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Do Self-Watering Planters Really Work?

Do Self-Watering Planters Really Work?

Self-watering planters almost sound too good to be true. All you do is stick your plant in there, fill up the reservoir, and the plant drinks what it needs? 

That is, in essence, how self-watering planters work. They relieve the hassle for plant parents by letting the houseplant drink only what it needs, so you don’t run the risk of over- or under-watering.

TL;DR Answer: Yes, self-watering planters work. Read on to learn why :)

How Self-Watering Planters Work

How does the water magically travel to your plant in a self-watering planter? The answer is capillary action: it’s the same reason why when you place a paper towel on a droplet of water, it spreads along the fibers of the towel. When the plant is thirsty, it automatically draws moisture from the water source either through the soil or through a different medium, like a cotton wick. 

Advantages of Self-Watering Planters

Less risk of over- and under-watering

When you use a self-watering planter, you’re essentially letting your plant bottom-water over an extended period of time. That means the plant only drinks what it needs, so no more drowning or drying out your plant. This is a lifesaver for any plant parent that travels often or just doesn’t have the time or patience to remember when to water their plants. 

Keeps pests and mold away

Bugs lay their eggs in moist topsoil. With self-watering, your plant drinks water from the roots up; that means the top of the soil rarely gets wet enough to attract pests or mold. 

Stronger root systems

Because the water source is below the plant, its roots have the reach below to drink. This helps the roots spread out more evently, creating a stronger and healthier root system so they don’t get tangled or bunched up.

Even water distribution

When you water your plant from the top, the water may drain right through without reaching your plant’s roots. Self-watering planters let your plant drink water from the roots, which distribute the water throughout the entire system instead of clinging down the sides of the pot. 

Disadvantages of Self-Watering Planters

Mineral build-up

When you water your plant from the top, the water travels through the soil and helps flush out built-up minerals. When you use a self-watering planter, your plant drinks from the bottom which means it doesn’t have a chance to clear out the buildup. To prevent excessive mineral buildup in your self-watering planter, water your plant out from the top once a month or so to flush out the buildup. 

Types of Self-Watering Planters

When it comes to self-watering planters, you can either DIY or purchase your own. For outdoor plants, DIYing with a cotton wick, bucket for water, and plastic container can do the trick for gardens. For indoor plants, you may want to find something functional and attractive. The best self-watering planter has a separate water reservoir, cotton wick, and is non-plastic. Not only is plastic bad for the environment, but the chemicals can leech into your plant’s soil and cause it to get sick.

The Best Self-Watering Planter Brand to Buy

Not to be biased, but we recommend the Potière self-watering planter as the best option for any plant parent. It has a sleek design that goes with any interior space, and a cotton wick between the plant soil and reservoir so that your plant can drink only what it needs. Plus, it’s made of FSC-certified bamboo, meaning it has less of an environmental impact than other planters.

Best Low Light Indoor Plants

miami jungle indoor plants

So, you want a sprawling indoor jungle, but your home is sunlight-challenged? Especially if your space lacks sunlight, having plants around can make your space feel warmer and brighter. Luckily, there are plenty of indoor plants that tolerate low light conditions. 

As with any living thing, plants evolved by adapting to their natural environment. True low light houseplants are that way because they originate from habitats where they don’t have access to sunlight, such as the bottom of a forest floor or under canopy plants that block sunlight.

If your home leans toward the dark side, read on to find out which low light indoor plants you should get.

Small Indoor Plants That Tolerate Low Light

Because low light plants don’t get as much sunlight, they grow slower than their light-hogging counterparts. If you have a smaller space such as a countertop or desk that you want to decorate with a small indoo plant, these are great options for you.

Pothos

It’s rumored that this vine plant got the nickname “Devil’s Ivy” because of its ability to survive in complete darkness. Despite it’s malicious nickname, pothos are pretty and lively plants with waxy, round leaves. Pothos are low maintenance and hardy, only requiring water once every two or so weeks. Popular pothos varieties include marble queen, silver, and lemon lime.  

Philodendron

While philodendrons are commonly mistaken for pothos due to their heart-shaped leaves, they are differentiated by their thinner and softer leaf texture. Philodendron care is similar to pothos care: water and expose to light sparingly. Popular philodendron varieties include philodendron green, heartleaf, and brasil. 

Peperomia 

These cute, compact plants are perfect as a desk plant. In addition to being low-light tolerant, peperomia are pet safe. While they come in over a hundred varieties, common peperomia include ginny stone, ginny clay, watermelon, and obtusifolia. 

Hoya

These vining plants look stunning in a hanging basket, pedestal, or climbing up a trellis. While hoya do best in bright indirect light, they can also adapt to low-light conditions. 

Bird’s Nest Fern

These fun, frilly plants grow best in areas with high humidity and medium to low indirect light. Their leaves get more crinkly with more sunlight, and flatter in darker conditions.

Prayer Plant

With their bold-patterned leaves, prayer plants make a pretty decorative addition to any plant shelf or home desk. Maranta get their “prayer plant” nickname from the way the leaves fold in the evening, resembling praying hands. Prayer plants are sensitive to cold and prefer filtered water.

Calathea

Calathea is a closer relative to the Maranta, and is a separate genus in the Marantaceae family. Similar to their maranta cousins, calathea also sport a striped leaf pattern, but come in more leaf shape varieties. 

 Spider Plant

Spider plants featured spindly, thin leaves that splay out like spider legs. They are highly adaptable and breed easily. While they can survive in low light, spider plants will reward you with more offshoots when exposed to bright indirect light.

Arrowhead

Also known as Syngonium, Arrowhead plants get their name from their arrow-shaped leaf shape (bet you wouldn’t have guessed that). These babies can tolerate low light, but will grow quicker in bright, indirect light. They’re toxic to cats and dogs, so make sure to keep your arrowhead out of reach of your furry friends.

Chinese Evergreen

Chinese Evergreen plants (Aglaonema) are robust and low-maintenance plants that come in multiple variations, including variegated. They thrive in medium to low light conditions, but make sure wherever they are that they receive moderate temperatures (at least 60°F).

Cast Iron Plant

True to its name, the Cast Iron Plant is a hardy plant that can tolerate a range of light and water conditions. It sports arching deep-green glossy leaves and can grow in full shade, making it perfect for those dark corners in your home.


Bromeliads

These tropical, colorful plants vary in light preference based on their genus. Bromeliads with soft, flexible leaves, such as Guzmania and Vriesea, tend to prefer lower light levels. Bromeliads with stiff leaves prefer bright, indirect light. Before bringing a bromeliad home, make sure to confirm with your nursery sales associate what light level it will thrive in.

Large Indoor Plants That Tolerate Low Light

Tall plants can make a statement in any room, however dark it is. Large plants are especially good for filling out corner spaces, which tend to be too small to occupy furniture. If you have corners in your home that don’t get direct sunlight, these tall indoor plants could be for you. 

Many of the plants on this list, such as Zz and Peace Lily, start out small but have the potential to grow into a “large” plant (e.g. taller than 4 feet).

Monstera

Monstera are tropical plants with dramatic, fenestrated leaves. While they can tolerate a range of light levels, they will grow faster and sport bigger holes in bright, indirect light. They can grow between 6 and 10 feet tall.

Snake Plant

The Snake “plant” (Sansevieria) is actually a succulent, and can tolerate very low water and light levels. It will grow quicker in bright, indirect light and can even tolerate some direct light. Common snake plant varieties include Laurentii and Zeylanica

Zz

Zamioculcas zamiifolia, more commonly abbreviated to Zz, is a striking plant with small, waxy leaves that grow on elegant curved stems. Despite receiving very minimal sunlight, the Zz I have on my desk has been thriving for almost a year now. While they tolerate no to low light, Zz plants will reward you with more growth if it’s placed in indirect light, and can grow up to 5 ft tall.

Peace Lily

Peace lilies sport full, glossy foliage and bloom a single white flower once in its lifetime. While they can adapt to low light conditions, your peace lily may have trouble blooming if it doesn’t receive indirect sunlight. 

Dieffenbachia

Also called Dumbcane, Dieffenbachia are adaptable plants that grow quickly. They respond best to filtered light, so if possible place it near a curtained window that filters incoming sunlight. 

Parlor Palm

Parlor palms are attractive tropical plants that adapt surprisingly well to indoor environments. While they prefer some bright indirect light, they parlor palms can adapt to low light conditions. 

Pet Safe Low Light Indoor Plants

Before you bring a plant home, you want to make sure it’s non-toxic to pets. Here is a list of low light indoor plants that are safe for cats and dogs:

  • Peperomia
  • Hoya
  • Bird’s Nest Fern
  • Bromeliads
  • Spider Plant
  • Cast Iron Plant
  • Parlor Palm

Just because your home doesn’t get as much sunlight as a tropical jungle, doesn’t mean you can’t grow an indoor garden. Decorate your home with these low light indoor plants for your own nature-filled oasis.

Photo credit: Miami Jungle

How to Water Plants While on Vacation

How to Water Plants While on Vacation

You’ve taken great care of your houseplants, making sure they get the water and light they need to thrive. The last thing you want is to go on holiday and come back to droopy, sad plants.

Depending on how long you will be gone, some of your plants will be fine without needing a watering system while you’re away. For instance, succulents can go a month without any water, so simply giving it water before you leave can be sufficient. But most other houseplant varieties, especially tropical ones, need water 1-3 times a week and will suffer if they aren’t watered while you’re out of town.

It can be a hassle to get a trusted neighbor or friend to take care of your plants while you’re away. Luckily, there are some DIY and commercial ways to make sure your plants get enough water while you’re out of town. These easy watering solutions also work for any forgetful or busy plant parent. 

DIY Water Wicking

The water wicking method works for when you need to water multiple plants while you’re away, and is a good method if you’ll be gone for 1-3 weeks. To set it up you’ll need a container to fill with water and a cotton rope for each plant and . A cotton wick works best because it’s absorbent, but any other permeable material like a piece of cloth will work as long as it’s long enough. 

Cut the rope so that it’s long enough to reach the bottom of your water reservoir and 2-3 inches into the plant soil. Push one end of the rope into each of the plants’ soil, covering each rope with soil to make sure it stays put. You may find it easier to create a hole with a pencil first so the rope has somewhere to go. Then, put the other end of the rope into your water reservoir.

Finally, fill up your water reservoir with filtered water and water your plant.

Don’t worry about whether your water container is above or below your plants, as capillary action will carry the water from the reservoir to your plants’ soil regardless of the direction of gravity. 

Plastic Bag Greenhouse

This method works for longer vacations, even up to 6-8 months. You’ll need four wooden stakes and a clear plastic bag that’s big enough to fit over the plant.

Stick the wooden stakes into each corner of your pot, then water your plant as you normally would. Drape the plastic bag over your plant so that the ends can be tucked underneath the pot. Blow a bit of air into the bag so it expands enough to hover just about your plant’s leaves. The DIY greenhouse will keep evaporated water contained so that the water droplets get absorbed back into your plant.

Make sure to leave your plant in indirect light, as direct sunlight could overheat the plastic greenhouse and kill your plant.

DIY Drip System

This DIY drip system works best for plants that thrive with constant and gradual watering. 

Get a plastic water bottle and use a nail and hammer to puncture 3-5 small holes into the cap. Fill the bottle with water and screw the cap back on. Dig a hole into the soil of the plant you’ll be watering, and put the drip water bottle in cap side down. The drip system will keep your plant watered for up to 5 days.

Self-Watering Planter

While all of these systems work to water your plants while you’re away, they can be a bit of an eyesore and a pain to set up. A self-watering planter is an easy and reliable way to water your plants while on vacation. They also are nicer to look at than a plastic bag draped over your plants, so you can keep them around even when you’re not out of town.

With these watering systems under your belt, you can take that trip without worrying about watering your plants.