Growing plants in bottles


Bottle Garden Plants – How To Create Gardens In A Bottle

Whether you are short on outdoor gardening space or just want an eye-catching indoor garden – glass bottle gardens are a carefree way to grow many of your favorite plants. Bottle gardens make excellent indoor focal points, especially when planted with colorful foliage and different textures. By following some basic tips, you will have your bottle garden planted and thriving in no time. Read on to learn more.

What is a Bottle Garden?

Gardens in a bottle are essentially the same thing as terrariums. Each one is a small greenhouse supporting a miniature ecosystem of plants.

The first step in creating glass bottle gardens is selecting the bottle. Clear bottles allow the most sunlight to enter, so if you choose a colored bottle, you need to select plants that tolerate medium to low levels of light.

Bottles with openings big enough to fit your hand through make planting easier. Otherwise, you will have to use chopsticks or a long-handled spoon to work the soil inside the bottle and plant. Just make sure the bottle opening is wide enough for the plants to fit through it. Likewise, you could opt for clear plastic soda bottles and simply cut an opening for your plants to fit in. Glass jars work well too.

Wash the inside and outside of the bottle and allow it to dry, as this removes any toxic substances that could harm the plants. Dry soil won’t stick to the sides of a dry bottle and you can remove any dust from the sides when you water.

Creating Gardens in a Bottle

Bottle garden plants require porous soil. This both reduces rot and allows air to get to the roots. You can improve your soil’s drainage by adding one inch of pea gravel to the bottom of the bottle and adding a small layer of horticultural charcoal on top. The charcoal reduces any sour smells created from decomposition.

Layer the gravel mixture with 2 to 4 inches of a rich potting mix. Spread the soil evenly over the gravel using a long-handled spoon. Using a rich soil reduces or eliminates the need for fertilizing.

Plant low-growing plants first, working your way up to the tallest. If it’s difficult to fit the remaining plants into position, wrap them in a paper funnel and slip them through the bottle’s opening and into position. Firm the soil around the plants.

Spray the plants and soil with tepid water until they are moist. Only water again when the soil becomes dry or the plants start wilting. Place the bottle out of direct sunlight.

Leave the bottle top open for several weeks to reduce condensation and then seal it with a cork or suitable top. The only other maintenance is removing dead foliage before it rots.

Suitable Plants for a Bottle Garden

Low-growing tropical vegetation make good bottle garden plants because they thrive in humid conditions. Be sure to use plants with similar needs.

Suitable choices include:

  • Croton
  • Polka-dot plant
  • Southern maidenhair fern
  • Prayer plant
  • Club moss
  • Ti plants

Flowering plants don’t grow well in bottle gardens, as the excess moisture can rot the blossoms.

Joyce Starr has owned and operated a landscape design and consulting business for 25 years. She is a previous certified horticulture professional and lifelong gardener, sharing her passion for all things green through her writing.

Before he shifted to Bengaluru about five years ago, Sadhan Radhakrishan had gardens all over his home in Mumbai. “We had four balconies, and all of them had gardens,” he reminisces. When he made his way to the Garden City, he missed the lush patches as much as working out his green thumb. Not one to be deterred, Sadhan planned his own means to greening his surroundings—vertical gardening.


Over the years, Sadhan—a resident of the city’s Rajijinagar neighbourhood—has grown hundreds of plants in plastic bottles and coconut shells.

Gardening has been a time-tested and greatly loved hobby for Sadhan, who works at an e-commerce company in Bengaluru. “I live in a rented house, and space can be a major constraint,” he says, echoing the thought of countless urban dwellers whose hopes for their own gardens are cut short by the perennial lack of space.

Having seen vertical gardens, Sadhan decided to try them around his home. His choice of plastic planters elevated his eco-friendly initiative. “We have a lot of plastic bottles at home,” he says. “The problem, they never decompose and burning them is toxic too.”Using a simple DIY method, he trimmed the tops of the bottles and filled them with soil and organic manure to plant a variety of ornamental plants and herbs.

He adds, “I have a couple of trees outside my house. I tied a rope around those and secured the plants to the trees firmly.”

The result: Sadhan’s home is ensconced in a beautiful green space. Flowering plants and herbs grow in bottles, which would have otherwise choked up the landfills. The gardener spoke to environmentalists and rests assured that plants are not harmed by any toxic elements from the plastic.

Sadhan has nurtured around 250 flowering plants, herbs and vegetables in his vertical gardens.

The number of plants tends to change, as people often take their pick of the plants perched on trees and ledges and leave. The plastic bottles are not left behind either. “My garden is like the stock market,” Sadhan chuckles, hopeful that the people who take the plants take care of them in their own homes.


Having practiced this for half a decade, Sadhan is familiar with the intricacies of vertical gardening. And it’s simpler than one might imagine—he fills the bottles with soil and cocopeat, sourced from local nurseries and gardens, and gets the process started. “Having low-maintenance plants helps for people who may not have the luxury of time,” he says.

You might also like: How a Cuban Organic Farming Revolution Spurred This Engineer to Make Farmers out of City Dwellers

Some of the plants he recommends include herbs like ajwain, coriander or small vegetables like cherry tomatoes and ginger. Crotons, a variety of flowering plants, are especially great as they thrive in small spaces and limited sunlight. Sadhan chooses his plants with great care, from garden and green spots around the city, with a green barter method.

“I go up to people and ask if they can give me a cutting or seeds from their gardens,” he says. “Most people are happy to share, and in turn I give them something from my garden too.”

In an effort to get more people hooked to gardening, Sadhan also frequently presents seeds and cuttings of his plants to those who want to try it out. In the last year or so, he has also started using coconut shells as planters. “Usually when people drink coconut water at roadside stalls, the empty husks are left on the road and cleaned in a day or two,” he says, about the idea.

What started as one man’s gardening effort has now inspired people in the neighbourhood to take up vertical gardening.

Sadhan has also been approached by the local corporator to replicate the initiative on a larger scale in the neighbourhood. The method is simple enough to be replicated around the city, thus also taking care of countless abandoned plastic bottles.

Creativity is crucial to building a pretty vertical garden, says Sadhan, especially when one is limited to a small area. “I used the mango and teak tree in front of my house, but these plants can even be tied to grlls,” he suggests. The other thing to consider is the size—plants growing in small plastic bottles may turn out to be smaller than those planted on the or in bigger space. However, one must remember that the size is not deterrent to quality.

You might also like: Bengaluru’s Fallen Leaves Are Turning Into Fertilizers for Gardens, Thanks to a Bunch of Residents

Applauding the efforts of Bengaluru metro to construct vertical gardens around the stations, Sadhan says, “The food we eat today is filled with chemicals. Gardening is an economical way to grow your own organic food.” Even small vegetables and herbs and make a difference, and green surroundings also ensure access to cleaner air. A plastic bottle, in good shape, can last a few years with ease.

The benefits of gardening are numerous, and Sadhan successful experiment shows that space or lack or pots and planter are but small hindrances to the determined. All it takes to reclaim our green spaces is a hint of creativity!

To get in touch with Sadhan Radhakrishnan, please click here.


Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: [email protected], or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
NEW: to get positive news on WhatsApp!

As we relish longer days, consider adding some conversation starters like indoor plants in decorative glass containers, succulent gardens or indoor tropical plants. They double as Valentine gifts, too.

Container gardening in glass

Planting an attractive, small indoor garden under glass can be done on any budget and in a short amount of time. Styles, sizes and plant ideas can fit in decors from traditional to modern.

First, choose your look and gather the materials. Use covered glass or open-top containers, such as an oversized brandy snifter, or a chic glass cylinder, fish bowl or wide-mouthed jar. Shop craft or thrift stores and garage sales for bargains. The perfect container might be on a shelf in your closet or basement.

Covered glass containers will need less watering — every two weeks or so with regular lid opening to allow ventilation. An open top allows air circulation and will need watering about every 10 days, or when the soil appears dry.

Place drainage items in the bottom of the glass (1 to 2 inches deep) such as glass beads, aquarium gravel or pebbles. Next, sprinkle in a handful of horticulture charcoal chips, which are sold in garden centers. On top of the charcoal chips, place a 2- to 4-inch layer (depending on the size of the container) of fresh potting mix.

If quarters are tight in the container, use a small spoon, tongs or chopsticks to nestle and position the plants. A small paintbrush can be used to gently brush excess soil off the plants.

Betty Cahill, Special to The Denver PostTillandsia, or air plants, are the easiest of easy-care houseplants.

Plant choices vary for dwarf, slower-growing houseplants that do well in low light and high humidity. Look for boldly colored foliage to add contrast and vary plant sizes to lend interest.

Cacti, succulents and other plants that like dry conditions need different soil and growing conditions than a covered or moist terrarium, where they could rot. Use an open glass container or a glazed, clay or plastic shallow dish. Containers can be as low as 3 inches tall.

Drainage holes are optional for cacti and succulent gardens, as long as a fast-draining potting soil is used and not overwatered. Look for potting soil labeled specifically for cactus or succulents (but avoid ones with large chunks of bark), or make your own with a mixture of soil, coarse sand and perlite. For more planting and growing information, visit

Tillandsia, known as air plants, are the ultimate in unique easy-care indoor plants. In time they even bloom. All they need is a 15- to 30-minute soak in a bucket of water once a week; misting now and then generally isn’t enough. Give them bright light, but no more than an hour a day of direct sun from a window. Display tillandsia (one or more) on sand or decorative rocks in a pretty bowl, hanging glass bubbles or a creative sculpture.

Local garden centers have specific areas for terrarium dwarf plants, plus cacti and succulents for making indoor dish gardens. Have fun putting together your own design or sign up for a class where the supplies and plants are included in the fee.

Indoor tropics

Is it time to branch out from the standard indoor pothos, snake and spider plants? Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but how about adding a long-lived fruit tree or two that can double as an attractive outdoor plant during the growing season.

Dwarf citrus plants, which grow to 2- to 8-feet tall in time, are well suited for indoor container growing, as long as they have adequate light. A sunroom or heated greenhouse both work, but a bright south-facing window is the ticket to a sweet blooming aroma and decorative, delicious fruit.

Start with a healthy potted dwarf plant from a garden center or mail order. Seeds from store-bought fruit may not be dwarf or ever flower or fruit.

Varieties vary per store or online, as do prices. Smaller, younger plants (less than 2 feet) are very reasonable. Two- to 3-year-old plants generally produce flowers and fruit right away.

Choose from these self-pollinating dwarfs: Meyer lemon, Calamondin orange (a cross between mandarin orange and kumquat that’s good for first time citrus growers), Key lime, Tangerine and Dwarf Cavendish Banana.

When self-pollinating citrus plants bloom indoors, they can use a bit of help spreading their pollen grains so they develop fruit. Simply use a small fine paintbrush or Q-tip and gently brush the center of each open flower. Watch how at

Culturally they need four to six hours of direct, unfiltered sun each day, with indoor daytime temperatures from 60 to 85 degrees. Temperatures can be five to 10 degrees cooler at night.

Water thoroughly when the top third of the soil is dry and supplement humidity by placing the container on a tray of watered pebbles. Use filtered water or tap water that has sat out overnight to dissipate chlorine and fluoride.

Fertilize at half strength every other watering when actively growing, April through September. Keep the leaves dust free and prune after flowering when needed.

Common pest insects including scale, spider mites, mealybugs and aphids. Look out for speckled, curled, yellowing or sticky leaves and silky webs between the branches. To combat pests, treat organically with insecticidal soap or neem horticultural oil.

Acclimate fruit trees slowly into a sunny spot when moving them outdoors each spring and reverse the process each fall when taking them back inside.

How to create and grow a terrarium bottle garden

Creating Your Own Bottle Garden

A Terrarium, Bottle Garden, or Wardian Case are all essentially the same thing in that each contains and supports a miniature ecosystem of plants.

Historically they were used to transport plants from their native countries to other countries where ordinarily they would not be able to survive in the new conditions.

As time progressed they became more widely available to the public and this allowed house plants to be protectivly grown under glass or plastic even though they were surrounded by unfavorable conditions i.e. the Victorians could now grow ferns despite their homes being filled with poisonous fumes which would normally kill these types of plants.

Today because Bottle Gardens are easy to create and maintain, they are commonly used as a substitute garden in areas where there is little or no outdoor space, such as in apartments.

Bottle Gardens are sometimes used in schools in order to study miniature ecosystem within a classroom. They are also used as a form of interior decoration with the containers often being as interesting as the plants grown within. Check Amazon for some inspiration –

If you like the look or idea of a Bottle Garden there is no reason why you shouldn’t give it a go. They are very easy to set up and then look after going forward, you can grow many many different plants that would ordinarily be quite difficult in the home. Making fantastic gifts and presents to give to people, and really an almost limitless way to express your creatively.

Our article takes a very simple carboy and takes you through the stages in setting one up as well as detailing our attempt along the way.

Step One – Preparing the Terrarium

In many cases you will be starting with a brand new or very old Wardian case, bottle, carboy or terrarium, in any event it will need to be washed, to ensure the entire container is clean. A dusty outside will reduce the amount of light that reaches inside, and a dirty interior will do the same as well as encourage disease. Plus this is going to be a focal point in your home that will draw attention – you want it to be attractive!

Our Attempt

We are using an old carboy bottle that was previously being used as a plant terrarium already. The bottle was filthy and filled with a stray Christmas Cactus cutting that had developed into a small plant, some grass and a sickly looking Wandering Jew. The soil was breaking down and was generally unsuitable, so everything was discarded (except for the Christmas Cactus which was potted up into a normal pot) and the bottle thoroughly washed inside and out.

Step Two – Filling the Bottle Garden

Once cleaned and dry you’re ready to go. The container which will house the plants needs to be set up ready and to do this you just need to create two layers within the base of the container.

The first layer should be a very porous material to help with drainage and prevent fungal attacks caused by too much moisture. You can use material such as gravel, pebbles or sand, you can also add a thin layer of activated charcoal at this point if you want. The purpose of the charcoal is to reduce any smell caused by decomposition within the container later on.

The second layer is the growing medium, i.e. what the plant roots will grow into and use to support themselves such as soil compost. It needs to be quite a thick layer and certainly several times as much as the first porous layer.

We followed our own instructions above but using a very thin later of porous material (pebbles) and no charcoal. This was because, firstly we did not have many pebbles to use and no activated charcoal. Secondly the first layer is generally a fail safe for incorrect watering technique, which (touch wood) we are usually good at.

The inside wasn’t totally dry, so some of the compost that was poured in stuck to the sides however this wasn’t a big problem as it could be washed down when it came to adding the water (more on this later).

Step Three – Bottle Garden Plants

Naturally the whole point of a Bottle Garden are the plants. Terrariums allow you to grow plants which require a high degree of humidity therefore your choice of potential inhabitants is huge although you must discount any houseplants which produce flowers. This is because flowers do not tend to do well in very moisture rich atmospheres and will rot easily.

Although there are many suitable candidates for your miniature garden you still need to give it a little thought first. To start with, think about the look you want to end up with, are you perhaps looking for a variety of colour with many different leaf shapes to create a bold contrast? Perhaps a consistent height level so everything grows to roughly the same size? Or perhaps you want visual structure in which case you would need some taller plants as well as some shorter ones.

Once considered you need to think about their ability to live with one another in a cohesive way. Your chosen plants need to be reasonably slow growing so not to take over the others, they will all need similar light and water requirements. For example you don’t want a traditional type of cactus mixed with a moisture loving Peace Lily. If you did this, the cactus would demand drier conditions than the Peace Lilly could live with and inevitably one of them will die as their needs cannot be balanced.

We opted for three distinct house plants all with different colours and all with different starting heights. Choosing a Croton for its striking green and yellow leaves, a Pteris Fern which will adore the high humidity the bottle garden will provide and a Pilea with it’s silvery grey foliage and ground growing nature to cover the depths of the carboy.

All three plants will accept medium light levels, quite high humidity conditions and will be happy with warm temperatures, even in Winter.

Step Four – Planting Up

In some respects this is the hardest part of the task and the difficulty factor rests solely on the size of your bottle neck opening. If the neck is large enough for you to get at least one of your hands inside, things are normally easy as you just need to carefully put one plant in at a time and then bury the root ball into the layer of compost you added previously.

Very narrow openings which do not allow the use of your hands within, means a limited ability to manipulate the plants and get them planted easily. You will need to revert to long handled spoons, long chop sticks or something similar, to enable you to dig out a small trench and then to help you lower the plants into the newly created hole.

In any case always go slowly and don’t be afraid to move things around or prune the plants until you are happy with the final look. Firm the soil gently around the roots. Do not crowd the plants so to allow them space to grow and spread, also do not directly push them against the sides of the container.

Our planting up experience was on the easier side because as you can see from the photos the carboy has a wide opening so we could use hands. However we did underestimate the height of the Croton, which was far too tall and didn’t sit right. It had to come out for a little pruning before being returned to its new home.

Step Five – Watering In

The final thing to do in terms of the preparation is to water. Go carefully! You do not want to over do it. A funny thing happens when you put water into a bottle like this because if you pour the water against the inside of the glass it will run down the sides of the bottle and into the soil.

This is great for two reasons, firstly it flows to the very edges only and therefore does not dislodge the plants in the centre or splatter the compost around. Secondly you can gradually rotate the bottle so the entire inside is cleaned, this is brilliant if when you put the soil in initially it stuck on the glass like you can see in the photo..

Exactly as instructed above we slowly and carefully rotated the bottle garden using a watering can in order to clean the sides and also to ensure the entire compost was evenly moist in all areas. Several times we stopped and waited to check there was enough water before putting in a little more, knowing we could always add but would struggle to take away any if we over did it.

Step Six – Results and The Future

Once the above Five Steps have been followed that’s it. All you need to do is move your new bottle garden to its new home and away we go. If you have a closed terrarium i.e. it has a lid or a stopper, at this stage you put that cover in place.

A closed Bottle Garden may never need watering again! An open Bottle Garden or terrarium will need a small amount of water every couple of months, if the opening is very wide then perhaps a little more often. Fertilising is seldom needed in either type of garden, however a very weak feed once a year in Spring may be of benefit if the plants appear to be growing much slower than you would like or are looking sickly.

Immediately remove any plants that die and because it’s so important we are going to say it again, be careful when you water! Overdoing it will greatly increase the chances of a fungus or mould attack which will ruin all your hard work.

Following the above instructions our Bottle Garden is now a couple of months old and has only been watered once. The Croton and Pilea have not grown at all, but this could be because it’s cooler as we are getting close to Winter now. The Pteris Fern on the other hand is thriving and has grown, which we will pay close attention to going forward and if it starts to get out of control we will need to prune it to stop it taking over.

Your Attempt?

So how did you get on with your attempt? Let us know and share your pictures in the comments below. We’d love to hear your stories!

About the Author

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Ourhouseplants Team.

Also on

Photo credit of top view Terrarium Scott Webb

Make An Adorable Herb Garden With Old Glass Jars


1. Rinse out your old glass jar thoroughly with soap and water.

2. If removing a label, let jar soak in warm water mixed with dish soap for 30 minutes. Remove label. It should come off easily! Dry glass jar thoroughly.

3. Prepare outside of glass jar for chalk paint by first removing any residues. Place a few drops of rubbing alcohol on a piece of paper towel and gently rub the side of the glass jar you wish to paint over.

4. Use masking tape to tape off a rectangle on the side of the glass jar. This is where your chalkboard label will be so make sure you get it to be the size you want.

5. Once you have rectangle you want, apply chalk paint with a paint brush. Let dry 1 hour. (For best results, apply a thick, smooth layer in one stroke. If you want to apply another coat, allow the first coat fully dry before applying.)

6. Remove masking tape. With chalk, write the herb you choose to plant on the new chalkboard label.

7. Add about 1-2 inches of rocks, gravel, pebbles, or marbles to your glass jar. Then fill the jar with potting mix, leaving some space at the top for more potting mix after planting the seeds, about 1 inch.

8. Plant herbs seeds of choice* and top with a small handful of potting mix. Lightly water the top of the soil.

9. Place indoor near a windowsill or on a countertop that receives ample sunlight. Be sure to read instructions on the back of the herb seed packet for proper maintenance.

10. Watch your herbs start to grow!

*NOTE: Not all herbs are able to thrive in a glass jar forever; for some, a glass jar is suitable as a garden starter only. Keep this in mind when selecting herb seeds!

How to create a terrarium (or vivarium or self-contained bottle garden)


Making a terrarium, a self-sustainable ecosystem with a living, growing plant inside a sealed bottle, is a pretty easy project and the plant growing inside can survive for decades without any watering or other care. Here’s how you can build a terrarium on your own.

How to make a terrarium, vivarium, or garden in a bottle

  1. First, find a suitable sealed glass bottle or jar. A bottle with a wide mouth will be much easier to work with. Make sure the bottle has a lid or cork which can be sealed tightly.
  2. Fill the bottom of the bottle with pebbles. You need at least enough pebbles to cover the bottom of the bottle but can add more if the bottle is taller. Try to fill about 1/5 of the bottle with pebbles. The pebbles will provide a space for water to collect in. Colorful, polished, pretty pebbles can be purchased at a pet store (they use them in fish aquariums).
  3. Cover the pebbles with a thin layer of activated charcoal. You can usually find activated charcoal at a pet store. The charcoal will filter impurities out of the water and will serve to keep the terrarium clean.
  4. Add a ½ inch layer of peat moss (a type of very nutritious soil) on top of the activated charcoal. The peat moss will hold water and nutrients that the plant needs to grow.
  5. Add a ½ inch layer of potting soil on top of the peat moss. This is the dirt that our plant will stake its roots into.
  6. Take a piece of moss, with some soil still covering its roots, and carefully place it on top of the soil in your bottle. If the mouth of the bottle is too small to reach into, use tweezers, chop sticks, a Popsicle stick, or some other means (Reeko uses a well-behaved, specially trained ant who is very good at following directions) to lower the plant down into the bottle. Spray a bit of water on it – by now it’s probably pretty thirsty.You can collect moss from outside. Look for it in places that have just a little bit of sunlight shining on them. Dig up a small moss patch and place it inside a plastic bag or sealed plastic container so it does not dry out before you can plant it.
  7. Before placing the lid/cork on the bottle, clean the inner glass so it’s easy to see through. You can attach a cotton ball or small piece of cloth to a stick that you can reach down into the bottle to clean the bottle’s sides.
  8. Place the lid on the bottle and seal it up tight!

Finally, place the bottle in a fairly sunny spot. The moss will need sunlight to grow but not as much as some plants. If there is too much sunlight shining on your terrarium, it will tend to dry out. Not enough sunlight and the plant will not live. Somewhere around a window, but not directly in the sunlight, will work best.

If the inside of the bottle seems to be too wet, leave the lid off for a day or two to let it dry out. Similarly, if it seems to dry, remove the lid and add just a tiny amount of water to the terrarium.

Additional Information

The “gap of air” in the bottle should be about 2/3 of the available space. That means 1/3 of the height of the bottle should be filled with pebbles and soil and about 2/3 of the height of the bottle should be empty space for the plant to grow into.

Sometimes moss and soil can have bugs or bug eggs in it which you might notice after the bottle is sealed. Be nice and let the little critters out.

Check out this story about a guy that created a terrarium that has not been watered in over 40 years and how photosynthesis works in a terrarium.

Experiment Supplies

Supplies: Glass bottle, pebbles, activated charcoal, peat moss, potting soil, moss

Do you have a few favorite “go-to” herbs? Why not grow them in water and keep them close at hand on the kitchen window sill or right on the counter?

Water-grown herbs are just as flavorsome as those you grow in the garden. You don’t have to mess with soil or worry about regular watering or changing seasons.

Most herbs will be happy growing in water, but those propagated from cuttings are easier to start in water.

Seed-grown annuals like cilantro, mustard, and dill are a bit tricky because you need to sow the seeds in soil or some other medium and then transfer the seedlings to water.

Soil to water transition is not impossible, but it may not always work out because soil-grown roots are a bit different from water roots.

What You Need to Grow Herbs in Water


For a simple herb stand in the kitchen, you can root herb cuttings in plain water in glass bottles.

Avoid using chlorinated water directly as the bleaching chemical is not exactly friendly to plant tissues. Tap water that has been left to air overnight is fine, so is stored rainwater.

Spring water or well water is the best because it has some amount of dissolved minerals that may be of use to plants.


As for the container, mason jars or any other glass bottles will do, even plastic bottles.

Roots generally like to grow away from light, so colored bottles, especially amber colored ones (such as these) are best. You can just wrap a piece of paper around the bottle to keep the root zone in the dark.

This will even prevent algal growth on the container walls and on the root surface. Algae do not adversely affect plant growth, but they make the bottles look untidy.

Narrow-mouthed containers have an advantage: they can support the cuttings and keep them nearly upright. However, the mouth of the container shouldn’t be too narrow or tight-fitting around the cutting.

The roots have to breathe, and the mouth of the container should allow free movement of air.

If you’re using a wide-mouthed container, you have the option of covering the top with nylon or wire netting. Insert the cuttings through the holes, and that will offer some support to the cuttings.

Another advantage, especially in warmer areas, is that the netting prevents mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water and multiplying.

Plant cuttings

Soft cuttings are pretty quick to root in water. You don’t need to use any rooting hormones. If you have some herbs growing in the garden, snip off 6-inch sections from growing tips and put them in the water-filled containers.

The best part of growing herbs from cuttings is that you can use the ones you get from the supermarket. Just wash them in plain water and cut off the lower portion.

Remove lower leaves from cuttings and trim the lower tips close to the nodes from where the roots arise. When they are inserted into the bottles, there shouldn’t be any leaves touching the water. They can rot easily and spoil the water, as they do in flower vases.

Woody cuttings like rosemary may take longer to root, so be patient. Change the water once a week without disturbing the cuttings. Once the roots start growing, usually between 2-6 weeks, water changes may not be necessary.

If you have willow trees in the garden, you can steep some branches in warm water overnight to make a natural rooting hormone mix. Place the cuttings in the infusion to encourage rooting. Alternately, rooting hormone powder can be used.

10 Best Herbs You Can Grow In Water

1. Peppermint

This is the most popular mint for medicinal uses because it contains high amounts of the volatile substance menthol. It gives a unique cooling sensation on the skin or tongue, but without actually causing any temperature variation.

Growing peppermint in water is easy; just put fresh cuttings in water to grow new plants.

2. Spearmint

This is another mint variety closely related to peppermint. In fact, peppermint is a natural hybrid of spearmint and an aquatic mint that is commonly known as water mint.

3. Oregano

This pungent herb is worth growing indoors because you can use the leaves to flavor almost any vegetable.

Take cuttings of fresh growth and pot them up in water. Start pinching the growing tips as soon as the plant starts to grow well.

4. Basil

Basil would love the warmth of your kitchen and grow happily in a water-filled container as long as you provide it good light.

Take cuttings any time before it starts flowering. If you have several varieties of basil, growing cuttings in water is the best way to preserve your collection during winter.

5. Sage

Take soft cuttings in the spring and root them in water. You may need only one or two sage plants because only very tiny amounts are needed to impart flavor. Keep the plants in bright light and in a well-aerated place because this herb is prone to mildew.

6. Stevia

This sweet plant is good to have in the house to add to freshly brewed teas and beverages.

Take cuttings of actively growing soft branches and place them in water. Provide a warm place and as much light as possible to keep this tropical plant happy and full of sweetness.

7. Lemon balm

The lemony scent of this mint-family herb is a welcome treat in any home, especially in the winter. The leaves are great for making tea. Take cuttings in spring or fall. Keep the containers in a warm place that receives plenty of bright indirect light. They may take up to 3-4 weeks to develop roots. Keep the water clean with regular changes.

Some people find it easier to root the cuttings outside the house when the weather’s still warm. It may help avoid white mildew that lemon balm is prone to. You can bring them indoors when the new plants are well established.

8. Tarragon

Take cuttings in the spring after new growth appears. Fall cuttings are fine too, but they may take longer to grow roots. Keep cuttings in a warm place that gets bright light. French tarragon is best as a culinary herb. Russian tarragon is milder, or even bland, so use it as a green in salads.

9. Thyme

You need to take cuttings of new growth that is green in color. The old growth that has become stiff and brown may not sprout roots easily. The best time to take the cuttings is mid-spring to early summer, before the plant starts flowering. The thin stems of thyme can dry out very fast, so put them in water as soon as you cut them. Spray the portion above the water, if necessary. Once it starts growing, cut the stems to promote branching.

10. Rosemary

The semi-woody cuttings of rosemary take longer to root, but spring cuttings of new shoots may be faster. Either way, it is worth the effort because rosemary makes an excellent indoor plant for a sunny spot.

9 Best Houseplants To Grow In Water

Not just herbs, but other houseplants do equally well in water. Just perfect for you if you regularly kill houseplants by over watering them or forgetting to water altogether. You don’t need to make any special arrangements when you go off for a few days.


This plant is commonly grown in water. Take tip cuttings of any length and put the cut end into some water making sure that 2-3 nodes are submerged in water.


This plant is similar to pothos. Tip cuttings can be potted up with a few nodes below the water level.


Dainty heart-leaved philodendrons, as well as the large, split-leaved types do equally well in water. Take 6-8 inch cuttings of growing tips and put in a container that can support its weight. You may need to place a piece of rock in the container to prevent accidental tipping.

Peace lily

You can pot up divisions or use an entire plant growing in a pot. Just wash off all the soil from the roots and put it in a bowl of water.

Aluminum plant

Cuttings of this beautiful plant with silver markings do very well in water.


The plant commonly grown in water as Chinese lucky bamboo incidentally is no bamboo, but a variety of dracaena (Dracaena braunii). Others like corn plant (D. fragrans), Song of India (D. reflexa) are good choices. Sections of the cane can be rooted and grown in water, but support is essential for these top heavy plants.

Dieffenbachia (Dumb cane)

Cut top growth and pot up in water after the cut end becomes dry. Care must be taken while handling this plant; its sap is so caustic, it can burn your skin.

Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema)

Take cuttings or clean whole plants growing in pots and put them in large containers of water.

Chlorophytum (Spider plant, Airplane plant)

Put large plantlets or entire plants cleaned of all soil particles in goldfish bowls full of water. Water culture is best for hanging plants because you don’t need to water them often.

6 Best Vegetables To Grow In Water

Watercress, water chestnut, wasabi, and lotus are some of the food plants that naturally grow in water. But many terrestrial vegetables can adapt to growing in water.

Some, like leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach, do extremely well.

They seem to be happier than their counterparts growing in the ground because they get a continuous supply of water and are not bothered by soil pathogens.


This is the most favorite vegetable of hydroponic farmers. The easiest way to grow them hydroponically is to start the seeds in netted cups. When they are bigger, insert them into the beds containing growing medium.


This leafy vegetable is grown the same way as lettuce.


Tomato seeds started in individual cups are inserted into the growing medium. High yields are typical of hydroponically cultivated tomatoes.


Their cultural requirements are similar to tomatoes.


Bush type cucumbers are preferred for hydroponics; the climbing type would need extra support.


Being able to grow celery without soil is a bonus; it means no dirt deposited in the leaf bases. It makes cleaning the vegetable very easy.

How To Feed Water-Grown Plants

Plants growing in plain water will soon exhaust what little mineral nutrients the water may contain. Since they don’t have access to the nutrients naturally occurring in soil, they need supplemental nutrition to do well.

Regular fertilizers diluted in water or proprietary formulations designed for hydroponics can be used at regular intervals.

When you use fertilizers to feed water grown plants, they leave some residues that may accumulate in the water and on the roots, causing root burn. Change the water at regular intervals and flush the plants and the containers occasionally.

Hydroponics – Growing Plants in Water and Inert Media

Soil has some functions other than providing minerals required for plant growth,. It supports the plants and provides a medium for anchoring the roots. When plants are grown without soil, the lack of proper support can be a limiting factor. Soil acts as a reservoir of water and fertilizers added to it, and then releases both in a controlled manner.

Inert natural media like sand, gravel, perlite, vermiculite coconut fiber, and coconut chips are sometimes added to water containers to serve as support. Some products like lightweight expanded clay and rock wool are specially manufactured for this purpose.

Plants grown in a hydroponic medium seem to appreciate the physical support they get. Special nutrient formulations are mixed with water to provide continuous nourishment to the plants. That’s why hydroponic systems typically give very high yield.

Types of Hydroponic Systems

Wick system – The plants grow in tubs filled with an absorbent medium like coco-peat that can wick up nutrient-rich water from a bottom reservoir. It is somewhat like growing plants in soil, except that the nutrients come from the water, not the medium.

Deep Water Culture – It is almost same as the simple system described for growing plants directly in containers of water. The roots remain suspended in water, but the plants are actually growing in another container partially immersed in the main water container. Sometimes Styrofoam sheets with holes are used for suspending the plants.

The water in the main container is agitated or aerated with an aquarium pump. This extra aeration to the root zone helps reduce disease and keeps the roots healthy and strong. The main drawback is that power is required to run the system.

Instead of allowing the roots to remain submerged in water all the time, different types of arrangements for intermittent exposure have been developed. This allows more air-circulation around the roots, helping reduce root zone diseases.

Falling water – Nutrient solution is supplied to the beds from overhead sprinklers. It percolates down by gravity and gets recirculated. The root zone gets good air circulation, but the system involves pumping water for recirculation.

Flood and drain – The plants growing in the bed of inert medium are watered by intermittent flooding of the beds with the nutrient solution. The bed is them allowed to drain, exposing the roots to air.


This is an improvement on hydroponics where growing medium is done away with. Plants are grown in holes cut into large pipes so that their roots remain inside the pipe. Nutrient solution is sprayed on to this root zone.


This is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture in which fish and other aquatic life are grown. It does away with the proprietary nutrient solutions used in hydroponics, replacing it with the nutrient-rich water discarded from aquaculture tanks.

The system uses an inert medium that gets colonized by microorganisms capable of breaking down aquaculture waste products. The water thus cleaned and filtered by the hydroponic bed gets recirculated into the aquaculture tanks.

A simple replication of aquaponics would be growing herbs, watercress or microgreens on Styrofoam sheets floating in an aquarium tank with their roots absorbing the nutrients generated from fish waste.

It is truly amazing the number of plants that can be grown without soil. If you are ready for a change from conventional gardening why not try your green thumb at water gardening?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *