Building Bottle Gardens

Terrariums are not only a great way to display plants, but a fun journey to creating your own tiny world! These contained gardens can be made with almost any clear container, but with bottles, you add an additional layer of difficulty and intrigue to your world-building process. Whether the bottle you are using is big or small, closed or open, bottle terrariums are always possible with the right tips and tricks. 

 With terrariums, it’s all about understanding and using the right materials for the job. Once you have everything you need in front of you, the process is simple. Here is our best process for picking out and planting your own bottle garden. 


Choosing your Bottle - 

Bottle gardens obviously start with your bottle of choice. Whether that is a coke bottle or a giant jug, you want to make sure that your bottle has 2 qualifications: That it is clear and that it is glass. 

Why clear? - You want the bottle to be clear to let light through to the plants so they can grow. Lightly colored bottles are also acceptable, as long as you feel that they still let sufficient light through to your plants. Some plants need more light than others, so think about what plants you are choosing when choosing your bottle. 

Why glass? - Glass bottles come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and styles so there is a lot of variety when it comes to that choice. Along with variety, glass also provides longevity that plastic bottles do not. Although it is very possible to grow plants in plastic bottles, for style and longevity shake, you might want to go with glass bottles instead.

Along with choosing the look and style of your bottle, you will also want to consider whether you want it to be an open or closed system. Closed bottle terrariums can be self-sufficient systems when done correctly. With the right amount of light and water, you can go months, or even years, without needing to water your terrarium. This is because the closed bottle terrarium waters itself with the cycle of water through condensation. Open bottle terrariums need a little more care than closed bottles, however, it is good to keep in mind that both systems have no drainage holes in their containers. This makes them prone to being overwatered when cared for a little too much.


Picking your Plants - 

After choosing a bottle, you will need to pick out what plants you want. Terrariums are customizable, but plants have their limits on what other plants they can be paired with. Theming your terrarium helps to avoid pairing plants that don’t agree with one another. For instance, theming your tiny world like a desert or an English garden can determine if you want a “wet” or “dry” terrarium. If you need help choosing plants for your terrarium, ask one of our experts Green Team members for assistance in-store. 


Picking your Soil and Toppings - 

Having the right soil to place your plants in is very important to the world-building process. There are 2 main staples that always go in a terrarium: small rocks and charcoal. However, beyond those 2 things, it is very dependent on the plants that you choose. Remember the theme you chose for your bottle terrarium? This comes in handy when choosing your soil. 

“Dry” Terrariums - When you are using succulents and cacti as your plants, you want to go for more gravel-like soil for your terrarium. Cactus soil or adding amendments like bonsai soil, vermiculite, perlite, and sand to all-purpose potting soil can do the job for these desert-dwelling plants.

“Wet” Terrariums - These kinds of terrariums hold plants like tropical foliage, ferns, moss, and carnivorous plants. These plants require all-purpose potting soil. You can also add amendments, depending on the plants, like sphagnum moss, to keep the soil from drying out too quickly. 


Toppings are a great way to add your own personality to your bottle terrarium. These can range from decorative moss and colorful rocks to pieces of wood and figurines. Look at the theme you chose for inspiration. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Dinosaur Haven
  • Fairy Garden
  • Beach-side Bottle
  • Cowboy Corral
  • Zen Garden


Tools for the Job - 

During the process of building your bottle terrarium, especially if the bottle is very large or very small, you may need some extra tools on hand to help you get the job done. Having tweezers, brushes, and small shovels can help when getting into nooks and crannies. At our year-round locations, we carry extendable versions of these items for those hard-to-reach places of your bottle terrarium. These tools are especially helpful if you have chosen a bottle you can’t fit your hand through. 

For more information on terrariums, visit this Garden Guru how-to video here