If you’d rather be relaxing and taking a selfie on your balcony than watering your potted plants, or if forgetting to water a plant is a reoccurring scenario in your home, then a self-watering pot is just the ticket for a happier you and healthier plant.
Self-watering containers save time and provide a safety net by lengthening the window of opportunity to water plants. Just think, that weekend getaway won’t mean the death of plants on the patio. In addition to minimizing the frequency of watering a container, a self-watering pot also delivers a consistent amount of water, rather than oscillating between time periods of too much or too little water. A consistent water routine is a necessity for a thriving, beautiful plant.
Your style won’t be compromised by using a self-watering planter, because they are available in a wide range of enticing colors and designs. In fact, the self-watering planters to choose from are often difficult to distinguish as such, unless studied closely. The containers are made to complement the beauty of your plant and home, rather than draw attention to their special watering feature.
Now that you know the benefits of a self-watering container, here’s how they work:
A self-watering container draws up water through a wick from a built-in reservoir, which delivers water to the plant (see image below). The pot has two chambers: an inner pot that holds the soil and plant, and a slightly larger outer pot that stores the water. The inner pot automatically draws water from the reservoir into the soil whenever moisture is needed by the plant. The soil is held above the water by a false bottom, and an overflow hole within the pot allows for drainage of excess water into the reservoir, which prevents overwatering of the plant. Voila! Better living through science provides consistently moist soil for days or even weeks!
If your plant benefits from fertilizer, do not add liquid or time-release fertilizers to the water in the reservoir or water from above, as it will create a mineral salt buildup in the soil that is toxic to the plant. Rather, mix a dry granular fertilizer in the soil mix when you initially pot the plant. Follow the dry granular fertilizer package directions, as nutrient requirements differ for flowers, vegetables, and herbs.
Flush the reservoir system once in the middle of the season by watering from above. The reservoir will fill and the water will overflow from the side hole. Allow the water to flush out the mineral buildup from the soil for 2-3 minutes. Finally, tip the pot and drain the chamber of water before refilling with fresh water.
Tips and Tricks:
- Choose plants without a deep root system, otherwise the roots will grow into the reservoir and waterlog the plant. For example, choose a tomato variety suited for a patio or container, rather than a garden-size tomato.
- Cover the top soil with a decorative non-porous material, such as smooth stones or pea gravel, to slow the loss of water through evaporation.
- For outdoor containers, add enough mineral oil to create a continuous thin film across the water surface. This will inhibit mosquitoes from breeding in the reservoir.
- Always keep some water in reservoir; otherwise the natural wicking process will be interrupted. If the water chamber is completely dry, restart the wicking process by lightly watering the soil from above.
- If possible bring self-watering pots indoors in cold-weather areas. The water in the reservoir will freeze and expand, eventually breaking the pot. If the planter cannot be brought indoors, simply empty the reservoir and turn the pot upside down until spring.