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self-watering planter with bromeliad on table with copper watering can

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.


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