You’re chilling at home, the Jack Daniels bottle is giving you looks, you recently got into terrariums, and you suddenly get this idea, an amazing idea, a terrarium in a bottle! But questions start crossing your mind. Is it possible? Will it work out?
Not only is it possible, but it’s also the easiest terrarium kind you can make. And it looks incredible. There are so many ways you can get creative with something as simple as a bottle. Round bottles, square bottles, wine bottles, whiskey bottles, gin bottles, mini bottles, hell, even plastic bottles. The possibilities are endless.
In this article, you’ll learn exactly how to make bottled terrariums – both open and closed. Enjoy, and get ready to create your newest masterpiece.
To create a beautiful bottle terrarium, you will need the following materials:
- Empty bottle
- Baby Nephrolepis Fern (my favorite plant for bottle terrariums) or another suitable plant – more on plant selection later
- Fine grain gravel (pea gravel, lava rock, molar clay)
- Long chopstick
- Spray bottle
- Funnel (If you don’t have a funnel fold a piece of paper in half and use it as a slide)
- Long pair of tweezers (don’t worry if you don’t have these)
- Terrarium soil
Any bottle will do. No matter how big or small. But there are some things to consider before you pick a random green plastic bottle from your kitchen.
I recommend you use a clear glass bottle of any size. Sure a plastic bottle will do the job (great for kids’ projects), but it doesn’t really look all that spectacular does it? Look at the bottle as part of the design.
- Color – stick to clear bottles
My favorite kind of bottle to use is a 1L Jack Daniels bottle (somehow I always have one around). I like the cubical shape, and the versatility it gives me when arranging everything inside. It’s big, and it looks great (for my taste).
When choosing a bottle, keep the four aspects mentioned above in mind, design, width, size, and color. In general, any bottle will work. Here are some ideas:
- Wine bottle
- Glass water bottle
- Whiskey bottle
- Carboy bottle
- General alcohol bottle
Alcohol bottles are usually the best. The alcohol section in your supermarket is probably filled with all kinds of bottles with interesting shapes.
Who knew building terrariums could be so unhealthy!?
Your plant selection should be based on the type of terrarium you make:
For closed bottled terrariums you want to get plants that thrive in humid conditions. For example:
- Baby Nephrolepis Fern
- Lemon Button Ferm
- Fluffy Ruffles Ferm
- Silver Ribbon Fern
- Maidenhair Fern
- Nerve Plant
- Polka Dot Plant
- Radiator Plant
- Little Tree Plant
- Aluminum Plant
- Creeping Fig
- Moon Valley Pilea
- Creeping Fig
If you want to keep your bottle terrarium open, you can still use the same plants, minus the moss. But keep in mind that you will have to keep an eye on the humidity, and do some watering when the terrarium looks dry.
Set Up (How To)
Now that you have everything ready, it’s time to put it all together. Follow these steps to build your bottle terrarium:
Clean the bottle and dry it out. After it’s all cleaned, it’s time to begin adding the first component.
- Add ~2cm of fine-grain gravel into the bottom of the bottle terrarium using the funnel.
- Add ~ 3 to 4cm of terrarium soil into the bottle.
- Give the soil a light spray with filtered water so that it’s a little damp – don’t saturate it.
Using the chopstick carefully make a hole in the soil for the plant to fit into.
Get the plant into the bottle.
This is the hardest step, so you have to be very patient and gentle.
- Divide the plant into smaller parts, if you’re using a fern this should be fairly easy. Do this carefully and try to keep as much of the root intact
- Try to fit the plant in through the opening
If it doesn’t fit, then:
- Remove some of the excess dirt from the root
- Dampen the root and gently pack it together into an elongated shape, so it’s as thin as possible
- Put the plant through the opening of the bottle
- Once the plant is inside, place it in the soil where you previously dug up a hole
- Use a chopstick or tweezers to firm it into the soil
All done! Super easy. Now let’s move on to a few basic tips on light and watering, and you can then enjoy your new bottled terrarium.
To keep your terrarium healthy it’s really important that you give it adequate light. This can be achieved by placing it in a north-facing window or by using a warm white or daylight white light bulb in a regular lamp.
I recommend that you download a light meter app on your phone as this will tell you exactly how much light a certain area is getting. You’ll want a minimum of 200-foot candles and a maximum of 600-foot candles for this particular fern (Baby Nephrolepis Fern). Now, this might sound complicated but it really is simple.
These apps are very easy to use. They just turn on your front-facing camera and you hold it in the place where you want to put your terrarium.
I must stress it’s really important that you do not put your terrarium in direct sunlight.
The terrarium will need infrequent watering and it’s so important that you do not overwater it as the bottle has no drainage holes and that water will have nowhere to run off to.
Overwatering is the single most common mistake people make when building terrariums, and it can result in what’s known as root rot. In other words, your plants will drown.
The soil should be slightly damp and absolutely not wet or saturated.
If you have a lid on your bottle it’s important that you remove it every few days to allow some fresh air in. Or if the opening is small on the bottle then you’ll be able to leave the lid off permanently. But if you do this you’ll need to keep a closer eye on the levels of moisture in the soil because you don’t want the terrarium to dry out.
Don’t be alarmed if you see old leaves die. That’s totally normal. Plants often shed older leaves and push out new ones.
What you can do is remove the leaves if you wish or you can add springtails to your terrarium. Springtails are a type of microfauna that feed on mold and decaying matter. A fallen leaf in a terrarium will eventually mold and decay the springtails will feed on that.
I really think that this is the easiest kind of terrarium you can make because it’s just one plant in a bottle with a little bit of terrarium soil and it could not be simpler.
You have plenty of room for creativity, from the type of bottle you choose to the plants you use, and how you arrange them.
I personally love the bottle-in-a-ship type of bottled terrariums. But there are so many designs you could experiment with.
Good luck! Hope this was helpful.