Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Grow a Plant in a Glass Bottle

By Shelley Frost

An empty bottle made from clear glass can be a terrarium container for growing compact plants. The plants need to fit the temperature and light conditions where you plan to keep the bottle terrarium. The homemade terrarium needs a drainage area at the bottom since the container doesn't have any drainage holes. With a few basic materials, you are on your way to turning an old bottle into a new home for plants.

Select plants for the bottle terrarium that need the amount of light available in the area you plan to put the terrarium. For a bottle with a small opening, try creeping fig (Ficus pumila) or ti plant (Cordyline terminalis). The creeping fig grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11, while the ti plant is hardy in zones 10 to 12. Skinny succulents and cacti are also suitable options.

Remove labels from the outside of the bottle. Wash the inside and outside of the bottle using warm water and a mild soap. Rinse the bottle thoroughly to remove all traces of the soap. A bottle with a larger opening, such as a glass jug, makes planting easier in your terrarium. If you use a bottle with a small opening, such as a wine bottle, it becomes more difficult to get the materials and the plants inside the bottle.

Pour 1 to 2 inches of expanded clay pellets, pea gravel or large aquarium gravel in the bottom of the bottle to create drainage. Use a funnel to direct the material into the bottle. Shake the bottle gently to level out the layer. Top the drainage material with 1/2 inch of horticultural charcoal to keep the soil from smelling.

Cut a piece of nylon fabric or fiberglass window screen into a circle the same diameter as the bottle. Fold the piece of material so it will fit through the opening in the bottle and push it inside. Use a wooden dowel or chopstick to open up the material and position it over the charcoal. An alternative is to use sphagnum moss to cover the charcoal. The layer keeps the soil from filtering down into the drainage material.

Add about 1 1/2 inches of slightly damp, sterilized potting medium to the bottle. The soil should be damp enough that it doesn't stir up dust but not so moist that it clumps or sticks to the sides.

Arrange the plants on the table if you're putting more than one inside the bottle. Knowing how they will fit together in the bottle makes it easier to plant them.

Dig holes for the plants using a long stick or handle. Lower the plants into the bottle with a pair of skinny tongs, two chopsticks or a piece of sturdy wire with a loop at the end. Fill in dirt around the plant roots using a stick or other long tool.

Mist the plants in the bottle to wash off any dirt and provide moisture. No more than 1/4 of an inch of water should accumulate in the bottom in the drainage layer. Too much water causes the plants to rot or get a fungal infection.

Put a cork or lid on the bottle if you want to create a closed terrarium. Closed containers create high-humidity environments and require little if any watering. An open container requires some watering and is best for plants such as cacti and succulents that like drier environments.


Things You Will Need

  • Plants
  • Bottle
  • Soap
  • Expanded clay pellets
  • Pea gravel
  • Aquarium gravel
  • Horticulture charcoal
  • Funnel
  • Nylon fabric
  • Fiberglass window screen
  • Wooden dowel
  • Chopsticks
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Potting medium
  • Tongs
  • Wire

About the Author


Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.