In a bottle garden, there is a perfect ecosystem in which plants thrive for years without further intervention. How to create your own garden in a bottle.
The great thing about a bottle garden is that it is basically completely autonomous and, once it has been created, it can last for many years – without you having to lift a finger. In the interaction of sunlight (outside) and water (inside), nutrients and gases develop that keep a perfect mini-ecosystem running in the glass. Once filled in, the water evaporates and precipitates again on the inner walls. During photosynthesis, plants filter carbon dioxide from the air and give off fresh oxygen. A perfect cycle! With our instructions, you can easily create your own bottle garden.
Bottle garden idea
The idea is not new, by the way: the English doctor Dr. Nathaniel Ward created the “Wardschen box”, an enclosed garden in a glass container – the prototype of all mini-greenhouses was born! The term bottle garden is implemented very differently today – sometimes it is an open glass container planted with succulents or a closed glass vessel. The latter is a special form that connoisseurs call the thermosphere. The most famous bottle garden is probably that of the British David Latimer, who over 58 years ago put some substrate and plant seeds from a three-masted flower (Tradescantia) into a wine balloon, closed it, and patiently left it to itself. In 1972 he opened it once, watered it, and resealed it.
Bottle gardens are small ecosystems in their own right
A lush garden has developed in it to this day – the small ecosystem in the wine balloon works wonderfully. For plant lovers who enjoy experimenting, mini gardening in a glass is just the thing.
What actually is a thermosphere?
The term is derived from the Latin “hermetic” (closed) and the Greek “sphaira” (shell). A thermosphere is a self-contained system in the form of a small garden in a glass that hardly needs to be watered. Placed in a warm, bright place in the house, you can enjoy the thermosphere for many years. With the right materials and plants, this special form of the bottle garden is very easy to care for and also suitable for beginners.
Which location is suitable for the bottle garden?
The best place for a bottle garden is in a very bright, but shady place without direct sunlight. Set up the bottle garden so that you can see it clearly and observe what is going on inside. It is worth it!
Alternatively, the bottle gardens can also be provided with an artificial light source
You can use a conventional bottle to create a bottle garden. Somewhat larger, bulbous models with a cork stopper or similar, as well as candy or preserving jars that can be hermetically sealed (important!) Are ideal. First, clean the bottle thoroughly with boiling water to kill any mold spores or germs that may be present.
Candy jars are easy to fill and close: the perfect jars for a bottle garden!
Which plants are suitable for the bottle garden?
Exotic plants are particularly suitable for planting bottle gardens. The climate in it is similar to the living conditions in their natural locations. Even orchids thrive in tropical, humid, and warm ecosystems. We recommend using so-called mini orchids, which are the result of crossings of small species with hybrids. They are available from the Phalaenopsis, as well as from the Cymbidium, the Dendrobium, or many other popular orchid genera.
Ornamental pepper, zebra herb (Tradescantia), and ufo plants are also uncomplicated. Peat mosses (Sphagnum) are just as important in a bottle garden as small ferns. Bromeliads are particularly beautiful, with their extraordinary flowers providing color accents. Incidentally, cacti or succulents are also suitable for planting, but in this case, the container should remain open.
The perfect substrate for an ecosystem in the glass
Expanded clay, gravel, or granules, such as those used for hydroponics, are ideal as a base for a bottle garden. Durable substrates such as lava granules or basalt chippings are particularly suitable (e.g. granules for winter service). Depending on the size of the bottle, put a layer of it about two inches high into the bottom. This ensures good drainage and prevents water from collecting and the soil that follows from starting to mold. The second layer consists of conventional flower or garden soil and is laid eight to ten centimeters high on top.
Tip: If your bottle has a narrow neck, you can use a funnel to fill it in.
Create a bottle garden yourself
Creating a bottle garden yourself is not that difficult. The prerequisite for later having a stable ecosystem in the glass, which you hardly have to worry about, is that you observe the points mentioned above regarding location, substrate, and planting. Here you will find step-by-step instructions for creating a bottle garden.
With little effort, you can easily create beautiful bottle gardens yourself
Step by step: How to create a bottle garden
Fill in the substrate to cover the ground. Do not use potting soil, otherwise, the glasses will rot. After all, the plants should stay small and grow slowly.
Carefully pull apart individual plant shoots, shake off the soil a little, and carefully rinse the roots in the water.
Carefully place the plant in the glass and arrange the shoots loosely. With a cardboard tube (for example from a kitchen roll) that is cut at an angle on the bottom, the granules can be specifically filled – so that the roots are covered.
Use long tweezers to drape stones and shells in the glass as small decorative elements.
After planting, the following applies water sparingly! With a pipette, you can carefully pour water into the glass. However, no water should be visible on the bottom of the glass.
Finally, add a few harmless springtails (20 to 30 pieces). The tiny soil creatures keep the glass free from mold and are important helpers.
Maintaining a bottle garden
After the bottle garden has been created, it is watered and sealed airtight. Pour just enough that the bottle is fogged up in the morning but dries off during the day.
If drops (condensation water) form on the inside of the bottle garden and trickle down, it is too damp and must be opened again
If there are any drips on the inside, the ecosystem has gotten too wet and you should open the bottle for a while to let out the excess moisture. Otherwise, you can leave your bottle garden completely to yourself and rarely need to open it for inspection. We hope you enjoy watching it!
Tip: To place plants, decorative elements, or the like in a bottle garden, you can use chopsticks like those used for Asian food.
Practical video: DIY bottle garden
Would you prefer to view the instructions in video format? This video shows you exactly the steps explained above and you will have your own, easy-care bottle garden in no time at all. We wish you a lot of fun!
Lisa N. Marsh is an editor at Crown-Times, Home & Garden.
Being from the north, Lisa not only loves Roses and Peonies but also has a soft spot for all things nautical and Scandinavian country style. As a home and garden editor, she is always on the lookout for clever garden design ideas, practical outdoor furniture, and special accessories.