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Recently I found out about a way to grow plants in air-tight jars, where the plant is recycling water and air so it is basically a no-maintenance plant. There is a product available from Pikaplant (not affiliated with them in any way) called 'Jar Coffea' (Coffea arabica).

These Coffea plants are sealed airtight inside an upside down Mason jar. This means all of the water inside a Jar stays inside, and the plants continuously recycle the water they have. All you have to do is give your self-sustaining plants a nice place to live, and enjoy the view.

Plant in a jar

Because their product is rather expensive, I would be interested to try something similar, make my own jar but with other plants inside.

Which plants could be good candidates for this project and what kind of preparations should be made considering plants would be in a sealed environment? (According to that company their plants are flourishing for over 40 months.)

  • I've also seen cacti grown in sealed containers (including small enough to be worn as necklaces) – Chris H Nov 30 '17 at 16:47
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    Do you have a particular size of jar in mind? Mason jars come in a range of sizes (up to 1/2 gallon -- approximately 2L -- I think), and you can get larger glass jars than that such as carboys used in brewing beer. – Niall C. Nov 30 '17 at 17:22
  • @NiallC. I'm guessing Mason jars are 'brand name' jars available in few sizes? I'm not sure about volume but I think we have few even larger jars around house.. maybe up to 5 liters. Do you ask about volume regarding how fast and how big plant grows? – False Identity Nov 30 '17 at 17:50
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    I have a problem with this air tight environment for plants. Something is wrong. Plants have to have CO2 to do photosynthesis that has a by product of O2. Without CO2 there is no more photosynthesis, photosynthesis is how plants produce their own FOOD, carbohydrates for reproduction, growth, repair and storage for winter. They would need organic matter decomposing to give off CO2 and moisture. There needs to be something to USE O2 or oxygen will completely fill the container. How 'long term' is 'long term'? Enclosed terrariums are like this as are aquariums. Interesting... – stormy Dec 1 '17 at 3:27
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    @stormy It seems 'long term' can be really long :) Here is the link about experiment that started in 1960 which also describes how this works dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2267504/… – False Identity Dec 1 '17 at 5:39
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I have seen someone growing small ferns in a closed jar, but the plants were less than one year old. I don't know what happened to the ferns afterwards. You can also try growing coffee plants, just like the one you saw for sale. Hedera might be another option since it's a hard to kill plant.

Before planting, try to sterilise the jar by boiling it in water or by washing with a chlorine solution (hypochlorite, Domestos, Tween, Ace, bleach), then rinse and allow it to dry upside down on a paper towel.

Preparation of plants depends on how you intend to establish them. If using seeds, wash or wet them with water, then put them in a 2% sodium hypochlorite solution for 5-10 minutes. Pre-weting the seeds will help the chlorine solution to adhere to their surface. Rinse well a few times with boiled and cooled water ant then sow them.

If using already grown plants, remove soil from their roots, submerge the plants in water, then sterilise them with the above mentioned solution, but keep them only for 1-2 minutes, otherwise the leaves will be damaged. Rinse with water a few times and then place the plants.

It's easier to keep the jar with the opening up for planting, you don't have to turn it upside down. Water the soil after planting, but don't overdo it. Overwatering leads to fungal development and this is the main reason plants die in a closed container.

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I've tried growing carrots from seeds inside sealed plastic bottles with LED lighting. I've written up the project here.

I dried the soil before putting it in the bottle so that I could control the amount of water present in the bottle. The main challenge I found was getting the amount of water just right so that the plant has enough water, but the soil doesn't release so much CO2 that it kills the plant. I used a CO2 sensor for some of the experiments to measure what was happening to the CO2.

Although the carrot seedling remained alive (for 108 days) in the last experiment I carried out, it turned purple and didn't develop - I believe that this was because it didn't have enough water. If repeating the experiment, I would try putting a layer of stones in the bottom of the bottle, and put some water in the stone layer, in addition to the water in the soil. The water in the stone layer wouldn't cause initial CO2 release, but would (I think) slowly evaporate and make its way into the soil at a later time when the plant is large enough to need more CO2.

Plastic bottles are slightly permeable to gases, so it wasn't a completely sealed environment. This wouldn't be a problem with a glass container, provided that the lid seal was good.

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