-miniature forms.

African violets are not true violets, but members of the Gesneriaceae family. Their wild ancestors were first collected in 1892 from forests in what is now Tanzania by Baron Walter St. Paul, a German colonial official, and amateur botanist. St. Paul sent the specimens to his father in Germany, who passed them on to Hermann Wendland, Director of the Royal Botanical Garden, who first described them. Eventually, the new genus was christened Saintpaulia, after Baron St. Paul. The species name, “ionantha” means “violet-like,” in honor of the purple flowers.

The violets arrived in New York in 1894. They caught on with plant lovers and by 1946, they were so popular that a group of enthusiasts formed the African Violet Society of America (AVSA). The society, which is also the registration authority for new violet varieties, now describes itself as “the largest society devoted to a single indoor plant in the world.”

Red African Violets
Petal edges may be exuberantly ruffled.

African Violet Sizes

As the vogue for African violets grew, breeders created new varieties, expanding the range of flower and leaf forms and colors, as well as plant sizes. Miniatures are one of a handful of recognized size categories. The others are micro-miniatures (less than 3 inches in diameter), semi-miniatures (6 to 8 inches), standard (8 to 16 inches) and large (over 16 inches). Minis, micro-minis, and semi-minis are genetically predisposed to small size, but may occasionally grow larger than the dimensions that define their categories.

African Violet Flowers and Leaves

Like their larger relatives, minis may have single, semi-double or double flowers. Traditional single flowered varieties feature five petals, with the two on top slightly smaller than the bottom three. Petal size is more uniform on varieties with single, star-shaped flowers. Petal edges can be flat, slightly wavy or exuberantly ruffled. Color possibilities include shades of white, pale green, pink, red, yellow, purple and blue-purple, as well as combinations of those colors.

Miniature African violet leaves are sometimes as interesting as the flowers, with variations in shape, size, texture, leaf edges and color. Some varieties bear bi-colored foliage with contrasting variegation in shades of green, tan or cream.

Pink African violets
Semi-double varieties may feature bi-colored petals.

Miniature African Violet Care

Beautiful minis need loving care. This starts with a free-draining, soilless potting medium like Fafard African Violet Potting Mix. Good drainage is essential to violet health because too much moisture causes deadly crown rot. Once potted up, minis should be watered whenever the surface of the soil feels dry to the touch. Feed the plants each time you water with a diluted solution of balanced fertilizer (for example 20-20-20), following manufacturers’ directions, or using one 1/8 teaspoon fertilizer per gallon of water. If you water from the top, avoid the leaves, as water droplets cause unsightly leaf spotting. Water from the bottom by filling the saucer and allowing the plant to stand for an hour before emptying out the remaining water.

Indoors, minis need bright, indirect light from east or west-facing windows. South-facing windows may also provide good light in the winter but need to be covered with sheer curtains in summer to prevent leaf burn. Promote balanced growth by turning the plants about 90 degrees each time they are watered. Plants may also vacation outdoors during the growing season, as long as they are positioned in light shade.

Grooming African Violets

Groom miniature African violets by removing dead or dying leaves. To promote flowering and maintain the plants at the optimum size, do not allow them to produce more than five horizontal rows of leaves. Rejuvenate overgrown specimens by removing the lowest row(s) of leaves and repot, if necessary, using fresh potting mix. Minis and other African violets flower best when they are somewhat pot-bound.

For more information on minis and other African violets, contact the African Violet Society of America, 2375 North Street, Beaumont, TX 77702-1722, (409) 839-4725.