June 3, 2021

How to create a DIY bottle garden

A bottle garden is a wonderful way to get creative yourself and create something that you will enjoy for many, many years. After all, such a florarium is exceedingly sustainable, so it can even last for several decades. How to create such an "eternal terrarium" and which plants are best suited - we explain in this DIY step-by-step guide

What is a bottle garden anyway?

A bottle garden is more or less a mini-garden in a bottle. In a sealed glass container, the natural cycle between plants, water, air, substrate, and microorganisms creates a miniature ecosystem that functions completely automatically. So once you have created the bottle garden, you don't have to worry about anything.

Such a florarium is therefore an optimal floral decoration for people who do not have a green thumb and often forget to water their houseplants. Even if you travel a lot, an independent bottle garden is great. On shelves or the window sill, it sets decorative accents in the room. What's more, it's simply a joy to watch the mini-plants grow and thrive and watch the little ecosystem keep changing.

Bottle Garden for your Home
Zolea | The Twig | Jardim no Pote

How does a bottle garden work?

With the first watering, the little natural miracle takes its course. After you've created your DIY bottle garden, it needs to be watered carefully. Use water that is low in lime – rainwater is best. Water until the soil is well moistened – but under no circumstances should waterlog occur. If you find that you have watered too much, simply leave the lid of the florarium open for a few days to allow excess moisture to escape.

Once the right amount of water is in the bottom, the rule is: screw on the lid. This seals the bottle garden airtight and the magic can begin.

Now the plants absorb water from the soil and release it through their leaves. The water collects as condensation on the inside of the glass jar, evaporates and returns to the soil in this way – a perfect cycle. 

The water added in this way at the beginning is in constant circulation – oxygen and CO2 are added through photosynthesis. A mini ecosystem is born.

What is the perfect container for your DIY bottle garden?

For a florarium, you can use either an open or closed container. The classic bottle garden is closed, but there are variations that are open. If you want to create an open florarium with succulents and cacti, you can use, for example, a goldfish bowl or a vase, but for a real “eternal terrarium” we recommend vessels that can be closed airtight. A wine balloon, for example, is an excellent option.

However, you can also use any glass bottle. Just keep in mind that the narrower the vessel, the more difficult it is to fill. Larger, bulbous jars like candy jars or canning jars with cork stoppers are ideal.

By the way, a completely enclosed florarium is called a hermetosphere. With this self-contained mini-ecosystem, maintenance is practically zero, so it will grow and thrive for many years without you having to open the lid once.

How to build a Bottle Garden
Keszthelyi Timi | Zolea | Keszthelyi Timi

What plants are suitable for a bottle garden?

Exotic plants are ideal, which find a climate in the eternal terrarium that is very close to real living conditions. The tropical, warm and humid bottle garden climate even allows mini orchids to thrive, which are especially popular along with colorful flowering bromeliads and mosses. In addition, native plants like ferns and ivy also do well.

Here's an overview of the plants you can use for your bottle garden:

- Mini Orchids: Phalaenopsis, Cymbidium, Dendrobium.

- Ornamental pepper

- Zebra herb

- UFO plant

- carnivorous plants

- small-leaved ivy

- small ferns

- mosses: sphagnum, java moss, star moss

- bromeliads

You are a lover of cacti and succulents? You can use them for an open florarium, but not for a closed bottle garden.

If you decide to use miniature decorative desert plants, don't forget to water them, as open bottle gardens are not a closed ecosystem.

best Plants for your Bottle Garden
Pot & Bouquet | Keszthelyi Timi

What substrate is best suited for a bottle garden?

The substrate consists of three layers: the drainage layer, charcoal, and the actual substrate in which the small plants are placed. 

Expanded clay, gravel, and granules such as lava granules or basalt chips are recommended for drainage, as they are extremely durable. On top of this is a small layer of crushed charcoal, on which quite normal garden or potting soil is heaped as a third layer.

Creating a bottle garden – step-by-step instructions

Step 1: Cleaning

Clean the bottle thoroughly with boiling water. This will kill any mold spores and germs that may be present.

Use aquarium glass cleaner for hard to reach areas.

Step 2: Drainage

Fill pebbles, granules or expanded clay into the vessel. This drainage will prevent water from collecting, waterlogging and moldy soil.

Step 3: Funnel

Build a funnel to fill the bottle garden with soil. To do this, cut off the top of a PET bottle, roll a piece of paper into a funnel and insert it into the neck of the bottle. Now you can fill your DIY bottle garden with soil without dirtying the glass walls.

Step 4: Charcoal and soil

Chop charcoal into 0.5 to 1 cm pieces and fill them on top of the drainage layer. The charcoal will act as additional mold protection.

Add 8 to 10 cm of garden or potting soil.

Step 5: Prepare plants

Prepare the plant shoots by carefully pulling them apart, shaking off the soil and gently rinsing the roots with water.

Step 6: Insert plants

Make a small depression in the soil where you will place the plants. If the glass container is very narrow, you can simply attach a cork to a bamboo stick or a chopstick. The plants themselves are also placed carefully with the chopsticks. To press the soil in place, you can use your homemade tool again.

Step 7: Decorate

Now you can add decorative material such as moss, shells, decorative stones and small branches. It is best to use long tweezers to insert them.

Step 8: Watering

Finally, comes the most delicate step. Carefully pour low-lime water into your bottle garden. The soil should be well moist, but no waterlogging should form. To prevent too much water from getting into the florarium, it is best to use a pipette – this way you can dose the water perfectly and never add too much.

Also make sure that the water lands directly on the bottom and does not get on the inside of the glass. Afterwards, close your bottle garden and make sure that no air gets inside through the lid. You accidentally watered too much after all? Then let the florarium sit with the lid open for a few days.

What is the perfect location for a bottle garden?

A bottle garden likes to stand in bright light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight. This could cause the plants to burn behind the glass, and you will have to remove them from the florarium.

A spot on a windowsill facing north, for example, is perfect. But any other bright location in the room – on a shelf, dresser or sideboard, for example – is also a good choice. 

different Bottle Garden Sizes
The Twig | Zolea

How do I care for my bottle garden?

The good thing about a bottle garden is that it requires absolutely no maintenance. Once established, it functions completely independently as a self-contained ecosystem.

There are two exceptions to this:

First, you notice drips forming on the inside of the glass. This is a sign that your bottle garden is too humid: the plants cannot completely absorb and transform the available water. 

In this case, simply open the lid and leave the bottle garden open for a short time to allow excess moisture to escape. Meanwhile, watch your florarium: once the drops have disappeared, close it airtight again.

The second reason to enter the mini-ecosystem of a bottle garden: You discover diseased, dead or rotting plant parts. These should be removed immediately. So open the lid and carefully remove the diseased plant with tweezers and chopsticks. 

Otherwise, the following applies: The lid should be opened as rarely as possible. This is the only way to keep the wonderful cycle of nature undisturbed.

Cute Bottle Garden
Keszthelyi Timi

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