Best Self Watering Planters – 2021 Buying Guide

FAQ's About Self Watering Planters

1.Why use a self-watering planter?

A planter that delivers water to a plant from a reservoir allows consistent moisture and less frequent watering, promote efficient water use, and prevents plant diseases. Water supplied through the roots is ideal for most plants. Some species (phlox and tomatoes come to mind) can develop fungal diseases if the leaves get wet in the watering process. When spraying or using a watering can, water may land on the floor or a plant's leaves where it evaporates and does no good. Water delivered to the plant through the reservoir allows the plant to get water consistently, which is best for the growth of most plants.

2. What are the parts of a self-watering planter?

Most self-watering planters contain:

  • Planting container that holds the soil and potting mix that surrounds the plant
  • Water reservoir that varies according to the size of the container
  • Wicking mechanism that goes between the water reservoir and the potting mix in the container
  • Fill tube to add water to the planter
  • Overflow hole or spout to drain water if the reservoir is overfilled
  • Water level indicator to show the amount of water in the reservoir
  • Drainage hole and plug to drain outside planter at the end of the season

Some use a wick system, while others have a separate reservoir. A strip of the capillary mat, an absorbent tube-shaped plug, or a thick string is placed inside the container with the wick system. With one end in the water reservoir and the other in the potting mix, the wick sucks water out of the reservoir and delivers it to the potting mix. The other system has a section positioned inside the water reservoir so that potting mix is directly in contact with the water. Water from the wet mixture in that section is pulled up into the rest of the planting container through capillary action.

3. What happens when a plant is deprived of water and then flooded?

An owner who tries to resuscitate a plant suffering from “water stress” may be tempted to drown the soil, but this not always be the best idea. Roots can rot in the presence of too much water all at once. Self-water planters store the water and deliver it when the plant needs it.

4. What plant processes suffer from a lack of water?

Photosynthesis. Plants typically create their own food through photosynthesis based on the amount of water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide they receive. When they get too little water, they suffer from “water stress,” and the process slows down or disappears, which results in the leaves turning yellow.


Respiration. When plants break down their food supply, they usually use up the food quickly to grow or respirate. As water passes through the system, it delivers nutrients and minerals to the plant. As the plant loses its ability to photosynthesize, the growth slows down, leaves discolors, and flowers or fruit drop off as the plant cannot support them.

Transpiration. Water sucked up by the roots is drawn to openings in the leaves known as stomas, which also expel waste products like oxygen, take in carbon dioxide, and cool plant tissues. Transpiration keeps the plant cells evenly filled with water, so growth continues, but when the water supply is slowed or stopped, the plant may begin to die from the top down.

Some plants, such as cacti and agaves that manage periods of drought have advanced C4 and CAM metabolic systems that allow photosynthesis to take place deeper inside plant tissues. No water is lost through the cells in the epidermis of leaves and stem, known as stomas. When the stomata, which controls the rate of gas exchange, close entirely at night, they exchange gases with the environment. Even with minimal water, plants with C4 systems thrive where others do not.

5. How do you set up a DIY self-watering planter?

While there are self-water planters available at many price points, you can set up one yourself, either using a kit or by following these steps:

  • Place a layer of gravel or sand in the bottom third of a container with drainage holes. Cover it with a porous cloth or even window screening, and then fill the rest with potting soil.
  • Add a piece of PVC pipe to serve as your watering tube. Cut a hole in cloth and put it in place before adding the rest of the soil.

6. Are there any disadvantages to self-watering planters?

Some plants such as orchids and succulents need to have their roots dry between watering, rather than the constant moisture of a self-watering system. Before trying a pot like this, be sure to read reviews to see if other users have successfully maintained their orchids, succulents, etc., in such a pot.

Alf-watering pots don't work well outdoors in climates that are moist or rainy. The drainage plugs on some plants made for use outside can help manage the water.


Okay, now onto our list of the best self watering planters. Click to the next page.


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