Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Gravity Drip System for Plants

By Elton Dunn ; Updated September 21, 2017
Tend your flowers using gravity-fed irrigation.

Drip irrigation systems make watering your garden hassle-free, with no more bending and carrying. Gravity drip systems rely on an elevated water reservoir to carry water through tubing to plants or crops. These systems are relatively low maintenance once installed, but may require lots of time and planning in the setup. Find out how they work and whether they're right for your garden.


To set up a gravity drip system, you need a water reservoir, such as a rain barrel. You'll need some type of platform or stand to elevate the water source. Additional basic components of a gravity drip system included piping, an irrigation timer, a filter, drip emitters to control the flow of irrigation, irrigation tubing and a shut-off valve. If you have a small reservoir, you may not need a timer.


To set up our system, install a shut-off valve at the rain barrel faucet base, then screw the filter to this. The filter screens impurities and the shut-off valve allows emergency shut-off. Then attach your timer, so you can control the length of watering. Next, fit your tubing and lay it around the garden bed for irrigation. Then insert the emitters into the irrigation tubing to release water.


Emitter size controls how much water your plants receive. If you have shrubs (like holly or lilac) on the same watering system as flowering or green plants (like hosta or lilies), those plants all have different watering needs. Colorado State University suggests giving a mature shrub three 1-gallon-per-hour emitters and giving a perennial flower two 1/2-gph emitters. Determine the watering needs of the plants along your irrigation line for optimal success.


A gravity drip irrigation uses existing water resources to water your garden. It cuts down on water waste, lowers your utility bills, and keeps your garden watered when you're on vacation (as long as you have a timer). Colorado State University notes that drip irrigation systems are 90 percent efficient, as compared to sprinkler's efficiency rate of 50 to 70 percent.


You need a water reservoir to get started with a gravity feed system. If you have a large garden, you may need to refill the water reservoir using tap water, which defeats the purpose of conserving resources. If you have a large water reservoir you'll need to elevate it, which makes refilling tricky. Finally, children or pets can trip over drip irrigation tubing in your yard.


About the Author


A successful website writer since 1998, Elton Dunn has demonstrated experience with technology, information retrieval, usability and user experience, social media, cloud computing, and small business needs. Dunn holds a degree from UCSF and formerly worked as professional chef. Dunn has ghostwritten thousands of blog posts, newsletter articles, website copy, press releases and product descriptions. He specializes in developing informational articles on topics including food, nutrition, fitness, health and pets.