Budding gardeners can have an adequate and very interesting garden in bottles of water.
Many familair plants will grow-even thrive-in water. This may seem to contradict warnings about plants being killed by over-watering, but there is an explanation. Roots need air. Roots grown in water are structurally different from thos grown in soil; they are able to get oxygen from air that is dissolved in the water. Then spaces between particles of soil in a pot are saturated with water, no air reaches plant roots.
Ivies, wandering Jew, grape ivy, Sanders dracaena, Chinese evergreen, photos and syngonium are some of the plants that grow well in a bottle garden. These plants live naturally in shade without direct sunlight. Amiong them are vining types and upright growers to afford variety in design or arrangement of the garden.
All you need are stems or "slips" from the plnts, containers, charcoal, gravel or marbles and water. Any glass or glazed container can be used. A clear container enables you to watch the roots grow. Tinted glass or semi-opaque containers usualyy gice the luchest growth. The container cna be a tall bottle, a glass brick, a mayonnaise jar, a jelly glass or even a shallow bowl.
Unity in the garden can be acheived by having all the containers alike. Harmony comes through using plants that compleme t each other in foliage shape and shading. It is important, too, to keep plants in balance with the size and height of container.
To set up the garden, wash containers with soap and water, rinse and dry them. Fill with tepid water from the tap. A thin layer of charcoal at the bottom will help keep the water clear and sweet. Charcoal floats. If you soak it in water for several days, or pour scalding water over it, it will become water-logged and sink to the bottom more quickly.
In wide-mouth containers, plants may lean to one side. To avoid this, fill the bottom of the container to about one-fourth or one-third its depth with washed aquarium gravel or marbles to anchor stems and roots.
Ass a few drops of water-soluble houseplant fertilizer, such as Schultz's or Peter's, at one-fourth the strength recommended for potted houseplants.
Then arrange plants, singly or grouped, depending on the size or type of container and your personal preference. Some effective combinations are syngonium with photos, Sander's dracaena with variegated English ivy, Tahitian bridal veil and Chinese evergreen or several types of English ivy. Set the cut ends in the water and be careful no to submerge any leaves. Leaves will rot and spoil the garden.
If you must buy plants to start your garden, you can use potted plants in small sizes. Gently wash all the soil from the roots and place the rooted plant in the water; carefully cover the roots with gravel to steady the plant.
All these suggested foliage plants are tolerant of low-light conditions. They will grow in a nort window or in indirect light. Direct sunlight on clear glass may pormote growth of green algae; if this happens, move the bottle to an inderect light location.
If water becomes discolored, replace it with fresh. If algae collect on the inside of the container, remove the plants, rinse the roots in tepid water, thoroughly scour the container and start again with fresh water.
At frequent intervals, replace water lost by evaporation.
About once a month, or evry six weeks, change the water and add liquid plant food. This change of water provides the fresh air the plant roots need.
If your bottle garden contains an amount of gravel that makes changing the water difficult, omit the water change. Add liquid fertilizer every three or four months and aerate the water weekly by squirting air bubbles through it with a turkey baster or automobile battery syringe-gently si as not to stir up the gravel in the bottom. And, of course, replace water that evaporates. CAPTION: Picture, no caption, By Ronalie Peterson-The Washington Post