Plants in Bottles




About: I'm a teenager in England who likes to do all things creative. I love tinkering with electronics and I happen to be one of those people whose life to-do list always grows, even if I try hard at doing the thi...

These plants in bottles are essentially DIY terraria in bottles. They look quite good and are very simple to make with whatever bottles you might have lying around. I made these one afternoon with my cousin and he really enjoyed it!

Obviously, this is not the first terrarium-themed instructable. Inspiration came from noahw's DIY Terrarium instructable, along with ThinkLem's Lightbulb Terrarium and alisha145's Tiny Terrariums. However, I think the wine bottle idea might be a first!

Step 1: Bottles

Go out and get some bottles. I found some nice looking ones in our recycling box at home. Mix and match if you want to; or you could go with all the same bottles. Jam (jello if you live over the pond) jars also work as does pretty much any other glass receptacle.

Your bottles will probably needs the labels removing. Labels are either stuck on with water-based or solvent-based glue. Unfortunately one needs a lot more work to remove than the other.

Start by soaking the bottles in hot water (but not boiling hot as this could crack the bottles) for a few minutes. Labels glued on with water-based glue will either soak off in this time or some gentle pushing with a paint scraper will do the trick. For labels stuck on with solvent-based glue, scrape away as much of the paper as possible (ideally all of it) and give the bottle a rinse. To remove the gummy residue from the solvent-based glue, I used acetone (it's also in nail varnish remover but less concentrated). Practically anything that will dissolve plastic works, although you could just buy some de-gluing stuff from your local hardware store.

Step 2: Drainage

Because the entire habitat for the plant will be enclosed in the bottle, you need some sort of drainage to stop the earth/compost going soggy and mouldy and also so as to not drown the plant.

I used some gravel (from the drive) and some builders' sand we had lying around. The gravel creates a reservoir in the gaps between the stones whilst the sand stops the earth from falling into the holes.

You want a decent amount but not too much (about 2 inches or 5cm), bearing in mind that you need to add earth and that there needs to be enough room for the plants to grow.

Step 3: Compost

Your plants will need something to grow in. I used standard compost. Earth from a garden would also work. You should sieve whatever you are going to use as earth from a garden contains lumps and so does compost (admittedly smaller lumps though). Because the amount of compost you need is so small, these lumps would be very visible inside the bottles. The bigger ones won't fit down the bottle neck and will block a funnel, which is annoying!

If you plan to use seeds, leave some of the soil out so you can cover them after the next step. The same also applies if you are using small seedlings or plants.

Fill your bottles with about 2-3 inches (5-7.5cm) of soil. Give it a slight shake or tap to level it out.

Step 4: Planting

You now need something to plant inside your bottles. I am told that herbs work quite well and that they may even adapt to the size of their environment i.e. stay small if they're in a small space (like a bottle).

For seeds, just sprinkle a few into the bottle and cover with a little extra compost.

These can be difficult, and so there are a number of different approaches:
   1)   If you have some very long tweezers or other similar instrument, you can simply push their roots down into the soil.
   2)   If their roots came in a block of soil, you may be able to get the block of soil inside intact, and then you can fill around it with compost. In this case, you should do this just after adding the sand to leave enough room for the plant to grow.
   3)   If you feel adventurous, you can drop the seedlings straight in and add more compost on top. It is highly likely that this won't work or will look very ugly, but mother nature may sort things out (eventually).

Tree Saplings
We also made a bottle with an ash sapling that we found in the garden. It was quite big which was a bit of a problem and so we added it right from the start which in hindsight was probably not such a good idea. Tree saplings will vary so I leave you to discover a method that works for your bottles and the size of whatever tree sapling you happen to have.

Step 5: Care

A bit of water is needed now - a spray mister works well as it will cover the compost evenly. The compost needs to be damp and it's good to have a little water in the bottom as well.

The bottles won't need much watering over time as the relatively closed nature of the bottle means that most of the water will cycle back. A bit of plant food every now and then might help as the nutrients in the compost will be limited. Make sure that whatever plant food you use is suitable for what you've planted though.

Now it's time to sit back and watch your plants grow!



    • Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

      Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest
    • Sew Tough Challenge

      Sew Tough Challenge
    • Planter Challenge

      Planter Challenge

    21 Discussions

    The bottle size shouldn't be too much of a problem as long as you can access the inside for planting and watering.


    4 years ago on Step 5

    Beautiful and fun! This will be a science project for school next year.

    1 reply

    4 years ago

    What kind of herbs or seeds can you plant in the bottle? I am preparing to plant in a recycled bottle .

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    I don't really have any specific advice -- pretty much anything I would guess, as long as it doesn't grow too large and will be okay with quite a moist climate. Of course, if something doesn't work out, you can always empty the bottle and start again. The bottles will be pretty much ornamental for a while as the plants grow to the neck, so if you want to harvest herbs you'll have to wait a while. Post some pictures of yours when they've grown if you like!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I'm interested to see how the sapling pans out, I've only seen this done before with smaller plants.

    How do you get the herbs out once they've grown? :P

    3 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    At the moment this is quite experimental. The choice of plants/herbs/trees was really just what I could find in the garden and which seed packets were open. I don't actually know what's going to happen with the herbs... They will presumably grow out of the top of the bottle at some point.
    The sapling didn't go quite so well. It just didn't seem to like the environment. It has been replaced with leeks (another experiment) now.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I know it is long time since anyone have been writing any comments, but I just wanted to tell you, that if you wan't to have a tree sapling in a bottle, you will have to place i outside in the environment it normally have. I will be the same Principe as a bonsai tree. A little question: do you have any hole/drain in the bottles? If not I think it would be a good idea. (sorry for my missing English competencies)


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    A bottle probably isn't the best place for a tree sapling, but this project evolved from the desire to do something with a small sapling that would otherwise have been removed as a weed.

    As I replied to PKM, the sapling didn't go quite so well and was replaced after a few days in the summer sun. The other terraria projects which I cited in the intro have advice on suitable plants to choose.

    The bottles themselves have a layer of gravel and some sand in the bottom to create a 'reservoir' of water. Hot weather will make the water rise up and moisturise the soil; while in colder weather water will condense on the inside of the bottle and run back down into the reservoir. I haven't had any draining issues so far.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    excellent enviromental friendly idea. I will do it...


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Just made some De-gluing stuff today for removing glue goo..Not toxic and is just coconut oil and baking soda...equal parts...worked great for my first time :)

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Step 5

    You actually don't even have to water them. You would just have to find a way to reseal the bottle!

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 5

    That's right! Over the past week or two, I haven't had to water the plants because the bottle environment is quite sealed. Eventually it will need a water top up but that hopefully won't be for a while yet.