I'm an experienced gardener who loves sharing tips and tricks for making your garden the best it can be.
Beautiful Art From the South
I love this form of old, Southern garden art that glistens in the sun and howls in the wind. Bottle trees are also great because they require no care. Once they're up, you never have to water them, and you don't have to worry about them getting too hot or cold. You can even decorate them during the holidays!
This article will show you how to make a bottle tree for your garden. It's not hard, and it looks beautiful, especially once your garden starts to grow around it.
Items Needed to Make Your Tree
- Treated 3x5 wood post/pole
- Posthole digger
- 80 D hot dip galvanized pole barn nails (OR 8-inch galvanized lag screws and a socket wrench)
- Concrete (optional)
I would rather have used a tree stump, but even in our woods, we couldn't find one that worked. No matter what your situation, there's a way to make a bottle tree work for you.
How to Make a Bottle Tree
- Dig a hole about 25 inches deep and about 12 to 14 inches around.
- Place your post in the hole. If you want to add concrete, you can. (We did not do this, we just filled the hole in with dirt.)
- Drill holes at an angle to put your spikes in. Remember to drill the holes far enough apart so each bottle will fit and have room for the next bottle.
- Use a hammer (or drill if you're using screws) to make sure spikes are secure.
- Decorate your tree with bottles!
Below are a video and step-by-step photos of my husband putting up our bottle tree.
Step-by-Step Photos of How to Make a Bottle Tree
Where to Find Bottles for Your Tree
While you can buy bottles on the Internet, I prefer collecting them. I've even hit the liquor store looking to see if I can find a different or special one. You can also tell people you are putting up a bottle tree; you will be surprised at how many bottles you get. At first, I had trouble getting the ones I needed, but now that people know I want them, I'm getting them pretty fast. They may look at you like you're crazy—my children certainly did—but it's worth it.
Some bottles look nice and pretty, but when they are put on the tree, the plastic coating will start to come off. I leave them on anyway, because at least I will end up with nice, clear glass.
Go in antique stores, rummage sales, and flea markets to find them. The bottles here are from my collection of blue. One is a wine bottle, another is an old seltzer bottle, and the rest are shot glasses. A bottle tree decorated entirely with small shot glasses would be pretty. You just have to make the rods they hang on larger or figure out another way to connect them, maybe with wire.
How to Clean Your Bottles
If you're putting your bottles on a tree, soak them first to remove all labels.
Read More From Dengarden
- Score the label.
- Place the bottle in hot water.
- Leave to soak (sometimes as long as overnight).
- Peel off the label.
Note: There are some labels you have to work at to get off. In this case, I peel as much as I can off and then let the bottle soak longer. I also use lubricant spray to remove particularly tricky labels, which works well.
My husband finally got the time to put up my bottle tree. I planted morning glories so they could grow up the tree; they did, but they didn't bloom very well.
A clematis planted by the tree worked out well. It grew up between the bottles. Diane Speros contacted me from Harris Publications. The magazine is going to put my bottle tree photo, with the clematis, in their publication of Flea Market Outdoor 2016.
We have people drive by here, and they slow down and keep looking in our yard. My husband and son were wondering what in the world they found so interesting. A red truck stopped the other day, and our son went out and motioned for them to come into the driveway. He wanted them to come in and tell us what they were looking at. We don't mind; we're friendly! They wouldn't come in. I told the men in my family they were looking at my beautiful bottle tree. They just laughed.
My personal belief is bottle trees came here by Europeans. My family goes back to the first settlers. They came with many superstitions. They believed in witch balls and gazing balls and also hung bottles in the trees to catch evil spirits.
There are photos of other trees in this article. Each one has its own charm and gives everyone ideas on how to do their bottle tree.
Many people make their trees from metal rods, or simply place the bottles on old dead trees in their yard, but that wasn't the kind I wanted. It's up to you to decide what kind of tree you want, and the functionality will stay the same no matter which way you choose.
I love the bottle tree on the right in the entrance...so pretty. There is no reason you can't put one in your home—a small one by the window to catch the evil before it enters.
In Texas, blue bottle trees are called bluebonnet bottle trees. I think this is a very pretty blue tree. Bud Light Platinum now has blue bottles; they can be used on a tree. A bottle tree would brighten up the cold winter garden, and you can add twinkle lights—how pretty would this be?
You can make a tiny little tree with cobalt blue bottles. We plan to have lots more bottles than what you see in the last picture. I want it to look full like the second photo in this article. We put lights on the tree for Christmas.
A man in our town makes bottle trees. I'm very surprised to see a Northern making bottle trees it's usually someone from the south. I can drive all over town and not find a tree. I went looking for one the other day someone said they had seen and never did find it. If you don't want to make your own, you can always check out Jerry Swanson's Bottle Tree site and see if you like any of his trees to buy. I don't know the man so I can't tell you much about buying his trees—just another avenue you can use if you don't want to make your own tree.
- We finally got started on the bottle tree. We used a treated post from Home Depot. The post is 3x5.
- My hubby nailed large spikes into the post. He used 80 D hot dip galvanized pole barn nails.
- They glisten in the sun and howl in the wind.
A bottle tree brightens up any cold winter garden, especially with twinkle lights. How pretty would that be?
The Legend Behind Bottle Trees
According to legend, evil spirits looking for trouble are attracted to the bright, beautiful colors. These spirits will go in the bottles and become trapped. The sun will then burn up the evil spirits in the morning. Just think how many terrible spirits they will catch on Halloween night. The bottles will also keep spirits from entering your home.
Blue bottles are for health, and they catch the evil spirits spreading sickness. When the wind blows, you may just hear the moan of the evil spirits.
Where Did They Come From?
Some say they originally came from Europe, where people used them in their gardens and yards to keep evil spirits away. Others say they were brought to America from Africa by slaves.
Whatever the true story might be, bottle trees have been in Southern gardens for a very long time.
Bottle Tree Alternatives
If you don't want to put up a tree, or you just don't have the space, here are some alternatives:
- Hang a jar in a tree and add colored water.
- Place a series of metal rods in the ground, and place a single bottle on each.
- Place bottles directly onto old trees in your yard.
- Buy a witch ball. These were hung in cottage windows in 18th century England to ward off evil spirits and come in many pretty colors.
All of these options are said to capture evil spirits, so pick whichever one suits you best.
Festive Bottle Trees
I love decorating my bottle tree for the holidays. They really brighten up a cold, winter garden! Putting icicle lights inside each bottle works particularly well. Even with white lights, your tree will still be colorful.
Bottle Trees as Gifts and Around the Neighborhood
My aunt has wanted a bottle tree for a long time, so her children found a welder and commissioned this one for her backyard. They live in Michigan and said they are seeing more bottle trees around the city every day.
More of them are showing up around our town as well. I love all the blue in the second tree below. The bottle trees below are photos I took around town.
Bonus: Bottle trees are even showing up in movies! One can be seen in the movies Ghosts of Mississippi (1996) and Wanderlust (2012).
Bottle Trees for Sale
The top photo below is taken of bottle trees in Menards, the price $59.95. I think this is a ridiculous price. A similar tree can be bought online for about $20.00 to $30.00. You can even get them with solar lights in them.
People also sell them at garden shows.
Many places either sell or have named their companies after the bottle tree, such as Elmer Long's Bottle Tree Ranch on route 66 in Barstow, California, or The Bottle Tree Beer Company in North Carolina.
Elmer Long's Bottle Tree Ranch
Your Garden Will Be the Talk of the Town
Ever since my husband put up our bottle tree, we've had people drive by and slow down to look in our yard. My husband and son were wondering what in the world they found so interesting. I told them they were looking at my beautiful bottle tree. They just laughed, but I know it's true. These trees are eye-catching and special, and will make your garden stand out.
Each bottle tree has its own charm. I hope this article has given you ideas on how to create yours.
Selling Bottle Trees At Garden Shows.
People are now selling bottle trees at garden shows such as the Lakeland Garderners show in Lac Du Flambeau.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2011 moonlake
Crickett Reed on August 22, 2020:
Love....Love It ......
Thelma on August 15, 2020:
love this, and I'm just getting started. I can't find anyone to tell me how to remove the labels from the Risato wine bottles. Please help!!!!!!
Thanks in advance
Rosemarie on July 11, 2020:
Ive never seen a bottle tree till i came across the one in California. On my tablet on u tube. It was just amazing all those bottles everywhere. So i decided i want to make one.. been looking for bottles. Found alot of colorful at the green Tree store.. Im excited to start.
moonlake (author) from America on March 12, 2020:
You can buy Goo Gone that usually works. I also put some of my bottles in a sink of hot water and let them stay there for a while you may have to do a couple of times.
email@example.com on March 10, 2020:
I have some of the Risotto wine bottles and haven't figured out how to remove those labels...what's the secret..Many thanks
moonlake (author) from America on December 03, 2019:
Rae Young, You are so welcome. Your tree sounds very pretty. Thanks for stopping by.
Rae Young on December 02, 2019:
I found your site when looking for information on Bottle Trees.
I have a friend in Maine who has one in their garden and I was inspired to do one for myself. I live in Australia and I haven't really seen them here before.
Mine is 8 foot and holds 61 bottles :) I also liked your idea of the Clematis and have added a white flowering one to the base of my post.I have bought some fairy lights to add to it also.
Thankyou for sharing your beautiful bottle tree & the instructions for creating one. Your instructions were clear and easy to follow.
moonlake (author) from America on July 27, 2019:
The bottle tree archway sounds so nice. Thanks so much for stopping by and telling me about your bottle trees.
Beth Kasmenn on July 20, 2019:
I love collecting bottle tree art. I have several trees of different shapes and sizes. I also have a peacock and a bottle tree archway that my boyfriend got me. People driving down the street see the archway and slow down to look. A few others have actually stopped to ask questions. I also have lots of other metal yard art. It's fun.
Donna Cook on May 10, 2019:
Love bottle trees, working on mine now! Thanks for letting us see yours! plan to do a Christmas one with lights too!
agusfanani from Indonesia on May 02, 2018:
You have made beautiful bottle trees, no wonder a lot of people come to drop by. I think I want to make one at home, not for evil repellent but for decorative purpose. Thank you for sharing the idea about bottle tree.
Pattie on March 08, 2018:
I have 7 different versions of bottle trees in my yard. I love them.
Have even had a couple neighbors put in bottle trees. They are addicting.
moonlake (author) from America on June 23, 2016:
Irdl3535, Thanks for stopping by and reading my hub. Glad it was informative.
Richard Lindsay from California on April 28, 2016:
I live about 20 minutes from the bottle tree ranch near Victorville. I have always wondered why someone would build a bottle tree. Your post gives me a lot of answers that I never thought of before. It's a great post with lots of information.
moonlake (author) from America on April 03, 2016:
Thank you, Lowell. I will be moving and will miss my bottle tree moving away.
Lowell Trotter on April 03, 2016:
I've never seen a Bottle Tree. I like the dedication you put into this page.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 02, 2016:
I have not heard about the bottle tree and how it is made. I love the whole idea. This looks beautiful and very creative. In addition , if it helps to ward off negative energy or evil spirits as you have mentioned, I am definitely going to make one .
Thanks for sharing this very interesting and creative hub!
Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on March 01, 2016:
How very interesting these bottle trees are! I have begun to fill my garden up with glass items, mostly bottles. I had no idea I was doing something that has a cultural history of its own. I am thinking that I might take some of my bottles and start a tree this coming summer! Thank you for this beautifully-illustrated hub! ~Cynthia
moonlake (author) from America on June 08, 2015:
crazyhorsesghost, Thank you for stopping by it's only taken me 6 months to answer your comment. That's nice that you look at your tree right outside your window. I love my bottle tree.
moonlake (author) from America on June 08, 2015:
starstream, Thank you for stopping by. Thank you for your nice comment.
Thomas Byers from East Coast , United States on November 30, 2014:
I have one just outside my living room window where I can see it. I really enjoyed your Hub Page here. Voted it up and shared. Great work here.
Dreamer at heart from Northern California on November 30, 2014:
This is an awesome hub full of creative ways to use those beautiful colored glass bottles which so many of us toss to recycle bins. I never had seen these bottle trees before. Thank you for sharing all of the photos! The history of the craft is much older than one would think it to be.
moonlake (author) from America on September 06, 2014:
OhMe, thank you glad you liked it.
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on September 06, 2014:
I love Bottle Trees and sure enjoyed seeing all your photos. One of these days I will have one, too.
moonlake (author) from America on March 22, 2014:
Jeannie, Thanks for your great story you must have had a wonderful grandmother. It's nice that they are popping up all over.
Jeannie on March 22, 2014:
You've written wonderful instructions for building a bottle tree! I first learned of bottle trees as a kid when I saw them... usually on farms and way out in the country. I remember they were not particularly attractive at that time, but I was utterly fascinated with them and convinced my grandmother to let me make a bottle tree in her back yard. She allowed it only if I did it so nobody else would see it...lol! The few I'd seen had very few colored glass bottles ... mostly clear glass or Coca-Cola bottles... but some of the clear glass had turned that wonderful purplish-lavender color... I would love to have some of those today...lol. Anyhow, my grandparents were not exactly enamored of my first bottle tree and it disappeared one winter and was rarely mentioned again. I've made several bottle trees as an adult and never tire of their beautiful colors. Many of my friends have followed suit... and just a week or so ago, I noticed one of the back fence neighbors put up a great bottle tree on a pole... I can see only the top of it, but I wonder if he saw mine and wanted one... bottle trees are showing up everywhere these days. Thanks for your great post. :)
moonlake (author) from America on December 26, 2013:
Virginia Ann, How lucky to get bottles like that. I don't take my bottles off in the winter, none have ever froze. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.
Virginia Ann on December 25, 2013:
I started a bottle tree a couple years ago. I live in New England and so far I've been taking the bottles off the tree in the winter time. If any moisture would get inside the bottle I'm afraid it would freeze and break the bottle. My daughter works in a Bowling Alley with a lounge and when bottles are empty they send them to me. I got the idea from a friends daughter in Florida that had one in her back yard along a canal of water, her tree looked great.... I have a large back yard and think my tree eventually will be a 'conversation piece'.
moonlake (author) from America on September 05, 2013:
DirtyWork, Thank you and thanks so much for stopping by.
Emily Barnes from Austin, Tx on September 04, 2013:
Great lens! My neighbor has one of these trees and I absolutely love it.
moonlake (author) from America on September 01, 2013:
Lindabug, Your welcome and thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.
Lindabug on August 31, 2013:
Raised in the South I have known about bottle trees for some time especially the blue ones. My husband has said he will make me one & we have been collecting bblue bottles. From the comments I just thought of the idea of a minature tree from a small black wire 'Halloween' tree & a group of small bottles I just bought at a yard sale. Can't wait to try that too. Thanks for your information.
moonlake (author) from America on August 27, 2013:
AliciaC, Your welcome glad you stopped by.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 24, 2013:
This is a wonderful project, moonlake! The result is beautiful. Thank you for the instructions.
moonlake (author) from America on June 20, 2013:
Deborah-Diane, Thank you I appreciate that. I thougth I might get tired of this tree but I haven't yet.
Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on June 19, 2013:
This is so adorable, I thought I would pin it to my "Crafts and Projects" board. I thought other people would like to try it, too!
moonlake (author) from America on June 10, 2013:
earnforlife, Your welcome and thanks for stopping by.
moonlake (author) from America on June 10, 2013:
erinshelby, Thank you and thanks for stopping by.
earnforlife on June 10, 2013:
Totally beautiful. Never thought of using junk in my garden before, but this looks so much better than it sounds. I see that the bottles and plants blend together really well. Thanks for the inspiration.
erinshelby from United States on June 10, 2013:
This is really fascinating. What a neat way to make your own Christmas tree.
moonlake (author) from America on June 09, 2013:
Jackie Lynnley, Thank you for stopping by I appreciate it.
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on June 08, 2013:
I love colored bottles and now I have an excuse to collect them. Thank you. With lights would be soooo pretty! ^+
moonlake (author) from America on May 29, 2013:
Indian Chef, Thank you and thanks for share, vote and twitter I appreciate it.
Indian Chef from New Delhi India on May 28, 2013:
Very beautiful pics, sharing on twitter as there is no share with followers button on this page today and voting up.
moonlake (author) from America on May 28, 2013:
Toytasting, Thank you and thanks so much for stopping by. Kids would love making a bottle tree.
Toy Tasting from Mumbai on May 28, 2013:
Awesome! Awesome!AWESOME! I love the pictures, they are simply beautiful. This reminds me of the small bottle tree I made with my sister a few years ago. It was much less attractive though. I am inspired to make one again. I guess I will make one bottle tree in my farmhouse. This is the perfect time as we have vacations here in Mumbai. Kids are going to love it. Thank you for sharing this.
moonlake (author) from America on May 24, 2013:
FlourishAnyway, Thank you and thank for stopping by.
FlourishAnyway from USA on May 24, 2013:
Very neat frugal yard art! Love it.
moonlake (author) from America on May 03, 2013:
mailxpress, Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.
Michelle Cesare from New York on May 03, 2013:
I've never heard of such a thing. Interesting and the last video with the Route 66 garden was very good. Fun old man.
moonlake (author) from America on April 18, 2013:
Grace-Wolf-30, Thank you for stopping by I appreciate it.
Grace-Wolf-30 from England on April 17, 2013:
Wow, I've never heard of bottle trees before. Very beautiful and artistic. Might have a go at one myself. Thank you for the idea. Great hub!
moonlake (author) from America on April 17, 2013:
orddraven2000, Thank you for stopping by I appreciate it.
Sam Little from Wheelwright KY on April 16, 2013:
Very cool way to recycle bottles. I had never even thought of this and at first I was very afraid it would look hockey but these are beautiful pieces of art. Thanks for sharing.
moonlake (author) from America on April 15, 2013:
Helen, Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.
Helen on April 12, 2013:
I love this tree so neat. I think I will put one in my garden. I have plenty of bottles for it.
moonlake (author) from America on April 08, 2013:
Divs001, Thank you and thanks so much for stopping by. I love looking at my bottle tree in my garden. I like it when the flowers grow up around it.
moonlake (author) from America on April 08, 2013:
twig22bend, Your welcome. I have drove all over this town trying to find a bottle tree everyone says they see but so far I have not found it. They can never remember the street. I appreciate you stopping by.
Divs001 from Bangalore,India on April 08, 2013:
Hi moonlake, this a fabulous idea. I have never heard or seen any bottle trees before. This hub has pretty good details and the tree which you made is really fantastic, especially the picture of bottle tree with lights is really amazing
twig22bend on April 07, 2013:
How interesting. Just the other day I saw a bottle tree in someone's yard. I had no clue as to what it was. Thanks to you, now I know. I think that I might try to make one. I like the red and blue bottles. Thanks for sharing.