How to Make a Self-Watering Plant Pot


DIY self-watering planter or container

When the weather gets very hot, how do you keep up with watering the garden? Make it easier on yourself and your plants! See our article (with video) on how to make a self-watering container in six steps. 

How to Make a Self-Watering Pot

You’ll need:

  • 2 containers (such as 5-gallon food-grade plastic buckets) that when stacked will leave a gap between the bottom and top containers
  • A 1-inch-diameter plastic pipe long enough to run the length of the two buckets
  • A plastic yogurt container or cup or similar to act as a wicking chamber
  • Quality potting soil
  • Your plant(s)

1. Make a Wicking Chamber

  • Use a marker pen to trace an outline of the plastic container or cup onto the base of the top bucket, then cut it out using a keyhole saw or sturdy utility knife. Make sure that your hole is ever so slightly smaller than your container so that the lip of the container will not slip through the hole.
  • Poke holes all over the sides of the wicking chamber to allow water to enter from the reservoir.
  • When filled with potting soil, the wicking chamber will wick water up from the water reservoir into the top bucket. Make sure that the bottom of your top bucket is high enough off the bottom bucket’s bottom to allow the wicking chamber to fit all the way into its hole.

2. Make a Water Delivery Pipe 

  • Cut the pipe to length so that it protrudes above the final soil level.
  • Cut one end of your plastic pipe at a 45-degree angle. This will let the water flow freely from the pipe into the reservoir.
  • Trace the outline of the pipe onto the base of the top bucket, then cut it out.

3. Drill Drainage Holes

  • Drill lots of quarter-inch holes into the base of the top bucket. Use a random pattern or an orderly effect, whichever you prefer.

4. Drill Overflow Hole 

Insert the top bucket into the bottom bucket and mark where the base of the top bucket sits with a marker. If necessary, or use small cups or pots set into the bottom bucket to keep the top bucket up off the bottom bucket’s bottom. Drill a quarter-inch hole into the bottom bucket, just below this line. This is your overflow hole, which will prevent the potting soil in the top bucket from getting waterlogged.

5. Assemble Your Container

  • Insert the top bucket into the bottom bucket. Pack the wicking chamber with potting soil, then put the chamber into its hole. Slide the water delivery pipe into position, pointed end down. Fill the top bucket with potting soil, moistening with water as you fill.

6. Plant Up Your Self-Watering Pot

  • Plant into the potting soil. Cut appropriate holes for your plant(s) in a bucket lid to cover up the soil surface, which will reduce evaporation—especially important in hotter climates. Alternatively, use a thick garbage bag secured at the sides with rubber bands, a bungee cord or string.
  • Pour water into the water delivery pipe, and stop when water starts pouring from the overflow hole.

If you love growing your own food, why not try our online Garden Planner for free: https://gardenplanner.almanac.com

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

No content available.

Gary (not verified)

5 years 1 month ago

This is innovative, but intensive and limited-it only grows one plant
try this-a large rectangular tub/lid. a cheap laundry basket, one large used bath towel, two old holey tee shirts-
Rubbermaid(or similar) tub with lid. Laundry basket(with holes)-flip the basket so it fits upside down into the tub-cut as needed. drill at least 4 holes at the level of the basket in the tub to allow for drainage. Cut the towel into 4" strips-hang down into the basket holes so they contact the tub bottom. Add 1-1/4" PVC tube into the corner so it sticks above the lip of the tub. Cover with the old tee shirts. Fill the cavity with potting mix/dirt. Add Dolomitic lime/fertilizer(Espoma) in a cross pattern on top. Use soup can heated to melt 4 holes in the tub lid(plus the hole for the pvc pipe) Position 4 plants through the lid holes and pack down. Fill the tub with water through the pvc pipe till the water runs out of the drain holes. Plant your peppers,squash,tomatoes, etc into the soil through the holes in the tub lid--fill with water as needed through the pvc pipe--usually no more than once/week-excess will run out the drain holes

ernest (not verified)

6 years ago

you mean that he didn't know that you should (uncircle) open up the roots!

Dick (not verified)

6 years ago

I love your site, and have learned a lot from it.
Keep up the good work.