Bottle gardens and terrariums are one of the easiest ways to care for houseplants. They are very attractive, blending in with most any decor, make great gifts, AND THEY ARE EASY TO MAKE AND MAINTAIN!
Any transparent waterproof container will work, but glass is the best. Some plastics will haze and discolor. Large glass jars, fish bowls and aquariums all work well. Clear is best, but a lightly tinted container will work--you will have to keep it in a stronger (brighter) light though. See terrarium containers for sale on eBay
You will need to make the hand tools required. If your container has a large enough opening to easily admit your hand, try using old forks and spoons as your tools. For narrower mouth containers, you will have to get a bit more creative--try taping a spoon or fork to a stick or piece of dowel. A rolled up piece of stiff paper makes a handy funnel for putting in the soil. A thread spool or cork with a dowel inserted will make a tamper. A bent clotheshanger with a cloth or sponge attached will make a glass cleaner. A soft paintbrush or make-up brush taped to a dowel or stick can be a duster. Split the end of a dowel and insert an Exacto blade, then tape the end of the dowel, and you have a pruner. And automotive pick-up tools (claw type, not magnetic) are great for removing things! What's an automotive pick-up tool? See some here!
Choose your plants first. Make sure the plants you choose like a humid environment and are miniatures or very small plants. Want to see a list of suitable plants?
Now for the layout. This is the part that requires a little thought--you'll need to figure out how you are going to arrange them in the container. Try for a pleasing balance of forms, colors, textures and sizes. Place your lowest-growers to the front, taller ones to the back. Once you have decided on your layout, it's time to begin.
Prepare your container! Containers need to be very clean. Wash in hot soapy water and rinse well. Allow to dry completely. Now for the soil and base. Note: Your soil layers should fill the container about a fourth of the way full. And they don't have to be flat--you can slope them if you'd like. There are several ways using different materials you can do.
Layer one (the bottom layer) is for adequate drainage. Remember--no drain holes! You can use spaghnum moss, gravel, clay pellets, aquarium gravel, glass beads--be creative! If you are using sphagnum moss, you will need to cover it with a thin layer of sand or gravel. Try to get this layer an inch or so deep.
Layer two (the middle layer) is charcoal chips. This will help keep your garden thriving! Try to get this layer a quarter-inch to a half-inch deep.
And layer three (the top layer) is your soil--use a good quality potting soil. Try to get this layer 2 to 3 inches deep.
Now add the plants. Using your tools, carefully settle your plants in. Water very sparingly. Too much water will cause your plants to rot, and excess moisture cannot be removed from a terrium or bottle garden. You can always add more later . . Use about 1/4 cup of tepid water for every gallon of container size. Do not pour the water directly on the plants or soil, instead pour it against the glass and let it run down the sides.
Don't put your garden in direct sunlight. Other than that, any spot with fairly good light will work.
Cover your container. Plastic or plastic wrap will work; so will a piece of glass placed over it. Allow for a settling-in period, but if your garden stays misty or mold begins to form, it needs more air. Just remove the cover for a day or two. Some require a little venting all the time--just fold back a section of your plastic.
If you are making these to sell or give as gifts, be sure to allow enough time to get things settled before the date! Good Luck, and Have Fun!
See houseplants for sale on eBay