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How to: make a garden in a glass

Photo - Linda Ross

Bottle gardens or terrariums are mini plant worlds to enjoy indoors. 

What you need:

Glass or plastic container, such as a goldfish bowl, fish tank, large bottle, jar or mixing bowl



Potting mix

Small indoor plants

Rocks and/or pebbles for decoration


What to do:

Wash the gravel to remove any dirt and dust then place a 5cm layer in the bottom of your clean and dry container. (A cardboard funnel will make this easier if are using a bottle with a narrow top.)

Add a thin layer of washed charcoal over the gravel to act as a water filter, then top with a 5cm layer of potting mix and shape it into slight hills and valleys.

Start planting from the back. If the top of the container is narrow use spoons and forks tied to the end of canes to move the plants.

Small rocks, pebbles or gravel can be placed on the surface for decoration – take care not to damage the plants.

Water the plants in by using a small, long-necked watering can or spray bottle to gently dribble water down the inside of the glass. Use just enough to clean the glass and moisten the surface.


You can leave the container uncovered or cover it with glass or plastic. If covered the container will create a micro-climate so that the plants will not require watering unless the container is in a sunny spot. If the glass clouds over remove the cover and leave it off until the condensation disappears. The garden will not require any fertiliser and will only need occasional pruning to keep the plants neat.

Plants to choose:

You will need 5-6 small plants including a trailing plant and one upright plant. Choose slow-growing plants that don’t grow too big. Isla used a fern, Fittonia, spider plant, coleus, freckle face and a miniature African violet. Avoid cacti unless the top opening of the container is wide and open all the time.


Did you know?

Sealed containers for plants were known as Wardian cases in the 19th century. They were used to protect plants gathered by plant collectors in exotic places and shipped back to Europe. Before the development of these sealed gardens most plant specimens died on the long sea journeys.


Text: Isla Barlow

About this article

Author: Isla Barlow