What Is a Bottle Tree?


A bottle tree is a garden ornament, a conversation piece, and a bit of horticultural magic all rolled into one.

African History

In the 9th century, native Africans in the Congo placed plates around the graves of a loved ones as a way of honoring them. Later when African people were captured and taken to the United States as slaves, they continued their traditions. Through the years, the rituals and the reasons behind them underwent some changes.

American History

African slaves in America began to use bottles, instead of plates. The bottles were hung in trees or placed on the limbs of dead trees. They believed that evil spirits would be attracted to the glittering bottles, enter the bottles and be trapped. Some believed the sun would kill the evil spirits the next morning, while others would cork the bottles and throw them in the river to be washed away.

Traditional Bottle Trees

Most bottle trees were made of blue bottles. African slaves believed that the color blue repelled evil and had the power to overcome evil. The bottles were turned upside down over the tips of the limbs of dead trees. Cedar trees were commonly used because their branches turned up towards heaven.

Modern Bottle Trees

Although blue is still the most popular choice for bottle trees, other colors are used also. The tree "trunk" may be an actual tree or a piece of driftwood from a nearby river or beach. The frames of some bottle trees are made of bent and twisted pieces of rebar. Wooden poles with pegs to hold the bottles are also popular.

Sources For Bottle Trees

Bottle Tree Creations has a dozen different styles of bottle trees, in addition to bottles in several colors. The Bottle Tree Man offers bottle trees in 5 sizes, custom designed chandelier-style bottle bushes and bottles. Bottle Tree has several styles, including a flower-style bottle tree with spreading branches, as well as bottles. See Resources for websites.


  • Denver Post

Who Can Help

  • Bottle Tree Creations
  • The Bottle Tree Man
  • Bottle Tree
Keywords: bottle trees, blue bottle trees, traditional bottle trees

About this Author

Melody Lee began working as a reporter and copywriter for the "Jasper News" in 2004 and was promoted to editor in 2005. She also edits magazine articles and books. Lee holds a degree in landscape design, is a Florida Master Gardener, and has more than 25 years of gardening experience.