Plants in a glass: instructions for a perpetual terrarium

© Bui

Plants in glass are cooler than any bouquet of flowers – and last longer. We reveal how you can create a bottle garden or a perpetual terrarium.

Probably the most famous plant in a jar is the wilting rose in Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’. In the film, the whole thing is done with magic, but in reality, plants under glass can be kept quite naturally. The mystical touch remains nevertheless.

Actually, plants in glass are nothing special. Keyword greenhouse. Many plant species are most comfortable in the warm, humid climate of a closed terrarium. How to create a blooming biotope under a glass bell jar. Top conditions for plant fans who dream of an indoor garden.

And because under glass everything immediately looks more noble, it is not surprising that a plant terrarium or. Florarium, as it is also called, currently fully in vogue.

We show you how you can create your own bottle garden, which containers and plants are suitable for it and how you can prevent your plants from dying in it. Decorative ideas and DIY instructions for orchids in a jar are included – perfect as a creative gift idea.

How does an eternal terrarium work?

Nothing is forever, but a perpetual terrarium is indeed made to last forever. At least in principle. Once planted, the plants in the glass should be self-sustaining. The maintenance effort is limited to regular cleaning of the glass and dusting of the plants.

This applies primarily to closed terrariums. Due to the high humidity and the limited air exchange, an ecosystem of its own is created here. Evaporating water condenses on the windows and waters the plants. The plants in the glass get their nourishment from their own compost, i.e. decomposing plant parts.

For the eternal terrarium to work, sunlight is essential. But not too much! Because the terrarium can act like a burning glass and burn the plants in the glass within a very short time. A window place in direct daylight will not be forgiven even by the most sun-loving plants.

The right location for a perpetual terrarium is therefore a place that is bright, but does not get blazing sunlight. Of course, you should also be able to enjoy a good view of your plant terrarium.

Which plants are suitable for a perpetual terrarium?

In order to survive and thrive in the perpetual terrarium, the plants must be accustomed to a hot sauna climate and not need too many nutrients. It is also important that they need little to no fresh air. This applies to many subtropical plants from the rainforest.

These plants are perfect for a closed terrarium:

  • Ferns
  • Mosses
  • Lichens/Fungi

Tip: Flowering tropical plants are unsuitable for a perpetual terrarium, as the flower would eventually fall off and rot. This increases the risk of mold. And that is the mortal enemy for any closed ecosystem. Of course you can remove the blossom by hand if you are not sure – but this could disturb the sensitive biotope.

The advantages of a (half) open terrarium

If you take an open terrarium instead of a closed terrarium or if you air the eternal terrarium regularly, you can draw from a larger variety of plants. This makes your bottle garden directly more varied.

Because most plants need fresh air. In addition, there are many low-maintenance plant species that thrive better in a dry environment, but still look fabulous behind glass and also enjoy the lack of drafts.

Popular plants for an open terrarium:

  • Cacti
  • Succulents
  • Orchids
  • carnivorous plants (carnivores)

To make sure the plants get enough air and light and don’t sprawl out over the terrarium, slow-growing specimens are a good choice for a bottle garden. Small dwarf plants are also practical. There are even mini orchids for the glass.

Tip: If you want to keep different types of plants in a jar, it’s important that all plants have similar preferences and requirements and literally don’t outshine one another.

In the video: The most common mistakes in plant care

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What containers are suitable for a bottle garden?

Although plant terrariums are often referred to as bottle gardens, and it’s certainly possible to keep plants in a bottle, the container doesn’t have to be a bottle. More suitable are bulbous glass containers with an opening as large as possible. You can handle them more easily and the plants have more space to spread out.

Tip: Some gardening must be even with the eternal terrarium to trim and shorten the plants when they run out of space inside.

The choice and number of plants in the jar depends on the vessel. Or, conversely, you should adapt the jar to the needs and size of the inhabitants (and the space on the dresser or windowsill).

The question of whether you should choose the plants or the jar first is as impossible to answer as the one about the hen and the egg.

It is only important that glass and plant fit together. Means: plants that like it dry need an open container. Plants that love high humidity but still need fresh air do well in a container with a lid.

Suitable containers for plants in the glass:

  • Bonbonnieres
  • canning jars
  • Glass bells
  • Glass lanterns
  • glass lanterns
  • Apothecary jars
  • Wine glasses
  • Erlenmeyer flasks
  • Glass vases (also hanging)
  • Glass boxes (preferably geometric)
  • Glass bottles
  • old aquarium or goldfish bowl
  • old light bulb (unscrewed and cleaned out)

The most popular are vessels made of clear glass. Logically, you have the contents well in view and the plants get a lot of light (of the whole spectrum) from. However, if you’ve fallen in love with a easily tinted glass in love, you can also use this. But then place the plants in the glass closer to the light source.

Tip: Personally, I’m a big meta fan and find plants in glass phenomenal in glass. So just put mini plants in small glass bottles and put them in turn in a larger glass vase. Christopher Nolan would be proud.

No one says you have to put a plant terrarium down. You can also dangle it from the ceiling in a hanging vessel. Then, however, the terrarium should not be too large and heavily loaded.

You are also free in the orientation of the bottle garden. The glass does not necessarily have to stand upright, you can also lay it down and expand the area of the mini-garden by doing so. Make sure, however, that the glass can not roll away.

By the way: A group of plant terrariums, which you group as a common bottle garden, looks most beautiful. Different sizes visually break up the arrangement.

What substrate do you need for plants in the glass?

Not all plants in a jar grow on soil. Many tillandsias, for example, manage without any light at all. The same goes for dried flowers, which also look beautiful in an open terrarium. Hello, you fair rose from ‘Beauty and the Beast’!

But most plants need some kind of substrate. Which, again depends on the demands of the plant species. For this you can ask the florist of your choice.

Possible substrates for your bottle garden:

  • potting soil or special soil
  • Sand
  • Gravel
  • Bark mulch

Tip: To make your plant terrarium look more exciting, you can create different substrate layers. This is how you can play with different textures and colors.

Terrarium decoration: Set up a bottle garden

Plants and a multilayered substrate are not enough for you? Then you can decorate your plant terrarium and make it a unique art object. Just add small treasures from nature. If you suffer from magpie syndrome, you can put sparkling jewels like brooches in the glass.

Decoration ideas for the terrarium:

  • Driftwood or small twigs
  • Gems and crystals
  • Feathers
  • animal bones or antlers
  • Dried flowers
  • Shells (large and small)
  • Snail shells
  • Sea urchin shell
  • Porcelain figurines

Have a look at the next flea market – besides pretty ornaments as terrarium decoration you can often find decorative glass vessels there.

Tip: If you are not a fan of plants but like glass decoration, you can create miniature worlds in the terrarium with appropriate figurines. For example, a mini-beach with deck chair, plastic palm and hammock – by the way, an original idea for creative gifts of money or vouchers.

Care for and provide for plants in glass

Plants in a jar need much less water than in a normal flower pot. On the one hand they get liquid from the condensation, on the other hand the water in the terrarium can’t just run off. Therefore, be sure to hold off on watering! Always check beforehand if the substrate is still moist.

So that the plants do not stand in the water, a drainage layer must be here. To do this, always put a loose layer of pebbles or other granules into the jar as a base. Also add a spoonful of activated charcoal (available here on Amazon)* to reduce the risk of mold on the roots.

Water can collect between the pebbles. Now you can put sand and soil over it and bury the plant in a small hollow. Before you do this, it is best to take them out of their mini plant pot, because it will quickly become too small.

Tip: Plants in glass only need fertilizer if you want them to continue to grow and thrive. Just to (survive), usually no additional fertilizer is necessary.

Prepare plants for the terrarium

Before you create your bottle garden, check your plants for possible bugs – leaf by leaf. The precaution is worthwhile, because pests endanger the eternal terrarium.

Also clean the glass jar thoroughly with boiling water beforehand. This is especially important for closed terrariums – germs must not be allowed to get into the terrarium. Then let the container dry well.

If you want to use natural objects or pebbles as substrate, you should also disinfect them with hot water before you create the bottle garden.

Create a bottle garden: step-by-step instructions

You are curious and now finally want to create your own bottle garden? Now we will show you step by step how to do it.

As an example, we present you the instructions for a terrarium with orchids from the recommended book "Plants under glass: Stylish ideas for plant terrariums, Kokedama and water gardens" from Alyson Mowat.

In addition to great ideas for indoor gardens, you’ll also find creative tips for propagating plants, as well as instructions for DIY containers that really make a statement.

Material for your orchid terrarium

  • epiphytic orchid (z. B. butterfly orchid)
  • large glass jar (with or without lid)
  • stones or pebbles
  • distilled water
  • large nail (or an awl)
  • Pliers
  • Burning candle (to heat the nail)
  • Transparent plastic pot (as big as the orchid pot)
  • orchid substrate (here at Amazon)*
  • Bucket
  • Activated carbon (here at Amazon)*
  • Perlite (eventually; here at Amazon)*
  • Driftwood or moss

Tip: Epiphytic orchids, just like tillandsias, do not form proper roots. They are easier to care for and the terrarium "tilts" not as easy as when planting terrestrial orchids (z. B. jewel orchids). So better for beginners.

Step 1: Create drainage

Fill the cleaned glass jar about 5 cm high with small stones or pebbles. This layer forms the drainage, where evaporating water can flow away, so that the plant does not rot.

Then add 2 cm of distilled water to increase the humidity in the glass (orchids like it humid-hot). The water should not reach the bottom of the orchid pot.

Step 2: Poke air holes in pot

Now work on the plastic pot with the hot needle. First open the windows, because burnt plastic stinks like hell.

Grasp the nail or awl with pliers and hold the tip over a flame. Then press the hot nail into the side of the plastic pot (watch your fingers). Make sure the nail does not pierce the opposite plastic wall.

Make several holes in the same way in a vertical line in the plastic pot. Do not forget the bottom. This should allow as much air as possible to move past the plant roots in the still environment of the terrarium.

Step 3: Prepare substrate and plant

Orchid substrate in a bucket with 1 tbsp. activated carbon and evtl. Mix some perlite to make the substrate dry faster.

Gently pull the orchid out of the pot, shake it off and throw away the old pot. Cut off moldy, hollow root parts down to the lighter, healthier looking parts.

Step 4: Fill in orchid and substrate

The transparent (pierced) plastic pot ca. Fill up to halay with the mixture of substrate, charcoal, and (eventually) perlite.

Now add the orchid and fill the pot with the remaining substrate mixture. Roots that hang out of the pot may just stay where they are.

Step 5: conceal the plant pot

Place pot on top of stones in glass jar and loosely arrange driftwood or moss around it to hide the plastic pot. Ready!

Care tips for your orchid in the terrarium

Place your terrarium orchid in a location with bright, but indirect light ("dappled light"). If you have chosen a closed terrarium with a lid, you should remove it every few days to air it out.

Watering: Once a week, remove the orchid in its plastic pot from the glass jar and immerse it in rainwater or distilled water over a sink. This pushes air and enriched minerals through the roots. Spray leaves and aerial roots with water during the week.

Orchids love high humidity, but they hate wet feet, this makes the roots soft and muddy. Therefore, when refilling water in the drainage layer (pebbles), make sure that it does not reach the plastic pot.

Tip: Do not water orchids from above on the leaves. Water left between the leaves can lead to rot, a major killer of orchids.

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