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How to Use Wicks to Water Plants

A temporary wick-watering system is easy to create at home, and it will keep your potted plants watered and happy while you're away or otherwise unable to water them by hand. A plant can survive for a long period of time via wick watering if the reservoir holding the water is large enough. You can also use wicks to water container plants permanently with a little modification to the system.

Fill a bucket or other container with water and place near the plants. Cut a piece of lantern wick so that it's long enough to reach from the bottom of the water reservoir to several inches below the surface of the soil.

Place one end of a wick several inches into the soil's surface and the other end into the reservoir. Use two wicks for each 8-inch pot, spaced evenly around the edge of the container. For larger plants, use three or more wicks per container, depending on size.

Insert a wick into the soil through a drainage hole in the bottom of the container if you're making this a permanent watering system. Insert several inches into the soil, and cut off the wick about 3 to 4 inches below the bottom of the container.

Fill a small saucer with water and place the container inside or above, allowing the wick to sit in the water. The wick will then pull the water the plant needs directly into the soil. Replace the water in the saucer whenever it evaporates.


Lantern wick can be purchased at local hardware stores. If you're unable to find wicks, use an old shoelace or strip of flannel instead.

Use a knitting needle to insert the wick into the the soil if you're having trouble penetrating the surface. Use the needle to first create a hole in the soil and then push the wick down inside.


Be careful not to damage plants with delicate roots when inserting the wick into the soil. If you're unsure, insert the wick into the top of the soil instead of through the drainage hole to be safe.

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