At Garden Patch, we’re all about enjoying gardens of every size and style. The thing is, when you’re really short on space, it can take a little creativity to achieve your own little luscious patch of greenery! If you’re craving some nature but are lacking outdoor square footage, it’s time to learn how to grow a bottle garden.
What is a bottle garden?
Bottle gardens are created by growing certain plants inside plastic or glass bottles, often (but not necessarily) completely sealed off from the outside environment. Working in a similar way to terrariums, you can grow a bottle garden for an indefinite period of time, as long as it’s exposed to the right lighting conditions.
Bottle gardens became very popular in the 1960s and 1970s, alongside a boom in high-rise living. When you’re limited to a small balcony or patio (or perhaps no outdoor space at all), a miniature indoor garden is the perfect way to stay connected with the earth.
Because bottle gardens use a self-contained water system, they can be useful environments for growing plants in areas of drought, or even for growing edible plants and vegetables in places where there’s not enough moisture in the soil for healthy crops outdoors.
What do you need to grow a bottle garden?
For a successful, healthy bottle garden, you’ll need a few things:
- A large, transparent container – usually a glass bottle or interesting jar, with a lid of some kind.
- A selection of small plants (look for ones that will grow slowly)
- General purpose compost
- Bark or gravel to provide drainage at the bottom of your container
- Charcoal pieces to keep the water and soil relatively fresh
- Decorative pieces, like gravel, moss or even figurines – it’s up to you!
Preparing to grow a bottle garden is very similar to planting a terrarium, but the basic steps are:
- Make sure your container is clean, then line it with about 3cm of gravel or bark. If your container has a narrow neck, you can create a paper funnel to make this easier!
- Pour in a teaspoon (or two teaspoons for large containers) of granulated charcoal.
- Add 1-2cm of compost, and then remove your plants from their pots, gently massaging the roots to loosen them.
- Gently lower your plants into place through the neck of your container. You don’t need to press or bury them into place, just add some compost to lightly fill the gaps. Leaving a little bit of space between plants and at the edge of your bottle garden is a good idea too – it’ll make it look less cluttered when you’re done!
- Add your and decorative elements to the top of the soil.
- Pour a little bit of water into your terrarium – if you’ve got soil on the sides of the glass, use this as an opportunity to rinse it down into the bottom of the container.
- Give your bottle garden a day or two to settle and allow excess water to evaporate before putting a lid on it (if you want to put a lid on it at all).
I really like this video tutorial on making a retro-inspired bottle garden, if you want to follow along!
In terms of maintenance, sealed bottle gardens need very little. As long as the plants are getting enough light (well-lit, but not direct light as the glass can act like a magnifier), they should naturally respire and photosynthesise to recycle the water trapped inside. An open bottle garden will still trap some water, but you’ll need to top it up every so often – it’s best to monitor the soil moisture to accurately schedule watering days.
11 Bottle Garden Ideas
Now you’ve got the basics of how to grow a bottle garden, let’s take a look at some fun designs you can use as inspiration.
These “leaning” jars come in all kinds of shapes and sizes (often with lids), and are both pretty and practical containers to grow a bottle garden inside. The openings are usually big enough for you to fit your hand in, and the jars are typically big enough for several small plants. As you can see, using tongs to place more delicate objects is still a good idea!
I’m a sucker for drinks in unusual bottles, but I never know what to do with them when they’re empty! If you have a similar problem, maybe try turning them into mini bottle gardens, like these!
Can’t decide between a sealed bottle garden or an open one? This beautiful one takes inspiration from both! The cork stopper will stop a little bit moisture evaporating out of the top, and the plant bursting out of the open front is a really fun idea. I also like the use of small bits of driftwood inside, giving this a slightly beachy feel.
If you want to grow a bottle garden that’s truly breath-taking, make sure to choose a variety of plants. This gravel-filled jar is very simple in design, but the different pinks and yellows in the foliage inside really make it a striking example.
You don’t have to grow a bottle garden just for plants – little figurines can transform a simple, moss-filled jar into a miniature landscape. Take a look at our fairy garden ideas for more ways to create a tiny magical world in your home!
I love going hunting out weird and wonderful shaped glassware at car-boot sales and charity shops. You can find vessels like these for next to nothing, and they make very interesting homes for plants.
These tiny apothecary bottles must take the prize for smallest gardens ever! They’re SO cute though, and having several clustered together on a shelf or side table would look gorgeous.
This giant jar looks like a little slice of jungle! The different plants inside are really showcasing a variety of shapes, colours and structures, which is exactly what you should be looking for in a multi-plant bottle garden.
Sometimes less is more! These leafy tendrils really stand out against the mounds of fluffy moss, and the overall container design is simple and chic. Something about it reminds me of minimalist Japanese garden design – take a look at our post on Japanese gardening principles to see if you agree!
How cool is this giant boiling flask bottle? This would look amazing in a modern home, and make a show-stopping centrepiece in a hallway or living room. The low-lying plants actually work perfectly to show off the shape of the bottle, too.
What’s better than having one bottle garden? Having three! This set of bottle gardens is basically a sculptural triptych, with delicate moss creating a beautiful backdrop for the resin “waterfall” and tiny horse statuette. It might take a little bit of planning to create your own, but I’ve never seen anything like this before and am personally very inspired!
Which of these ideas inspire you to grow a bottle garden of your own? We’d love to see your own designs!