How to Make Self-Watering Pots for Plants


If you're terrible at remembering to water your plants, or if you constantly kill them from over-watering, a self-watering planter may be your new best friend. Self-watering planters let the plant decide how much water to draw into the soil. A long as you remember to keep the reservoir of water refilled from time to time, you won't have to guess how much water is too much or not enough. Self-watering pots are pricey, but the technology is simple. You can create one with inexpensive or recycled items in a short span of time.

Step 1

Add 1 to 2 tbsp. of bleach to a sink half-full of warm water. Rinse out your clear plastic food container with the mild bleach and water solution to kill any food-related bacteria that may remain.

Step 2

Cut a small hole in the bottom center of the clear plastic container, just big enough to fit the water wick through.

Step 3

Cut the water wick so that it's approximately as long as your plastic container is tall. Pull the water wick through the hole you created, leaving half the wick inside the container and half the wick hanging outside the container.

Step 4

Add 1 to 2 inches of gravel or rocks to the bottom of your decorative outer pot. These keep the plastic food container from pressing against the bottom, flattening the wick and blocking the hole.

Step 5

Add soil and plants to the plastic food container, making sure the water wick extends upward into the soil. Place the container in the decorative flowerpot.

Step 6

Add water to the decorative flowerpot until it reaches the halfway point of the side of your plastic food container. The wick and the plant roots will use capillary action to pull only as much water as they need into the soil. Check the outer planter regularly to make sure it has plenty of water.

Things You'll Need

  • Empty clear plastic food container
  • Decorative planter with no drainage holes
  • Water wicking cords
  • Utility knife
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. bleach
  • Stones or gravel


  • Green Culture: How to Make Your Own Self Watering Pot
  • Inside Urban Green: Seeing Clearly
Keywords: self watering planter, self watering plant, container gardening

About this Author

Lillian Downey has a diverse background, including studies in English, social work, women's studies, nonprofit management, political science and nursing. She's worked as an intern sex-educator, clinic manager and mental health professional. She is currently studying to be a birth doula and childbirth educator. She served as editor-in-chief of "Nexus Journal of Literature and Art" and an assistant fiction editor at the "Antioch Review."