Grow Plants in Bottles: Tips for an Upcycled Indoor Garden!

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Three Philodendron Brasil plants in bottles.

If you’re like me, you don’t see trash when you see empty jars- you envision thriving plants in bottles scattered all over your home!

An empty glass or plastic bottle can make a happy home for a wide variety of plants. Some of the best plants to grow in bottles and jars include small ferns, pothos, philodendron, syngonium, English ivy, moss balls, air plants and succulents. For kitchen use, herbs, microgreens, radishes and green onions are some of the edible plants you can grow in a bottle.

In this article, we’ll get a look at the houseplants I’ve got growing in various vessels- it almost justifies my compulsive bottle-saving habit! You’ll also learn the kinds of edible plants that are ideal for growing in bottles and how you can start your own mini-garden.  

So don’t throw that bottle away just yet, and let’s get started!

RELATED: Want to add some unique visual interest to your home? Dramatic dark houseplants certainly fit the bill!

Houseplant Ideas in Glass Jars and Bottles

There are do many different plants that will happily grow in water, either for their entire life cycle or just a part of it. Here’s an inspiration collection of what you can create with some old bottles and plants:

Ferns

A small fern plant growing in a Mason jar filled with water and expanded clay pebbles.

Ferns thrive in high moisture, so growing them in water is a perfect habitat. I used expanded clay pebbles here to give the plant’s roots some stability.

I just love the way this fern looks, and it’s my top recommendation for planting in glass jars or large bottles!

Pothos

Pothos cuttings growing new roots in a sunny window

Pothos is a wonderfully adaptable plant that spreads its long vines every which way. Choose a mostly-green variety for those shadier spots in your home, or use a highly variegated one for brighter areas.

Inch Plant

Cuttings from an inch plant in a jar of water.

The inch plant is officially known as Tradescantia, also goes by the name Wandering Dude. It’s super forgiving, and tolerates almost any growing conditions.

I love the bright silver stripes and purple leaf underside!

Chinese Money Plant

Chinese money plant cuttings in a glass jar.

Chinese money plants are among the easiest of plants to propagate, and they produce miniature plant offshoots, known as pups, all on their own. Their round leaves look so beautiful in a glass jar!

But one thing to know is that Chinese money plants grow best in soil. It’s easy to root pups or leaf cuttings in water, but it’s best to transfer them to soil once the new roots are a couple of inches long.

Air Plants

Air plants growing in a round glass bottle.

Low-maintenance, no soil, just a bit of watering here and there- air plants look great and fit into any space you have. Set your jar on a tabletop or add a rope to use it as a hanging feature.

Succulents

A succulent plant in a glass Mason jar with green pebbles and soil.

As one of the classic Mason jar plants, is there any place where a succulent doesn’t look great? I love how the contrast of the green pebbles I used as a base layer contrast with the soil and the green of the succulent itself. Although after I got the whole thing done, I wished I would have added a thicker layer of rocks.

Since a jar has no natural drainage, you’ll need to water your succulent carefully. Wait until the soil is dry throughout the jar, then use a narrow-tip squirt bottle to add just enough water to moisten the soil.

Philodendron

A Philodendron Brasil cutting in a glass bottle.

Vining philodendrons are perfect for planting in glass jars or bottles. This is a Philodendron Brasil, and the bright lime green highlights brighten up any room!

Most herbs, like this basil I’ve got here, root easily from cuttings. If allowed to, many herbs will also produce flowers, like this basil with its delicate white blossoms.

Syngonium (Arrowhead Plant)

Stem cuttings from an arrowhead plant grow in a bottle of water.

These lovely White Butterfly Syngonium cuttings look stunning in this old bottle. Change the water out regularly and give dilute fertilizer, and your arrowhead plants can live an entire life in water!

English Ivy

English ivy cuttings growing in a small jar of water.

English ivy roots easily in water, and the delicate leaves and vining growth pattern are perfect for tall shelves or bookcases. Or desktops- like mine!

Moss Ball

A green moss ball in a glass bottle of water.

Moss balls are unique- they are actually a type of algae that have a naturally round shape. Since freshwater lakes are their natural habitat, a bottle or jar is the perfect home of them. And the clear glass is ideal for giving you a fantastic view of your moss ball all the time.

Coleus

Coleus cuttings in a glass bottle of water.

Coleus comes in an array of vibrant color combinations that add instant color to any space. Cuttings from a coleus root easily in water, and they can live for several weeks or months in a jar or bottle. But if you really want to see your coleus thrive, plant your cuttings in soil outdoors in the spring time.

Lucky Bamboo

A lucky bamboo plant in a large Mason jar with river rocks for stability.

Lucky bamboo thrives in a water environment, and the pebbles help provide the support to keep your bamboo stalks upright.

Peace Lily

A small peace lily in a glass jar with water and expanded clay pebbles.

A peace lily can live long-term in water, and newly-propagated crowns have the best chance of thriving. Use expanded clay pebbles (like I did here), small stones or glass beads to give your plant some support.

How to Prepare Your Bottles and Jars for Plants

Most bottles and jars have labels, and you’ll need to remove it unless you really like the label’s look and want to keep it.

Peel off as much of the label as you can. I’ve found that many bottle/jars only have a small section of adhesive, and that dissolves pretty easily with water and a little soap.

But some labels are much trickier to take off- they have a persistent sticky residue that just won’t scrub off. In that case, a commercial adhesive solvent like, like Goo Gone, is effective. But I personally don’t like to turn to harsh chemicals, and if you’d rather go the natural route, try this method demonstrated by Swarna Happy Home.

I used it on a particularly stubborn label, and it really worked!

Growing Edible Plants Bottles

As lovely as all those houseplants above are, they’re not the only plants to grow in your bottle garden. Certain edible crops are also bottle-friendly, helping you save some money on your grocery bill and keep fresh food on-hand.

There are two main strategies when it comes to growing plants in bottles: 

  1. Water-based method for glass bottles 
  2. Soil-based one for plastic bottles

Some plants are better suited for growing in either water or soil, and some can thrive in whatever system you put them in. Typically, plants that produce leaf crops do well in any bottle garden set up, while plants that produce root or stem crops need to grow in soil.

Plants that grow well in both water-based glass bottles and soil-based plastic bottles:

  • Herbs: Basil, lemongrass, mint, parsley, cilantro, etc.

Plants that grow best in soil-based plastic bottles:

  • Microgreens: Arugula, spinach, beets, sunflower, etc. (Total nutrient powerhouses, if you didn’t know!)
  • Vegetables: Radishes, green onions, etc.

Setting Up Glass Bottles For Edible Plants

Fresh herbs add so much flavor and nutrition to home-cooked meals, and they’re so easy to grow at home! Growing herbs in a glass bottle or jar can be as simple as popping some fresh cuttings in water and letting them take root:

Stem cuttings of basil in a glass jar of water.

NOTE: See the delicate white flowers? Like most herbs basil will go to flower if allowed to.

As an alternative, you could also use a bottle garden kit, and Urban Leaf offers what we consider to be the best system. Pick from four options:

  • Hint of Citrus. This collection of lemon balm, lemon basil and lime basil all have a distinctive citrus-like flavor. Awesome for cooking or adding to cocktails. 
  • Exotic Basil. Thai, purple and lime  basil varieties are perfect for cooking and soothing aromatherapy for your home. 
  • Edible Flowers. Contains colorful marigolds, zinnias and cosmos. Use the blossoms in salads or as an eye-catching garnish. 
  • Culinary Classics. Sweet basil, dill and French parsley enhance almost any dish. 

These kits are designed to work with a wine bottle or something similar. To use your kit, fill your clean bottle with purified water, place the insert into the bottle’s neck and add your seeds to the upper soil surface. The system is self-sustaining and self-watering, so it’s really easy to use!

Setting Up Plastic Bottles for Edible Plants

Settling your plants in plastic bottles takes just a little more time and effort than using a bottle garden kit. 

All you need are a few simple supplies and a few minutes to complete the set-up. 

1. Supplies for a Soil Bottle Garden

You’ll need: 

When it comes to soil, don’t use heavy topsoil or garden soil- get your hands on some potting mix. As opposed to standard dirt, potting mix is light, resists compacting and drains quickly. You can buy high-quality indoor potting mixes, like Burpee Organic Premium Potting Mix, or you can make your own.

Depending on the plants you want to grow, you’ll need either seeds for direct sowing or established seedlings. Buy your seedlings or seeds at home improvement or grocery stores or your local nursery. If you’d prefer to order seeds online, Botanical Interests and True Leaf Market offer a wide selection of high-quality herbs and vegetables.

2. Cut a Hole in the Side of Your Bottle

Remove any labels from your bottle and wash it out well. Then, lay your bottle on its side, and make sure the cap is screwed on tightly.

Using your craft knife or scissors, carefully cut an opening in the bottle’s side. Depending on the size of your bottle, this opening should be about:

  • 4 to 8 inches long
  • 2 to 4 inches wide

Your goal is to create an opening large enough for plants to grow in but not so large that your bottle loses structural integrity. 

The bottle in these photos is a 32-oz. juice bottle that is approximately 8 inches tall. I made a hole that measured about 5.5 inches long and 3 inches wide. 

Overhead view of a hole cut in a plastic bottle
Side view of a hole cut in a plastic bottle

3. Add Drainage Holes (Optional)

Using your drill or a hammer and nail, make 4 to 6 small drainage holes on the underside of your bottle. 

Make sure to work slowly and carefully to avoid cracking the plastic. 

4. Fill With Potting Mix and Add Plants or Seeds

Add a couple of handfuls of potting mix to fill your bottle up to the horizontal cut line. 

Sow seeds according to the package directions, or plant one seedling per bottle. Give your new garden some water, and place it in a sunny spot. 

Done! 

Note: You don’t have to follow the package’s seed-planting directions when you’re growing microgreens. Since you’ll be harvesting your greens well before they’re fully mature, you can sow your seeds more densely than the package calls for. 

Final Thoughts

Growing plants in bottles is an awesome way to reduce your environmental impact, cut down on your grocery bill and add some beautiful greenery to your life each day. All it takes are a few minutes to prepare your glass or plastic bottles and care for plants.

How about you? Have you ever tried growing plants in bottles, either glass or plastic? What was your experience like, and do you have any tips or tricks to share? Let us know in the comments!

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