Make an Indoor Jungle Jar Garden

Indoor plants are brilliant things. They clean air, look great, and make you feel super. Sometimes they die, mostly from overwatering. This is a problem for some people – they decide their thumbs are black and stop playing with plants. STOP. STOP. STOP. Never stop playing with plants, people. It’s no good. Not at all. This little post is designed to inspire you to begin if you’ve stopped, and to continue if you haven’t. It’s a hack involving keeping plants indoors and never having to water them. Well, sort of.

This devils ivy is growing both in a pot at the base of the frame and out of plastic water bottles tied to the frame. Pic by Daniel Shipp.


Firstly, the botany. Plants need a bunch of things to survive. They need moisture, support, nutrients, oxygen and climatic conditions suited to their desires. Provide these in the right amounts and you have a happy plant.

The variable we’re talking about here is oxygen. Plants absorb it through their roots and leaves. This can be a problem when, for example, you overwater your plant and the soil is completely saturated. The little air holes in the potting mix get filled with water and the plant will start to drown as there’s no oxygen left for it to breathe…. (this is why you should ALWAYS make sure your pot has a drainage hole in its base!).

This overwatering bizzo happens all the time. It’s a bit of a mystery, though, when it comes to making a jar jungle. Why? Well, often the same plant that’ll die when overwatered in a pot will survive in a glass of water. Take the jade plant (Crassula ovata), for example. I’ve had one growing in a jar of water for ages, but it hates having wet feet when planted in a pot. Weird, huh? I think it’s got something to do with the availability of oxygen, but I’m not sure why saturated potting mix is any different to a jar of water… Any ideas? One lovely old geranium collector told me you should never put a geranium cutting in water before planting it as it will develop ‘water roots’ not ‘soil roots’ and will not like being planted into soil. Plants are curious beasts, eh?


Some plants will grow in water for a relatively long period of time. I’ve had a devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum) on my mantelpiece for the last couple of years. It’s a stressful life, so it’s not as vigorous as it would be if growing in potting mix, but it’s also incredibly low maintenance. All I need to do is remember to replace the water every few weeks. A bit of liquid fertiliser wouldn’t go astray either.

Get playing with plants – test out which ones will grow in water, and which ones wont. If they die, don’t cry, just start again.

You may have accidentally started a jar jungle anyway – I know mine often begins with a cutting I have the best intention of planting, and then three months later it’s got roots and is starting to grow. The cuttings eventually get planted into pots, and the cycle begins again.

Here’s a list of toughies who’ll survive (and maybe even thrive) in your new indoor jungle jar garden.

  • Devils ivy (Epipremnum aureum) – Chop a big long string of it and stick it in a bottle. Wind it around a lightfitting, mantlepiece, or picture frame.
  • Jungle cactus (Rhipsalis baccifera) – cuttings grow well in vases until ready to plant
  • Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) – I’ve got a purple leafed one going wild in my kitchen
  • Heart leafed philodendron (Philodendron cordatum) – Just an all round toughie.
  • Geranium – even though it’s not an indoor plant (it loves the sun!), it lasts well in water and will hang about in the kitchen for a good while.
  • Begonia – the most beautiful of indoor foliage plants, and happy enough in a glass of water for a few months
  • Tradescantia – This wild, weedy guy lasts well in water. Or anything, really.
  • Monstera – Take a stem cutting and let it root. It’ll hang about but not go wild in water.

Make sure you keep your jars topped up with fresh water, change it every few weeks or so, and bob’s your uncle – you’ll have an indoor jar jungle in no time.