Water is essential to all life. That is never more apparent than with plants. If you forget to water them even for one day, they will begin to droop. In no time, they will wither away without proper watering.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems people have with growing plants is remembering to water them. Plants that require water every day are a little easier to care for since you develop a habit, but it is the plants that don’t need everyday watering that are a challenge.

If you find yourself struggling to keep up with your plants watering needs, then you might want to consider self-watering planters. These ingenious pots use a watering wick to ensure your plants can get water whenever they need it.

You only have to fill the reservoir on a regular basis.

Self-watering pots can make plant care simple because they remove the biggest mistakes many people make when it comes to watering: under and overwatering.

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How They Work

Self-watering planters have a unique design that allows you to provide water that your plant will use as it needs it. Common Sense Home explains that there are two basic self-wicking planter designs:

  • Soil foot
  • String wick

The concept behind both is to provide water at all times and allow the plant to water itself as it needs using basic scientific concepts.

A soil foot has a reservoir at the bottom of the planter that holds water and soil. The soil foot portion is separate from the water but can absorb it to keep the soil moist. The plant’s root will grow down into this space to use the water. This is a natural instinct of the plant because the roots have a job to seek out moisture.

The string wick style of self-watering planters uses physics to convey the water to the plant over time. It involves a string or other cotton wicking material that runs from a reservoir of water to the soil of a plant. The string transfers water from the reservoir to the plant.

Wet Leaves
Photo by sohail na from Pexels

Benefits of Using Self-Watering Planters

Self-watering planters are incredibly handy if you are forgetful about watering your plants. They also are nice for those plants that do not need a lot of water on a regular basis, such as cacti. It is a great option for watering plants while on vacation if you don’t have anyone or want to find anyone to do it for you.

In addition, when you move outdoor plants indoors in the fall, it requires a lot of work. One part of that is making sure you have a space that can handle the mess associated with watering your plants.

If you know how to water potted plants, you should always avoid getting water on the leaves. Instead of pouring water over the top of the plant, you should pour it on the soil. A self-watering pot makes this simple to do and eliminates the hassle of doing it. You can eliminate that mess from spills and overspray, which makes your indoor storage area tidier.

The Spruce notes that using this type of planter is also ideal if you have a container garden. Sometimes the setup makes it tough to reach into the tight spots and water properly. It is much easier to fill reservoirs than to try to water the plants.

DIY Options

If you want to give self-watering planters a try, then you can buy one or make one yourself. A DIY self-watering planter is not too difficult to make, but you will want to choose which type to create. A soil foot model will be a bit more complicated to make than a wick type.

Soil foot type DYI

To make this DIY plant waterer, you will need:

  • Large pot
  • Smaller pot
  • Pipe
  • Barrier, such as screen or burlap
  • Rocks
  • Soil

The smaller pot should be about 1/4 the height of the larger pot. Both pots will need holes. The smaller one should have various holes all around it so that it can wick up the water. The larger one needs to have a drainage hole in the side that is just below the height of the top of the small pot. This will help with overwatering issues.

To start making your planter, you need to put the barrier material inside the small pot to line it. Fill the pot with soil, and then trim the barrier, so it isn’t sticking out of the pot. Now, put your small pot inside the larger pot.

Add rocks around the small pot to fill the bottom of the large pot. Also, put the pipe down into the large pot. It should be at the side of the pot, and you want it to stick out a few inches from the top of the large pot.

After you have rocks in the bottom that reach the top of the small pot, you need to put more barrier material on top of the rocks, but do not cover the small pot. The small pot is your wick, so you need to leave space for the roots to grow down into it. The barrier material will prevent the plant from growing its roots into the rocks where they would get too much water and be at risk for rotting.

Now, you can add in the right soil and your plant. Finally, pour water into the pipe until it comes out the bottom drainage hole.

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String wick type DIY

A string model of wicking planter can be very simple. To make the easiest version, you will need:

  • Planter moisture-wicking string (cotton works the best because it is very absorbent)
  • 2 containers
  • Paperclip
  • Soil
  • Plant

Start your planter by securing one end of the string with the paperclip. This will act as a weight, so make sure that you securely wrap the string around the paperclip. Take the other end of the string and place it in one of the pots.

Hold the string about two inches from the top of the pot and add soil. Add your plant and carefully pack the soil around it. Ensure the string stays down in the soil so that it can transfer the water properly to the root system of the plant.

Now, fill the other pot with water. Put the paperclip end of the string in the pot filled with water. Place this pot higher than the other pot and ensure the string runs in a direct line from one pot to the other.

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

Wicking Pots for Purchase

If you are not feeling handy or you don’t want to mess with making your own self-watering setup, then you can buy self-watering planters anywhere that sells gardening supplies. Most stores will have a wide variety of options.

Here’s an example of some Lowes flower pots that have the self-watering option for those who live in Canada.

Algreen Products Wicker Planter - Self-Watering - 22

Algreen Products Wicker Planter – Self-Watering – 22″ – Rattan – Coffee

For U.S. plant-lovers, this self-watering planter from Bloem sold at Home Depot is incredibly popular among consumers. This pot comes in a variety of colors and is the perfect size, measuring 14 inches x 12.5 inches. It is a resin material with UV protection and made in the USA. It has a 4-gallon capacity and is lightweight.

self-watering planter

Another top choice is the Tierra Verde self-watering planter. It is 14 inches x 27.5 inches in size. Made from recycled materials, it is durable in all seasons. It has a built-in wicking basket to prevent root rot.

self watering planters on stone garden steps

If you are looking for something a little different, then consider the Mayne hanging self-watering window box. Made with resin, it measures in at 60 inches x11 inches. It has a fancy crown molding design and comes in a variety of colors. The planter also comes with steel wall mount brackets.

hanging self-watering planter


Making the move to self-watering planters can leave you with a lot of questions. To ensure that you have the best experience, you may want to consider some of the frequently asked questions people have before they start using this type of planter.

Do I need to use a special soil?

The soil you use is dependent on the plants. In general, you can use any type of soil you want in a self-watering pot. However, if you are growing plants that do not need a lot of water or that are susceptible to root rot, such as root vegetables, then use a lighter soil.

You can also create your own soil DIY for a moisture-wicking planter that can help avoid root rot and too much moisture for sensitive plants by mixing in some sand with your soil. If you have issues with the moisture evaporating too fast, then add some mulch on top of the soil.

Planted Succulents
Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

Can I use self-watering pots with any kind of plant?

Established plants of any kind can work in self-watering planters. However, they need to have a developed root system before you can rely on the planter to handle the water needs.

You can use this type of plant for all types of flowers and even vegetables and fruit. If you want to grow root vegetables or other vegetables with delicate roots, you will need to take special care to provide enough room in the planter for the growth and drainage. You may need to add more rocks and use a stronger barrier material to ensure the vegetables or roots stay separate from the water reservoir.

Always match the pot size to your plant. If you try to use too small of a pot, then your plant will not get enough water. If the pot is too big, you run the risk of it getting too much water.

As mentioned, this type of planter is ideal for plants that do not need a lot of water, such as succulents. The key to ensuring you do not overwater is to let the reservoir dry out between watering.

Which type of self-watering planter is best?

The best self-watering planter really depends on your needs. While you can certainly learn about the overall quality of a planter through customer reviews, you should take time to match the style of the planter to your needs.

In general, the soil foot style is easier if you need to conserve space. It also looks neater than the wick style. It allows you to have more plants in a smaller area. This style also provides the best outdoor wick because it will keep more moisture in the planter without evaporation issues.

The string wick style does require more space, but it can be simple to create. It’s ideal for temporary situations, such as when you go on vacation. It also is nice for those who are not very good at DIY projects and just want something simple. The string wick style also works well for plants that do not need a lot of water since water transfer is very gradual.

You may find it is easier to manage the string wick style, too. You can easily see how much water is available. You also can adjust the size of the reservoir to suit y our needs. For example, if you know you won’t be able to water your plants for a few days, you can use a bigger reservoir to ensure there is enough water to last the time you will be away.

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Self-Watering Plants Are a Miracle

Many plants really are fairly easy to take care of, save a few drama queens (I’m looking at you, polka dot plant). Watering correctly is the biggest care they require. So, when you start using self-watering planters, you pretty much remove the majority of the work of keeping plants.

It’s quite nice to know that your plant is taking care of its own needs. The self-watering setup allows you to focus on other aspects of care. If you are forgetful about watering, it also takes some of the stress out of gardening, which can make it a more enjoyable experience overall.

Regardless of why you are considering using self-watering pots, it is something that is well worth it in the end. It helps keep your plants healthy, reduces the work you have to do, and lets you set up your garden to meet your needs.

Featured Image by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels


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