How to Make a Self-Watering Plant Pot

DIY self-watering planter or container

July 12, 2016

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When the weather gets very hot or you’re going on vacation, how do you keep up with the watering? In this short video, we provide easy-to-follow instructions showing how to make your own self-watering containers to keep your plants watered even during the hottest period of the year.

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.

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Reader Comments

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(uncircle) open up roots

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

Gardening tips

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


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