Self-watering pots take gardening to the next level. These smart pots add a new level of foolproof convenience to indoor gardening, but they are more expensive than regular pots. They’re not quite hydroponics, but they are a godsend for hopeless over-waterers or anyone who is away from home often. I set out to see how they work and if these modern wonders are worth the investment.
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Self-watering pots are worth investing in for novice plant owners or anyone who struggles to maintain a regular watering schedule. They also work well in hard-to-reach places. It is impossible to overwater as the reservoir features an overflow section. Self-watering pots are not suitable for all types of plants.
Self-watering pots have become a sensation in the gardening world, so of course, I had to find out what the hype is about. Is it really possible to get your indoor plant to water itself?
How Do Self-Watering Pots Work?
Self-watering pots have a reservoir located inside the base of the pot. Instead of adding water to the soil, you fill the reservoir – usually through a pipe located on the side of the planter.
Water is drawn up through the soil from the bottom up. As the soil dries out, more water is drawn towards the roots using capillary or wicking action. So long as there is water inside the reservoir, it will continuously be drawn up towards the plant’s roots as required, so the plant is essentially watering itself.
Self-watering pots make it impossible to over or underwater your plants as the moisture content in the soil is controlled by how fast the plant uses water. As the soil around the roots dries out, more water is wicked up through the soil from the bottom reservoir. This action is similar to what you would get using a self-watering globe, except the reservoir can hold much more water and works from the bottom up.
What Plants Do Well In Self-Watering Pots?
Any plant that likes a steady supply of moisture around the roots will do well in a self-watering pot. They work wonders for thirsty herbs like parsley and mint, and I am delighted that they are also excellent for keeping indoor roses perfectly watered – since I am inclined to give mine a little too much love, I’m definitely going to try one!
Because self-watering pots work by creating a wicking action of water in the soil, most plants thrive in them. They are an excellent no-hassle setup for anyone who travels a lot and doesn’t have time to set up an automatic watering system every time they leave.
Self-watering pots come in various shapes and sizes, so if you want to invest in a few, you won’t be limited in choice. These are a few of my favorites:
- GrowLED Self Watering Window Box – Perfect, no-fuss way to grow herbs without stressing about overwatering.
- GS Garden Store 5′ Self Watering Pots – These are perfect for all the small plants scattered about in your home. These self-watering pots are made from high-quality outside material, so they look perfect in any setting.
- HEMOPLT 7.5′ Self Watering Pots – Add a dash of sparkle to your pots with this colorful set of self-watering pots that are perfectly sized for most medium indoor plants.
- Kings Gardening Clever Pot – I prefer giving my girls practical and unusual gifts instead of toys, and this awesome planter is ideal for Halloween! I’m going to team mine up with a Venus Flytrap plant, and I can’t wait to see their excitement when they see it.
This unique smart pot has large owl eyes that slowly move up or down – kids can take care of their own plant by adding water to the reservoir each time Mr. Owl looks down. I totally love it, and it’s a perfect gift for anyone who is a bit quirky and loves their plants!
Are Self-Watering Pots Good For All Plants?
Although most indoor plants will thrive in self-watering pots, some don’t do well in soil and never dries out. Cacti and some types of succulents may struggle with a constant moisture supply since they have adapted to growing in dry desert conditions.
So while your indoor roses will love being in a self-watering pot, your succulent collection will probably struggle with the abundance of moisture in the soil.
Do Self-Watering Planters Cause Root Rot?
Self-watering pots work by wicking water from a reservoir situated at the base of the pot. It is, therefore, impossible for the roots to be saturated unless there is no overflow on the reservoir and the pot is somehow overfilled.
There is more chance a plant will develop root rot from being hand watered than when the soil around its roots absorbs water from a tank below the plant. However, some plants, including orchids, succulents, and cacti, need their roots to dry out completely between waterings, so self-watering planters are not a good option for them, and root rot may develop.
Another problem with self-watering pots is that some plants, like fiber optic grass, prefer to be in very damp soil, so a self-watering planter may not provide enough water. These smart pots also don’t work well outside, where they may receive rain and have a reservoir full of water as it interferes with the bottom-up wicking process, and the soil may become waterlogged.
Do You Put Rocks In The Bottom Of A Self-Watering Planter?
Never put rocks in the bottom of a self-watering planter. Many of us grew up using pebbles on the bottom of plant pots to stop soil from escaping out of the drainage holes, but this is an absolute no-no when it comes to self-watering smart pots.
Self-watering pots work by slowly drawing water up from the reservoir through the soil to the plant’s roots using a wicking action. To work effectively, the soil needs to link all parts of the system together. A layer of rocks would interfere with the capillary action required to move water upwards, and the self-watering system may not work as intended.
How Do You Mix Soil For Self Watering Containers?
Self-watering pots need the correct type of soil. This is not the time to use soil from your garden as it will be too heavy and may contain fungi that would thrive in the moist soil.
You can buy potting mix specifically created for self-watering pots, or you can make your own. The mixture needs to be light, airy, and specific for the type of plant that will be growing in it.
Although there are many self-watering soil mix recipes out there, the basic formula for most of them goes something like this:
- 2 parts coconut coir (some people use peat moss, but it is not a sustainable resource, so I prefer using coconut coir)
- 2 parts compost
- 1 part coarse sand
- 1 part perlite or vermiculite
What is essential for all self-watering pots is that the top of the soil is covered to avoid unnecessary evaporation. There are lots of creative ways to cover the soil around your plants to get the job done and still look beautiful.
How Do Your Fertilize Self-Watering Containers?
There are two ways to fertilize plants in self-watering containers. The first is to add a diluted fertilizer solution specific to your plant’s requirements to the reservoir every second week. The other option is to repot the plant every season to refresh the compost component in the soil.
The challenge with adding fertilizer too often is that there can be a buildup of fertilizer salts in the reservoir if you keep adding too frequently. Dilute to half or even quarter strength, and if possible, drain the reservoir occasionally to flush out any heavy fertilizer residue that may have accumulated.
So Are Self-Watering Pots Worth The Outlay?
For anyone that doesn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to caring for their indoor plants, self-watering pots are definitely worth investing in. However, they are not suitable for all types of plants, and you do still have to ensure that the reservoir remains filled. These smart pots deliver the exact amount of water your plant needs directly to the roots without any chance of overwatering – and that sounds quite magical!