Bottle Gardening or Terrarium - Design and Maintenance

Women take pride in home decoration and gardening and want some unique and prized possessions that are not part of the neighboring dwellings. Gardening offers opening as there is no end to creativity, especially in the fields of flower arrangement, bonsai, mini-rock garden etc. But a sure and unique possession is a bottle garden. Many of us have seen a ship inside a bottle. This creative craft has given rise to the concept of bottle gardening. Bottle gardening can be compared to an aquarium where fishes survive with regular inputs of water and feed. Like wise, a bottle garden has the essential requirements of soil and water for the survival of plants that are housed in it, but with occasional care and maintenance. Apart from these essential requirements, the bottle garden has reservoir of water which keeps readily available moisture to the plant and also enables a humid environment in the bottle. Bottle gardens if effectively designed can fetch very high price. Selection of plants to be planted for the bottle garden is very important and in quite a few cases people fail to appreciate this fact and try to incorporate any plant they can lay hands up on! An ideal bottle plant is of slow growth and dwarf habit. Because combinations of plants are housed in a bottle garden all the plants selected must be slow growing and dwarf, so that smothering can be avoided. Extremes of temperatures should be avoided and hence the bottle garden should be placed in such a location where there is adequate availability of sunlight. Also the soil or the compost, used in bottle gardens be just adequate for survival of the plants and should not induce vigorous growth.

Bottle gardening can be taken up in many different shapes and sizes and one can even go for custom made glass containers of the size and shape of choice. But containers of the shape of a normal bottle with narrow neck are the most effective for bottle gardens as it helps in proper maintenance of humidity and also for the appearance when the garden gets established.

The first step is to clean the container thoroughly by using water and detergent. Rich compost is avoided, as the plants are chosen for slow growth and dwarf habit. The compost, which is moistened enough but not wet, is put into bottle by means of a paper funnel, preventing the compost from spilling on the sides of the bottle by adhering to the wet surface. It will be beneficial if a layer of crushed charcoal or small sized gravel is put before running in the compost. This layer of charcoal or gravel acts as water reservoir and replenishes the compost or soil with water as and when needed. Small amount of water can be added by the aid of a straw fitted with funnel or running down the water carefully along the inner surface of the bottle.

Coming to planting in the bottle gardens, the plants should have previously grown in small pots so that they have a compact ball of roots with adhering compost. A thin rod or stick be taken to make holes of suitable sizes on the compost layer and the plants are dropped in to these holes, after carefully pressing through the bottle neck.

To increase the aesthetic appearance of a bottle garden, natural things of beauty such as colored and suitably shaped stones or pieces of bark can be placed in the bottle garden. Care must be taken to sterilize such things before introduction as these may carry pests and your bottle garden may get destroyed.

After planting, the bottle neck is plugged with cotton wool. During the day time when the plant receives sunlight, it is advised to turn the position of the bottle periodically to maintain the symmetry of the plants in the bottle, otherwise, asymmetry may be caused because of elongation or more growth of the portion of the plant towards light.

The bottle garden rarely needs watering, but maintenance in terms of removal of accumulated dead leaf and shoots and occasional pruning are necessary for a healthy bottle garden. Direct sunlight causes heavy growth and may even raise the temperature inside the bottle and hence extreme temperatures be avoided.

Few of the plants which can be taken up for bottle garden are Pilea, Selaginella, Peperomoia, Maranta etc.You can experiment a lot, keeping in strict adherence to the rule that the plants grow slow and have a dwarf habit.

If you have the creativity, time and resources, you can develop a beautiful and unique bottle garden, which can be named after yourself. If you don't have such patience, time, energy, creativity or resources, but want to pride yourself with one, there are many stores around that can offer you a fantastic range!

Ravikumar Uppaluri hails from Kaikalur, Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh State in India.The author Holds a Masters degree in Agricultural Sciences.The author is based in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India and is cofounder of an organization involved in Nature conservation and sustainable development. The author can be reached at

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