You can always do this the easy way by purchasing a terrarium which is available in all sorts of materials from plastic,framed in expensive brass or even leaded glass and they are often accompanied by automatic ventilation controls. However the excitement in any garden project is to pursue another avenue. In this case you can easily grow a bottle garden in any glass or plastic container.
You have numerous containers available at your finger tips in which to place and grow your plants. This includes a fishbowl, a large food canister,brandy snifter, glass jug or a pitcher. The only requirements are that it is both transparent and waterproof. If your container has no cover such as a cork or lid, you can easily stretch some plastic wrap across the top and trim the excess with a razor blade. This provides the ability of your bottle garden to trap moisture and create condensation and saves you, the bottle gardener, a lot of unnecessary watering.
The order of business in bottle gardening is to wash the chosen container with a solution of bleach and water to prevent the forming of molds and other fungi. Rinse and dry thoroughly you don’t want to be viewing your lovely plants through greasy marks, smears or fingerprints. I would allow the bottle to rest for a few minutes to half hour just to ensure that it is completely dry and clear of any marks. You can take a cloth and wrap around the base of the container and using both hands hold it up to the light to observe as much of the interior as possible. When your satisfied with your cleaning, then you are ready to proceed to the next step.
In order to fill your bottle garden to the proper level with growing material requires the use of a paper funnel. This makes it easy to fill your bottle without unnecessary dirt clinging to the sides. It is a simple process to roll up some butcher paper or sheets of newspaper into a funnel shape and poor your potting mix and drainage material through the funnel.
Now using your funnel and giving your garden bottle the layered look,I would start with some sphagnum moss,followed by a little fine gravel or even sand and mix it with a little horticultural charcoal available at your local garden shop. The next layer should include a sterile peat-based potting mix. You should plan to use about one-half inch of this potting mixture in a small garden bottle and two to three inches in your larger containers.
Okay so what should be planted in a bottle garden? There are two ways to approach this before purchasing your plants either you have the ability to or the area to have a cool garden bottle where the temperature goes no higher then 70 degrees or develop a warm bottle garden more suitable to tropical plants where the surrounding temperatures are at least 75 degrees.
Some of the best plants in the cool group are evergreen seedlings,ferns,mosses,violets or wintergreen. In the tropical area it would be best to plant egonias, bromeliads, dracaenas, sedums or crotons. Keep in mind all of these plants are of the miniature type or small plants specifically produced for this type of environment.
The next order of business is to place whatever you have chosen into your bottle garden. It really requires some very simple items found in your own kitchen inventory. These tools will be sufficient for successful planting in both your narrow necked containers as well as your wide-mouth containers. Using a common ordinary fork,tape it to a stick to dig your planting holes.
Now you can make use of tongs,tweezers or a wire with a loop at one end to lower your plants into the bottle garden holes made by your fork spade. To tamp down your potting mixture a cork or empty thread spool with a chop stick pushed into either will make an excellent tamping tool.
The bottle garden needs to be placed with indirect light or under a fluorescent light for at least twelve hours per day. It should be rotated on a regular basis to help your bottle garden plants grow evenly. The plants should be trimmed if they start to grow too fast and dead leaves need to be removed to prevent disease from gaining a foothold.
It is completely okay for small water droplets to gather on the inside of the glass. Your first indication of the necessity for more water is when these droplets disappear from the inside. However don’t allow the glass to become foggy that obscures the view of your plants. You now have an overbalance of moisture in your potting mixture. It will be necessary to remove your cover and carefully wipe out the excess moisture and leave your cover off the garden bottle over night.
Fertilizing your bottle garden plants will not be required for the first year. After that fertilize very lightly using a diluted all purpose household plant fertilizer. As the plants grow and mature they will require only a minimum of care. Once again what a conversational piece right there in your home.