While browsing through the aisles of endless cool things at World Market, I came across this big ole jug with thick glass and a way cool asymmetrical shape. My husband could tell by my reaction that I needed to have it. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with it,” I told him. “Just get it!”…”Ok.” :)
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So I’ve had this empty oversized bottle sitting around for at least a year. As spring was coming around getting me excited for planting, I decided it was time to fill that jug. And the glass bottle garden was born.
How to plant a garden in a bottle
I happened to come across a terrarium kit that made starting this project much easier. All of the materials in the kit can be purchased separately and depending on the size of your bottle, you may need more of some materials than others.
Materials & Tools
- large glass bottle, jug, or jar
- terrarium kit OR
- river rocks
- potting soil
- sheet moss
- miniature plants
- piece of paper to make a funnel
- a variety of long handled tools – I used several pairs of tongs, wooden spoons taped together, a wooden dowel, and some other random things
Other decorative materials used in this glass bottle garden
- flat beach stones
- dried flower stems
- dried coneflower seed heads
- miniature gazing ball
- flameless tea light
- tea light candle holder
If you’re using a terrarium kit, follow the directions on the package to build your garden in a bottle. I’ve outlined those steps below.
First add river rocks. Depending on the size of your bottle garden, you may need more than a kit provides. I’ve found that the dollar store has bags of river rocks for, you guessed it, a dollar!
Create a funnel out of paper to help direct the charcoal where you want it to land. Evenly spread out the charcoal on top of the layer of rocks.
The purpose of adding charcoal to a bottle garden is to trap any toxins that may damage your plants as well as odors.
Next up is to add in the potting soil. My jug is about 13″ wide and the opening is only 1.5″ in diameter so the paper funnel came in handy for this step also.
Before putting the plants in the bottle garden, plan the garden layout outside the bottle. The tallest plant should be in the center surrounded by the smaller plants and other decor items.
Using your tools, create a hole for each of your plant bases. Starting with the outermost plants, grab a plant with tongs and place into the hole. Add more soil around the plant bases as needed and lightly pack down the soil. Repeat with all plants.
Prepare your sheet moss by soaking in 1/2″ water for 10-20 minutes to saturate. Once saturated (soaked but not sopping wet), use tongs to place pieces of moss around the plants.
Time to decorate! Create a path using flat beach stones; a fence made with dried flower stems and wire; add dried seed heads for extra texture and color.
My glass bottle garden also has a miniature gazing ball that glows in the dark and a fairy-sized fire-pit.
The fire-pit is a flameless tea light candle in a candle holder (actually the cap from a vodka bottle). See FAQs below about how to turn it on or replace the batteries.
This glass bottle garden turned out way better than I had envisioned and is the talk of our house. So far the plants have only grown a little but they’re all doing well.
How do you water it?
A turkey baster. I squirt water directly at the roots of each plant.
How often do you have to water it?
I don’t really have an exact answer for this and this goes for all my other houseplants. It’s more like when they look like they need some water. Or if I ask myself, “When was the last time I watered the plants?” These same rules apply with the bottle garden. Being able to see the dirt to know if it’s moist or if there’s water in the rocks on the bottom helps to know when to water too.
How did you get the plants in the bottle?
See directions and pictures above. :)
How did you come up with this idea?
Actually, this started about 10 years ago with a visit to a used bookstore. I walked straight to back of the store and grabbed a random book off the shelf. I then opened that book to a random page and BAM “How to grow a garden in a bottle.” Genius. And how cool! I had never heard of such a thing at the time but now these terrarium gardens are in high fashion and I’m getting in the game. With my super awesome impulse bought bottle.
What do you do when the plants get too big?
According to the aforementioned book, a long forceps with a scissors attached is a way to trim the plants to keep them the right size. Since the plants haven’t grown too much yet, I haven’t really thought about it but I’m sure I’ll figure it out when the time comes. I’ll be sure to add that update here.
Why don’t you have it in the sun?
Terrariums or bottle gardens should not be in direct sunlight (think magnifying glass + ant). Indirect light in a brightly lit room is a great choice for placement in your home.
How do you turn on the “fire”?
Originally I had planned that I would have to take the candle out to turn it on. I wrapped the tea light with wire and created a loop that could be hooked to pull the candle out of the bottle. Turns out the power button on the bottom of the candle is so sensitive I can just push down on the candle with a wooden dowel to turn it on. But the wire loop comes in handy to pull out the candle to replace the battery.
Is there a fairy in the garden?
I’ve never seen her but I think she visits at night and sits by the fire.