Ever seen lush green plants growing in an aquarium for your own eyes or even on television? It looks amazing and incites curiosity about how to grow plants in glass containers without having a fast turnover of plants. It is actually a terrarium.
You can grow plants in containers successfully by identifying the right glass container, medium, plants, and watering. Also, do not forget other activities such as fertilizer application and maintenance.
Additionally, glass container gardening is low maintenance and stress-free. But, it still gives you the pleasure of greenery in your home.
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Steps to Grow Plants in Glass Containers
Most people live in a stressful world these days. They work hard and don’t have enough time to connect with hobbies and nature.
Having an outdoor garden is out of the question as most people live in the city. Where apartments are expensive and small and come without any gardening space.
The biggest thing is people do not have time to dedicate to a conventional garden. Therefore growing plants in a container is perfect. There is no weeding to be done or taking out the hose to water the garden.
These are the steps to growing plants in glass containers.
#1- Select a Glass Container
There is a large variety of glass containers to choose from for your container garden. Without having to spend a cent you can easily accumulate quite a few from within your home. Here are a few everyday glass containers you might consider using.
- Old goldfish bowls
- Jam or condiment jars
- Clear glass vases
- Wine or brandy glasses
- Alcohol or other glass bottles
- Old aquariums will work too
- Old biscuit jars
- Specially crafted glass containers
If you are willing to splurge and buy a container, I’m sure you can find something suitable at garden centers or at florists. Try going to an antique shop, you might pick up some antique or old bottles. That would truly be unique!
Last but not least you can shop at the specialist aquarium or terrarium shops. These shops will have every type of container you can imagine.
Note: If this is your first venture with glass container gardening do not go for a container with a small neck. You might find it difficult to insert the soil and plants through the narrow opening.
As you become more adept and skilled, you might challenge yourself with a narrow-necked bottle. Before using any bottles wash with soap and water. Ensure that the container is not wet but completely dry so no spores can grow from the moisture.
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#2- Get the Appropriate Medium
Whatever plant you choose to grow in the glass container, will have to survive on the medium present in the container. Naturally, quite a few layers of different materials have to be used.
Before you get too happy and start shoveling dirt into your glass container, you need to stop and consider what types of plants you want to put into your terrarium.
For example, you cannot plant cacti in a moisture-holding medium, as cacti like dry environment. Similarly, moisture-loving plants cannot be grown in the sand!
So select your plants first and then decide on the appropriate soil medium. Keep in mind that all plants need nutrients, besides light and water.
Grit and Sand
Plants like cacti, succulents, and caudex plants will do better with a fair amount of sand or grit. This is to ensure that the potting mix drains easily and does not sit near the plant, and causes it to rot.
The above classes of plants do not like to have their roots in water. So. you can mix the sand and grit with a little of the potting mix.
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Charcoal is a necessary addition to terrariums as it removes toxins from the water as well as enhances the filtration process. Also, you will be glad to know charcoal removes any bad odors that are caused by decaying matter.
Plants that decay in the terrariums cause a buildup of toxins and smells. Also, this could adversely affect the healthy plants inside. The charcoal must be placed between the small rocks/grit and the soil to be most effective.
#3- Place the Plants Inside
While having the idea of growing a plant in a glass container, you have to decide whether you want to start off with seeds or established plants. Which one you choose makes a difference in how the medium is layered and the care to be taken.
Once you have chosen your plants/seeds, it’s time to get working. Use your hands or a tool to dig a small hole at the very bottom of the container. You must make sure the plant’s roots are anchored into the growing medium. If you do not fix them well, they may not be able to retrieve nutrients.
Place the plants or seeds in it. Cover the soil and pat it down gently because loose plants may fall over without any support. Also, seeds that are not adequately covered may not germinate fast or at all!
NOTE- Ensure that no part of the plants or seeds are touching the sides of the glass container. The water condensing on the glass container could cause these plant parts to rot!
#4- Position Elements With Forceps
Now that you have your growing media in place and plants inside, focus on placement. If it’s a wide open container, you may be able to use your hands. But, a narrow-necked jar or bottle will require you to use forceps or some other tool to the same effect.
So, tall plants should be placed at the back and shorter and smaller plants in the front. Use the forceps to gently insert the plants into the soil. You can use a long spoon to add more soil around the plants to ensure the roots are not exposed.
After you have completed the plants, you can add some small pebbles and moss to complete your indoor garden.
Note: Before planting your vegetation, make sure that you thoroughly check the plant for any disease or pests. Examine the leaves as well as the roots, and remove dead or diseased areas.
The next step to take now is to water the plants. You can use a watering can with a long thin spout to water the sides of the glass container. The water will run down the sides, to the bottom of the container. Do not pour water directly onto the plants!
Or you can spray water onto the plants. Give it a good wetting, but don’t drown the plants. Too much water is not good. This does depend on whether you have a closed or open container.
In a closed container the moisture remains inside. The atmosphere will be hot and humid. The way most tropical or houseplants like it. In this scenario, not much moisture is lost. You will not need to water it often, if at all!
However, if it is an open glass jar, moisture will evaporate, and you will need to water it often.
#6- Situate the Glass Bowl In Appropriate Conditions
Now that your terrarium is ready, all that’s left is the placement of the container. This depends on the type of plants that you have selected for your container. Cacti and succulents prefer high light and can take intense heat too. So a sunny ledge or window sill.
Avoid putting your container in direct light if you have selected house plants, ferns, and moss. Place these containers where they will receive good indirect light.
If you do not have many windows in your home, or it is mostly dark, you can consider getting a grow light. The grow light is ideal as you can control the light intensity, duration, and direction of light.
#7-Maintain your Garden
As in everything in life, maintenance is important. Once the plants inside become established, they may grow too big and crowd out the other plants. Therefore you have to prune and cut back the overgrown ones.
This keeps the container nice and tidy and aesthetically pleasing to look at. At the same time, you can check for any diseases and if you might want to reposition any plants. Having a clear glass container has the advantage that you can visually see if water is needed.
Why Would You Want To Grow Plants In A Glass Container?
There are several advantages to growing glass container plants. Also, for people who don’t have much of a garden, indoor growing has created an opportunity for all.
- First of all, it’s attractive! The glass bowl terrarium looks a lot cleaner and unique than having a flower pot.
- Convenience since the plants that grow in these settings is relatively low maintenance compared to garden plants.
- Plants growing in a glass container are relatively more eco-friendly and a great way to upcycle your old glass containers.
- You can have greenery in your home throughout the seasons.
- Takes up less space which is great if you have a small garden or no garden at all!
- They are easy to place around the house. A container planted up with ferns and moss will do great with the humidity in your bathroom. Herbs in a container can be conveniently placed by your kitchen window.
With all these plus points, it is worth a shot to try your hand at it and grow plants in glass containers.
Selection of Plants to Grow in Glass Containers
Ultimately the decision will depend on you and whether your glass container is closed or open. In a closed glass container, you will be able to keep plants that thrive on humidity and warmth.
These plants must be small in their natural state. So they will not outgrow the container too fast! The following are suitable plants you can grow in a glass container:
Believe it or not, ferns make the best plants to grow in a container. Here are the reasons why:
- These plants don’t require too much sunlight
- Do well in moist conditions
- Ferns have shallow root systems that will find the glass container medium enough for growth
- When provided with everything they need, ferns can do well indoors
Examples of ferns to grow are Rabbits Foot, Bolbitis, Eyelash fern, heart fern, Silver lace fern, Button fern, maidenhair ferns as well as others.
Many people consider moss to be just a supporting plant in the background of your glass container. However, given the moist and warm environment present in the glass container, moss is perfect.
- Can be grown in closed containers
- Require enough watering to maintain constant moisture
Generally, all mosses will do well in a semi-lighted glass container that is moist enough for these plants.
Cacti can also be a great fixture for glass containers. You must be wondering how a drought-hardy plant will do well in a moist glass container. The truth is your terrarium can be moist or dry! Leave out the water-absorbing materials and put more sand to make it suitable for cacti.
- Cacti like sandy soil
- They do well in heat and full sun on a window
- Can withstand little longer periods without water
Examples of cacti to grow are Bishop’s Cap and Angel’s Wings.
Just like cacti, succulents do well in the dry terrariums with less water and water retaining materials. These plants are sun-loving plants that prefer heat and drought over moisture and shade.
- Succulents are very low-maintenance plants
- Require minimal watering
- Don’t need fertile or moisture-retaining soil
- Enjoy full or the medium sun setting
- Can be kept in partially or fully opened glass containers
- Excellent drainage is necessary to prevent rotting
Examples of succulents to grow are (colorful variants) California Sunset, Coppertone Stonecrop, Chalk sticks, Red Aloe, and Sunset Jade. Alternatively, you can grow your regular green variants.
This may not be your everyday plant that everyone owns. These plants are insect eaters by nature, but you don’t have to feed them insects every day! Some carnivorous plants such as the Venus flytrap will survive on Nitrogen supplements.
- Originating from jungles, carnivorous plants tolerate warm and moist conditions well
- They require fertile soil and also an application of fertilizer occasionally
- Sunlight requirements are not excessive as they exist under a canopy in their natural habitat
Examples of carnivorous plants to grow are Pitcher plants (when small), Venus Flytraps, Sundew, and Butterworts.
Bonsai growing in glass containers is possible if the container is quite large or the bonsai plant is fairly small. These are plants that are carefully shaped and pruned to appear as a small neat version of a bigger tree.
Although bonsai plants are small initially and will grow larger, it usually takes years for that to happen. So, in the meantime, you can find an open glass container to make your bonsai comfortable.
- Very small size
- Like dry conditions present in open glass containers
- Slow growers
Examples of bonsai to grow are Ficus, Fukien Tea, Water Jasmine, and Bougainvillea.
All air plants are suitable for an open container. These plants are very low maintenance and do not need much watering. Overwatering can cause them to turn color, rot, and eventually die.
- When watering, air plants prefer a thorough soaking instead of spraying
- Do not require actual medium to be present in the container
- Partial sun is necessary to keep these plants alive and well
Air plants do not need to be anchored into any medium. They do well with just dry wood and rocks to decorate the glass container. Keeping it this simple also helps you to remove the air plants when you need to water them or prune off old leaves.
Examples of air plants to grow are: Tillandsia Ionantha Mexican, Tillandsia Ionantha Fuego, Tillandsia Funckiana, Tillandsia Filifolia
Most of the plants in genera Peperomia are known to be small, making them a prime candidate for growing in glass containers. There is a lot to choose from and you won’t be disappointed.
They are also known as ‘Radiator plants’ because they need warm environments.
- Prefer medium to high humidity
- They need bright but indirect light. A UV light will suffice
- A slower grower that can stay in one container for years
Examples of Peperomia to grow are: Peperomia caperata “Frost”, Peperomia caperata “Red Ripple”, Watermelon peperomia (Peperomia argyreia), and Baby Rubber plant (Peperomia obtusifolia).
The Ivy plant is another plant that can do well in a glass container that doesn’t need as much preparation or decorating. These Ivy plants can do well in a medium of soil or water alone! While they don’t die easily, it takes minimal effort to help them thrive.
- Low maintenance plants
- Grow in water or moist soil mediums
- Ivy can drape over the glass container meaning that it doesn’t have to be too big but it should be heavy enough to carry the trailing Ivy plant
Because of its creeping or trailing nature, Ivy makes a scenic plant for empty space that is too high up for any other plant.
The Nerve plants group (Fittonia albivenis) contains plants that have colorful leaves and are generally all small in size. Not only are they small and colorful, but their leaves also have appealing designs like a nerve system. Hence, their name is ‘Nerve plants’.
- They do not require too much light
- They tolerate moisture well
- Their small size means they need less pruning and will remain at a manageable size for longer
These make for a suitable plant to grow in glass containers in your house to beautify dull areas that need an exciting and appealing sight.
Maintaining Plants Grown In A Glass Container
From time to time some maintenance is necessary to keep your terrarium looking clean and neat while still being habitable for your plants.
1. Check Container for diseases or Pests
These will usually appear as colored fluffy growth that appears to have dimension. Pests usually appear on top of or under leaves or near stems. Holes, discolored spots, or webs are a sign of pests.
If you detect pests and diseases in your glass container, you will have to remove everything and dispose of or sterilize it. You will then have to replace everything from scratch to ensure that the disease and pests are not brought in again.
2. Pruning Overgrown Plants
The whole purpose of growing plants in a terrarium is to maintain a controlled environment. Hence, you can keep an eye on the plant’s growth and ultimately its size as well! Just so that they do not overtake the container!
Removing a few leaves here and there is mandatory after a while as some plants can become quite wild when they are in their element.
3. Clean the Glass Container
After some time, watering and readjusting positions of internal elements can result in your glass container becoming dirty. Watermarks, soil splatters, and discoloration can be scenarios you have to deal with when you choose to grow plants in glass containers.
Remove everything if it is a very full terrarium and use a glass cleaning product to clean the inside and outside. If it is not as full, you can use a cloth to just swipe the inside clean. This acts as a quick fix and helps when you are in a rush.
4. Replenish Fauna
Not all plants will instantly flourish in your glass container! After some time you will notice that some plants are doing better than others. This obviously means some plants will be in good health while others won’t.
You would hate for your terrarium to look unappealing because of a patch of dead moss, wouldn’t you? Because of this, you will regularly have to remove dead or dying plants and replace them with live and healthier ones.
5. Add Nutrient Sources
A terrarium is a small environment that has limited resources that have to feed the living plants inside. They will eventually become depleted and your plants could suffer for it. Therefore you have to make sure to add fertile soil or fertilizer at regular time intervals that will help to keep your plants in optimal health.
Changing out the medium will be the best way to add nutrients back into the glass container environment. You can even increase or decrease the ratios the second time round.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Growing Plants In A Glass Container?
What can possibly go wrong when you grow plants in glass containers? You might think that there are not many at all. But, there are quite a few you are likely to come across.
- You cannot drill holes in glass containers. Therefore you have to be extra careful as to how much water you give them.
- If your glass container breaks, it’s gone for good and will leave a mess!
- If the terrarium has too much heat or moisture, the sides of the glass tend to fog up, and droplets of water drip down the sides of the glass.
- Another symptom of heat is that the plant leaves have brown dry edges. This can be caused by too much direct heat and low humidity.
- Lower leaves turn yellow and fall. Too much or too little water can cause the roots to rot.
- New leaves appear small, pale, and spindly. Looks like you have uninvited guests in the form of aphids. Check the underside of leaves for the pesky fiends, and swab with a mixture of water and liquid soap.
It’s not a novel idea to grow plants in glass containers. Actually, it has been around for a while and it is time you try it out for yourself. So, what’s so great about it that everyone is doing it?
Steps to grow plants in glass containers are:
- Select a glass container
- Choose appropriate medium
- Identify and place the right plants
- Position the elements with forceps
- Water the plants and medium
- Situate the glass bowl in the appropriate conditions
- Maintain your terrarium/garden on a regular basis
There is a wide range of plants to choose from as your terrarium can be moist or dry.
Ultimately, you can choose from these types of plants that can be grown in a glass container environment – Ferns, Moss, Cacti, Succulents, Carnivorous plants, Bonsai, Air plants, Peperomia plants, Ivy, and Nerve plants.
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Do glass jars make good planters?
Yes, glass containers do make for a good planter. They are transparent and you can visibly see how much moisture is still in the container. Also, you can easily observe for pests and diseases through transparent glass. Besides, you have to admit that there is nothing more appealing than a terrarium.
Do plants grown in glass containers need fertilizer?
Given that there is a minimal amount of medium in the glass container, yes, the plants will benefit from fertilizer. Additionally, you can use a water-soluble fertilizer, dissolve the fertilizer and spray it on your plants. But, this way the plants can get the nutrients they need without using complicated messy powders or pellets that do not distribute uniformly.