Tropical Garden


A 5 litre clear plastic drinks bottle.

A small amount of gravel, moss, leaf mould (or woodland soil) and some bits of charcoal. Charcoal prevents the soil mixture from becoming sour.

Gardening 'tools', consisting of 4 pieces of bamboo cane, about 30 cm long. Use thin wire or a rubber band to attach a teaspoon to the first bamboo, to make a trowel; a cork to the second bamboo to make a tamper; a small blade to the third bamboo for cutting; and cotton wool or a piece of sponge to the fourth bamboo to make a cleaner.

Native woodland plants such as violets, very small ferns or primroses. Avoid taking plants from the wild. Order them from a specialist nursery or get them from an established wild garden.

Mossy sticks or stones for effect.

Painted Net Leaf

Using a Plastic or Glass Bottle to make
A Tropical Garden
in a bottle

This project is supported by the Department of the Environment Environmental Partnership Fund.
A tropical garden in a bottle is an ideal way to study evaporation and condensation. It could also stimulate pupils to study rain forest habitats and compare them with forests and woodlands in temperate zones.

Creating the Garden

Place approximately 2.5 cm of pebbles in the bottom of the bottle, for drainage.
Add a few pieces of charcoal, to keep the compost fresh. Add about 7.5 cm, in equal parts of John Innes No.1 compost and a soiless compost.
Keep the sides of the bottle clean with the sponge or cotton wool.
Make small holes and insert the plants. Place a tall fern in the middle. Remove some of the root ball of a plant if you have difficulty inserting it. Use the tamper to backfill the holes.
Water and clean the side of the bottle by gently trickling warm water down the sides.

After Care

Do not put a lid on the bottle.
Ensure a reasonable amount of light, but keep it out of direct sunlight.
The plants will thrive at ordinary room temperature.
Water only if the compost appears to be dry. Always trickle water down the sides of the bottle, when watering.
Add a half-strength liquid feed occasionally, during the summer.
Cut off rotting leaves with a blade attached to a bamboo stick and remove dead leaves regularly using two sticks.
Elsie Proctor: Looking at Nature. A. and C. Black 1969
Anne Swithinbank: House Plants . Gardeners' World - October 1996
Young Gardeners' World Page . Gardeners' World, July 1995
Aluminium Plant
Maidenhair Fern
Text:Paddy Madden
Illustrations:Eileen Fleming
Editor:Marian Rollins
Design:Taran Pyper

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