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Mini Mason Jar Planters

Question:

I have a bunch of mini mason jars (shot glass size) that I’d love to plant and give as gifts. I’ve read that to plant in a non-drainable container like this, you can use pebbles, charcoal, and then soil to help drain.

What plants might do well? I initially wanted to plant succulents since they are cheap and easy to find in stores even in the winter, but I’m thinking they might not do well in a container that doesn’t drain.

I don’t have lids, so this won’t be a terrarium. I could make it an “open” terrarium by not filling it up that far and letting the plant stay below the lip of the jar.

Do you have any suggestions on what might grow well inside in a little jar like this?

Answer:

This is a hard one for me to Answer: because your thoughtful idea is a good one, but in some ways impractical. I will explain why so you understand what you are up against.

Plants “do well” only when they receive proper light. Different plants species have varying light tolerances. Because you are giving these as gifts, we don’t know where they will end up and how much light each will receive. If plants don’t get proper light, nothing else in their care will make a difference.

That said and given the tiny size of the glass containers, I do think succulents are a good choice because they have relatively small root systems and rarely need repotting. They are also plants that are available in small sizes. However, succulent plant species do require lots of sunlight so they must be kept on a sunny windowsill. Before you give them as gifts, it is best to know that the recipient has such a location.

One problem with tiny sealed containers is that there is very little margin for error when watering. Putting drainage material in the bottom of sealed containers is an outdated and discredited practice. If you use succulents, you will need to use throughout a sandy, cactus-type potting mix that does not retain water for a long time.

Watering instructions for a succulent growing this way are to slowly add water all around the surface, probably using a tablespoon for better control. Watch the water seep down through the roots and soil until a tiny amount (and no more than that) collects at the bottom of the container. About a week later, it will be time to water similarly again. Succulents can withstand drought but cannot withstand soil that stays moist for more than a week. If too much is poured in when watering then it has nowhere to go. In that even, the container will have to be tipped sideways to allow excess water to drain out.

Another plant possibility is Lucky Bamboo. These are usually grown in plain water with decorative stones in the container. A colorful mix of pebbles and stones available at tropical fish stores can be used to nice effect. Lucky Bamboo are easier to maintain because the recipient simply has to keep the water level above the top of the pebbles/sand and roots. Because they cannot be over watered, they are the opposite of succulents. Lucky Bamboo do not require quite as much light as most succulents, but they cannot be kept successfully in a dim location either.

I think the containers you described are too small to successfully make terrariums.

Do keep in mind that a gift plant can be a burden for some people because plants require regular care that some folks are not up to. Then, they may be fearful that yo will come visit and see that the plant is not doing well and you may fault them. So be selective in who you choose to give gift plants of any kind so that they are truly a gift and not a burden.