Everything You Need to Know About Self-Watering Pots

Watering plants is often the hardest part of owning a plant. It can be hard to get the right amount, and to make sure you aren’t overwatering or underwatering. Thankfully, there are things called self-watering pots that help to eliminate a lot of this guessing. 

They are easy to set up as well, whether you buy one pre-made or decide to make one yourself. For the most part, you can work them like any normal pot, just worry about refilling them once or twice a month instead of watering your plant every couple of days. 

While self-watering pots can be great for many plants, they, unfortunately, don’t work well for all plants or in all climates, but for many, the pros outweigh the cons. You can even get them in a variety of styles to suit your home better than a traditional plant potter, and are a lot more inconspicuous and spill less dirt as well. 

While these self-watering pots may seem too good to be true, they do work thanks to the way that water binds to itself, allowing it to draw upwards against gravity.

How to Use Self-Watering Pots

There are many different shapes and sizes of self-watering pots. However, they all work in similar ways. There is a piece that is dedicated to holding water. Then there is usually a smaller bowl inside the bigger one that holds the potting soil and the plant itself. 

Finally, there is a wick that connects the two reservoirs. This allows the water to move between them as needed. 

Thankfully, you do not have to worry about most of this. All you have to do is fill the reservoir up to full, and replace it when needed, then you put the plant in the other pot with the soil that is best for your plant and put that into the big container. 

When water is low, you refill it through the top port, and then take care of your plant like normal. Fertilize it when needed, make sure it gets enough light, and make sure it gets enough humidity and you are good. 

Self-watering pots are also more environmentally friendly, as you aren’t soaking your plants only to let excess water run off out of the pot, or run sprinklers for a long time throughout the day to get the same amount of water. 

There are also plenty of designs and styles. Most of them are better than the average pots in terms of appearance, looking sleek and elegant. They can also release less dirt around the home because the pot with soil is set inside of a larger pot. 

They also are ideal for people that are looking at going on a long vacation. Even if you are going longer than a month, you only have to find someone to refill your watering pot once or twice, instead of stopping by every day. 

Are Self-Watering Plant Pots Any Good?

self watering plants
Self-watering pots can be pretty good. They have some pros that may make them more advantageous than other pots for certain plant owners. 

For example, they can be very convenient for those that have a busy schedule. Instead of having to check a moisture meter, keep a calendar just for the plants, or constantly check the soil, you can go plenty of time without having to worry about your plant. 

How Do Self-Watering Pots Work?

Self-watering pots are made from a mix of different parts. They contain things like a growing bed, a water reservoir, and a wicking system. Essentially, water runs through the wick, in a process known as capillary action

The process is similar to what holds a raindrop or dewdrop in one shape, and it has to do with how water attracts other water molecules to itself. 

Essentially, a rope or string connects the water reservoir to the pot containing the plant and the soil. As the soil dries out, water will be pulled up through the wick to keep it at a good water level.

As long as there is water in the reservoir, you will have a consistent amount of moisture in the soil, and you don’t have to do any work or remember to water your plants frequently. 

How Often Do You Water Plants in Self-Watering Pots?

Most of the time, you can go two to four weeks before having to refill your self-watering pots. This makes it a great option if you are going on a vacation, as you can easily go for a month before your plant will need more water. 

However, this depends a lot on the humidity where you live and how much water your plants absorb. 

How to Fill Self-Watering Pots?

Most often, a self-watering pot is a smaller pot inside of a bigger one. The bigger pot is what holds all the water. So if you are refilling it, all you have to do is pour water into the bigger pot. There should be an overfill spout somewhere, or a line indicating where the max fill is. 

What Do You Put in the Bottom of Self-Watering Pots?

The bottom layer is water. Then you have another pot, which contains soil just like a normal pot. The one difference is that you want the soil to be somewhat moist before putting it in the pot or the capillary system will not work well. 

Any potting mix works well, but if you want to be certain you are doing it right, then there are specific potting mixes for self-watering pots. 

If you are making a self-watering pot on your own, then you will need something to hold up the inner pot above the water so the soil isn’t soaking all the time, like a crate or small block. 

What Are Problems With Self-Watering Pots?

self-watering pot
Self-watering pots aren’t perfect. One of the biggest issues is that they can’t tell what kind of plant is in the pot. This means that it provides the same water level no matter what plant you have in there and whether they like having a lot of water or not. 

So some plants, like those that live in wetter climates, may not get enough water, while succulents that prefer to have the soil dry out completely will often get too much water. These kinds of plants will often get root rot from the constant water in the soil. 

The best plants for these pots are ones in the mid-range of watering, that enjoy having the top layer dry between waterings, but don’t mind the rest of the pot staying wet. 

Another problem is that when you live somewhere with a lot of rain and humidity, your pot may not work well. It can overflow and overwater the soil when it gets too much water from rain. This means they don’t work well for outdoor plants and should be used only for indoor plants where there is no rain and the humidity is relatively constant. 

Some of them have an overflow hole or spout to stop the water reservoir from getting too full, but it doesn’t prevent the soil from getting extra water from rain and the wicking system at the same time. 

Another problem often talked about is the fact that these systems can’t get bigger with the plant. You either have to buy a whole new pot system when your plant outgrows it, or you have to get a plant that will stay small and not need to expand. This means that it might not be ideal for plants that grow exceptionally fast. 


Self-watering pots may be complicated when you try to break down exactly how they work. But as far as using one, it is relatively simple. They work just like any ordinary plant pot with another pot around it.

Be sure to choose a plant that requires moderate watering, as a self-watering pot will provide consistent water and moist soil doesn’t work for all plant types.

If you get a self-watering pot that is already set up, all you have to do is make sure the wick is connected through both pots and refill the water reservoir when it gets low. These self-watering pots usually only have to be refilled once or twice a month.