Indoor Zen Garden – A Garden of Contemplation

An indoor Zen garden or Japanese rock garden is a popular garden theme with a difference! Sand and stones form the essence of these tranquil, dry landscape gardens. The sand represents water (e.g. the sea, ocean, river, lake) and may be raked to form lovely patterns in the sand. No soil is used.

You can use carefully pruned plants, although you likely won’t have the space doing this indoors. Keep it simple and clean.

Indoor Zen Garden

It’s said that a Zen garden relieves stress and imparts a sense of peace and tranquility. It looks so simple, consisting only of sand and stones that it gives an impression of space and sense of order. But the placement of stones is an art that is difficult to perfect.

Stone Placement

When placing stones, remember these guidelines:

  • It is important to always show the best side of a stone facing the viewers.
  • The garden should always contain more horizontal than vertical stones.
  • Do not use stones where it’s clear that they’ve been broken or cut.
  • Do not use stones where the top is larger than the base. They should always taper towards the top.

There’re many, many rules relating to stone placement which is at the centre of Zen garden design. If you’re interested in reading about every aspect of stone placement and Zen gardening, you’d be interested in a book called the Sakuteiki (“The Book of Garden”), a 1000-year-old text on garden design!


Raking the sand in an indoor Japanese rock garden is another area where you can express your creativity. The raked areas represent ripples in the water. So they will tend to form concentric circles around the stones. But don’t be afraid to play around with different raking styles.

Getting Started

A good place to start with an indoor Japanese rock garden is to purchase an indoor kit. These kits come with a container, sand and appropriate stones. From then on it’s all about placement. Resist the temptation to add features to your garden.

Clutter Free

These days, we’re used to being able to have everything we want. All the bells and whistles. Instant gratification. This culture does’nt do well with a Zen garden! Keep clutter out. Don’t try to include too many features in your garden or you loose the effect of simplicity, clarity and peace. Our lives are cluttered enough! Go for minimalism.