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Find Your Zen: How to Create a Meditation Garden in Any Space (Complete Guide)

meditation garden style paver pathway with bamboo railing

A meditation garden is a garden specifically designed for the practice of meditation, mindfulness and relaxation.

The function of these gardens is to connect with the inner self and to find peace and harmony – away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. 

And that’s something we can probably all use in our lives, right?

These gardens are usually small in size and minimalistic in design. Plant and color variety is minimal – this limits distractions and quiets the mind. 

Meditation gardens create a sense of enclosure, either by a wall/fence or with hedges/plants. The separation of the garden from the outside world is an important part of what makes it so peaceful!

In addition to plants, meditation gardens typically incorporate other elements like water features and seating areas.

These gardens are suitable for both indoors and outdoor spaces. 

The ultimate goal of a meditation garden is to use the Earthly elements – earth, wind, water, fire & metal – to create a space for reflection and meditation. 

If the sound of a meditation garden is enough to get you relaxed, get ready to learn a lot more! This article is going to provide MANY meditation garden ideas and aspects.

If you’re interested in other types of garden design, check out my garden styles article! There are so many fun ways to personalize your garden. And, learning about all of the unique garden styles available to you is the first step to making that happen!

History of Meditation Gardens

The history of meditation gardens goes all the way back to ancient times. Chinese, Japanese and Persian civilizations created gardens specifically for meditation and contemplation.

These gardens were designed to be peaceful and secluded. Winding paths and stone walkways connected people with nature.  Water features and carefully placed rocks & plants made a calming atmosphere.

In Japan, Zen Buddhism greatly influenced the development of traditional Japanese gardens.

Zen gardens in Japan often include a special space known as a “karesansui” or “dry landscape” garden. This is otherwise known as a Japanese rock garden. Sand or gravel with carefully raked lines surrounds large boulders. The boulders represent mountains and the lines in the sand represent water.

Gardens in China are similar to those of Japan. There is a restful atmosphere thanks to the limited plant and color variety. The use of water features and Buddhist symbolism invoke even more tranquility. There are often architectural spaces meant specifically for meditating!

Western cultures have also used Meditation gardens in monasteries and religious institutions.

The traditions of meditation gardens are still going strong today! With the younger generations, there is an awesome focus on self-care and mental health. New-age gardeners also love finding personal and respectful ways to follow traditions and cultures that they admire.

Benefits of a Meditation Garden

There are SO MANY benefits to having a meditation garden!

A meditation garden can have a positive impact on both the mind and body. It can also help you find a greater sense of peace and balance in your daily life!

Here are some more benefits:

  • Provides a space for relaxation and stress relief
  • Serves as a physical reminder to practice mindfulness and meditation
  • Helps to connect with nature and the inner self
  • Can help to improve overall well-being and mental health
  • Adds beauty and peacefulness to any home or property

An Overview of Meditation Gardens

Once you have chosen the location, it’s time to design the layout of your meditation garden!

Here are some key characteristics that make up a meditation garden:

  • Pathways and walkways: The pathways and walkways in a meditation garden should create a sense of flow and ease of movement. Pathways in Asian gardens usually feature curved pathways for guests to wander through. 
  • Focal points: Focal points in a meditation garden can help to create a sense of balance. Place a water feature, statue, large tree or a colorful flower bed in an area that is visible from many areas in the garden. See my Focal Points eBook for more ideas about using and positioning focal points.
  • Seating areas: Seating areas are essential for comfort and relaxation. Whether it’s  to meditate, do some yoga or just to take in the beauty of your garden! Remember, in authentic Asian meditation gardens, seating areas face East for meditation.
  • Sense of enclosure: In meditation gardens, it’s important to subdue the excitement of the outside world. These garden spaces are meant to be peaceful retreats to enjoy nature and one’s own company. Use walls, fences or bushes to give the illusion that this garden is its own little world! 
  • Limited plant and color palette. I’ll touch more on plants later in the article, but as a rule of thumb, keep the number of plant species and their colors pretty limited. Utilize repetition of the same plants all throughout the garden. This fills the space while keeping it simple and calm. To incorporate colorful plants, group them together in drifts. Make exotic plants into a focal point.

Maintenance Needs of Meditation Gardens

Meditation gardens can be considered low maintenance thanks to the simple and natural design!

The exact level of maintenance always depends on aspects of the garden itself, like its size. But the minimalistic nature of meditation gardens lends to pretty easy upkeep.

It’s worth noting that, while considered low maintenance compared to other styles, a meditation garden still requires some care. No gardens are zero maintenance!

Regular watering and fertilizing are important to keep your plants healthy. Pruning and weeding prevent overgrowth. All of these things help keep the atmosphere meditative – free of clutter and chaos.

Maintaining your meditation garden is essential to keeping it beautiful and functional!

Check out my article with more tips for a low maintenance landscape!

Color Palette for Meditation Gardens

The main color in meditation gardens and a lot of Asian gardens is usually green – from foliage! But, it’s totally possible to add color to your garden while still keeping it peaceful.

Based on what I learned as a graphic designer, the most peaceful color schemes are analogous. This means colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.

Colors very close to each other on the color wheel create harmony, while colors opposite one another create energy and excitement. 

You could even go monochromatic – use only one color throughout the whole garden, repetitiously. That would be very soothing too!

A few years ago I challenged myself to create a garden using only one color! Check out my video to see how it turned out!

How ever many colors you decide to use for your garden, just make sure the focus is keeping it peaceful and tranquil. The atmosphere will reflect all of the design choices you make!

Quick Tip: Check out my article for more ideas on creating a peaceful garden!

Plant Ideas for Meditation Gardens

I know you’re probably excited to jump right into planting… but before heading to the nursery, you’ll have to consider the conditions of your garden space. There are 3 main components to consider before planting: sun, soil and zone. 

Let me explain…

  • Obviously, plants can’t live without sunlight! However, while some plants can’t get enough sun, some actually wilt and die if they get too much. Before you go a-planting, take a look at your space and take note of which areas get more sun and which areas get more shade. Plan your planting design accordingly.
  • Next, the soil. Usually soil is either sandy, clay-based or somewhere in between. Plants have a preference for the amount of acidity and nutrients in the soil, and also whether it is well-draining or not. All things to keep in mind as you pick out your plants.
  • Last but not least, your planting zone. If you don’t know yours already, it’s super easy to figure out online by using your zip code! This is going to completely curate your planting choices to the ones that suit your climate.

To learn more about these first steps, check out my flower gardening for beginners article! I break everything down for you in this article and make it super easy to follow.

Absolutely NAIL Your Favorite Garden Style (Free Lookbook)

Garden Style Lookbooks

Download my FREE Garden Style Lookbook for 2-page summaries of EACH garden style, including naturalistic, cottage, traditional and modern. 

Easy to print out and reference as you create your “uniquely you” dream garden!

Now, the fun part. Plants, plants, plants!

Soothing scents: while you don’t want to overload the senses during meditation, some stimulation can actually enhance the experience. These scents are often used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation. They are also beautiful additions to any garden:

Lavender plant growing in a field and lavender in a dried bundle on the table.
Lavender is a stunning and fragrant addition to any garden. I have a great article on how to prune and harvest your herbs, too!

Graceful grasses: these long blades of grass will look so elegant dancing in the breeze:

golden japanese forest grass
Golden Japanese forest grass (Zones 4-9) is a low-growing shade-tolerant mounding grass that can be used as a groundcover in your meditation garden.

Pretty Perennials: A plant that grows back every year? Who doesn’t want that?! Check out these meditation garden inspired perennial plants:

Structural shrubs/ornamental trees: not only will these add structure to your garden space in a more unique way than a wall or fence, but a shrub or tree will add winter interest. This is something a lot of new gardeners forget to incorporate and come wintertime, their gardens can end up looking empty. Don’t make that mistake! Here are my recommendations for meditation garden trees and shrubs:

Bonsai Trees: Originating in China before Japan popularized it, “Bonsai” is the practice of growing ornamental trees in a pot and keeping them from reaching their full size. It’s considered a form of art! Technically, any tree can be a bonsai. But, these are the most popular:

  • Cuban laurel (Ficus retusa)
  • Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia)
  • Bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata)
  • Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

Hardscaping Ideas for Meditation Gardens

Hardscaping refers to the permanent elements of the garden. It’s another key component in really completing the garden style and design you are going for.

Here are a few “staple” hardscaping elements that you can find in many meditation gardens:

  • Bamboo panels: Bamboo is an iconic plant of Asian style gardens, and while this plant grows naturally and beautifully in Asia, I do not recommend it for western gardens because it is invasive. A nice compromise is a bamboo panel, which can also create a “garden wall” and add to the sense of enclosure. Win/win!
  • A water element: Whether a small fountain or a beautiful bowl of water, the choice is yours. Any water feature becomes a relaxing focal point. 

Bridges: Often seen near water features, bridges are very common in meditation gardens as a way to direct guests along a path and to offer a place to stand and take in the beauty of the space. I love this one from Design Toscano.

  • Large boulders: In Japanese Zen gardens, boulders are believed to have divine spirits within them. Rocks and boulders are very powerful and significant in Asian cultures.
  • Flagstone: This smooth, natural stone would make a gorgeous winding pathway from one secluded section of the garden to the next.

Furniture & Décor Ideas for Meditation Gardens

Statues and sculptures can add a focal point and really reinforce the “Zen” style of the garden. Here’s a few from Design Toscano

Wind chimes are useful for relaxing, ambient noise and can also be a sneaky way to cover unwanted and un-relaxing sounds, like city traffic. This bamboo wind chime would be a unique way to incorporate such an iconic plant into your backyard meditation garden!

photo of a meditation cushion surrounded by bowls

If you’re going to make a garden for relaxing and meditating, you’d better have some comfy seating! An outdoor floor cushion would be perfect for meditation, yoga or tea time!

Photo of statue of Buddha at The Lingering Garden in Suzhou China

Meditation garden statues are very popular. A Buddha statue can be used to create a focal point and a visual reminder of the purpose of your garden!

Asian cultures don’t look at rocks the same way Westerners do. To them, rocks are concentrations of energy and symbolize stability & strength. This sculpture of a river stone cairn would fit in absolutely perfectly as a piece of décor in a meditation garden.

If you decide to incorporate a soothing Japanese rock garden in your space, don’t forget to grab a rake to create those soothing lines in the sand!

Tips for Designing a Meditation Garden at Home

Now that you know how to make the perfect layout, here’s how to fill that space and get the meditation garden of your dreams:

  • Create a sense of enclosure. Meditation gardens should feel separated and private like an outdoor room.
  • Choose Plants That Promote Peace & Stimulate the Senses. Plants with fragrant flowers and leaves can create a relaxing atmosphere. Textured plants can add interest and depth to your garden.
  • Include a Water Feature. It doesn’t have to be a bubbling koi pond in order to get the desired effect! Even a small tabletop fountain would add tranquil ambiance to a meditation garden.
  • Keep the plant variety and color palette limited. Too much color and plant variety will look “busy,” and that’s the exact opposite of the purpose of a meditation garden! In order to fill the space, repeat many of the same types of plants. 
  • Include rocks and Asian style decor. By adding the right decor, it’ll be no question what type of garden you’re going for.

Combining Meditation Garden Design with Other Garden Styles

It’s important to not let yourself feel constrained to only one style or design of gardening. There are soooo many to choose from, and they all have fun and unique qualities!

If everything about the meditation garden seems perfect to you, then go for it! This guide is made to help you achieve the exact qualities that make up a meditation garden at home.

But, if you’re wondering about combining a few different styles together and creating a totally unique space, that’s possible too!

My favorite way to combine garden styles is to look at the planting and the hardscaping separately. For example, if you took the hardscaping style of meditation gardens and combined it with the planting style of naturalistic gardens, you’d end up with a garden totally unique and with a function all its own!

This garden features a quiet, enclosed space for meditation and contemplation, but also has naturalistic style hardscaping!

The garden style “rules” are a helpful way to get started, but it’s important to know that the rules aren’t law – you can bend and break them in YOUR OWN garden all you want!

One of my big tips is to keep it simple when you’re just starting out. Don’t try to incorporate too many ideas – it can be overwhelming. Start small, and you can always build on more later!

Wrapping Up

Designing a meditation garden at home can provide a peaceful and serene space for meditation and relaxation.

And anyone can do it, in any size space!

By choosing the right plants, materials and decor, you can create a meditation garden that is beautiful and beneficial! Your mental and physical health will thank you for such a peaceful, contemplative garden.

So why not create your own meditation garden and enjoy the benefits that it brings?

collage of items for garden mood board.

If you enjoyed learning about these meditation garden ideas, you should definitely check out my Garden Style Mood Board Workshop!

In addition to learning about the different garden styles and their characteristics, I walk you through my fun process for figuring out YOUR garden style “personality.” It’s a super fun way to make your garden uniquely you!

More Garden Style Articles You’ll Love

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Co-Authored by Kady Volpe

Kady is a pro-gardener-in-training. She’s in the process of learning all of Pretty Purple Door’s frameworks and landscape design techniques.

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