What are Self Watering Pots for Plants?

Self-watering pots or self-watering planters are tools that can be used if you have a tendency to forget to water your plants from time to time, or if you’re planning on going away for a while. These pots can also be used in places like your balconies and terraces, where the application or use of a water spigot is limited. They are even used for plants that don’t tend to retain water on their leaves as much as expected.

Self-watering pots are a great idea, mostly because of their practicality. They are way better than regular pots and are more reliable and safe. A self-watering pot is, in practice, a source of nourishment for your plant, that is consistently looking out for water shortage, and ensures efficient growth of the plants in a garden.

Although they may differ in sizes, designs, and quality, self-watering pots essentially function to serve this purpose. And so, it makes perfect sense to consider investing in self-watering pots. In this article by Elitech Drip, we’re going to break down the essential details regarding self-watering pots and help you identify whether they would make sense in your garden as well.

self watering planter
Self Watering Planter Working

What Makes Up A Self-Watering Pot?

All self-watering or automated pots have the following features in common, regardless of their design, shape, and size:

A water reservoir

A planting container

A wicking mechanism (we’ll explain this in a later section)

A fill tube

An overflow hole or spout

Water level indicators

Drainage holes


The container is split up into two sections – the upper section would be holding the potting mix, while the lower section is used for water storage. These containers can be of different sizes, but generally, it’s common to see large, medium, and small containers.

The large container can act as a reservoir for up to five gallons (almost 19 liters) of water, while the smaller container can hold up to one gallon (approximately 4 liters of water). It’s a good practice to know which kind of container would best suit your plant and potting mix. You don’t want to overwater your precious plants!

A “Fill tube” is a kind of pipe or hose that is used to fill water into the container. Feeding water to the reservoir can also be optimized by certain methods.

Note: You can add caps to the reservoir to keep the pests away from your plant – this is not a must but it is surely recommended for optimal growth.

To make the watering more efficient, you can also add a water sensor so that you can get to know how much water is present in the water reservoir at all times. This can be useful because you will have an idea about when your water level is full or whether or not it needs refilling.

Next, let’s take a look at the overflow mechanism. This is used so that if the water is full, it will make sure to drain the rest of it. The mechanism is good because it prevents water stagnation, which can cause a hindrance to the growth and nourishment of the plant. For instance, if you have filled too much water in your reservoir then this can drain out the excess water.

One of the most important features of the self-watering pot is the drainage hole. With this feature in position, your container is essentially complete.

Important side note: Make sure that during the winter seasons, you don’t keep the plant outside as it can cause the water in the container to freeze at extremely low temperatures.

Now that we’re done with the basics, let’s dive a bit deeper into the nitty-gritty of the subject. There are just two ways through which the planters or pots transfer water from the reservoir, and both of them act on capillary action.

Capillary action can be best explained through an example. When you hurl a towel in water, you can notice the water slowly trying to make its way to the center of the towel as the towel slowly sinks. This is nothing but capillary action.

Inside the container, a wick is placed. The wick is a member that is used to form a bridge between the potting mix and the potting mix. This wick is the capillary strip used as a mat or more practically, an absorbent. So in simple words, a wick sucks water from the reservoir and then it supplies it to the potting mix.

self watering flower pot

The whole setup is designed with an aim to keep the water reservoir inside the pot. This is done so that the water mix from that section is pulled on from that capillary action. This is the most common design used everywhere.

Another design that is implemented in self-watering pots is the use of something called a separator, placed between the reservoir and the container. It mostly relies on evaporation of water, which is used to moisten the soil, by spreading it evenly throughout the soil. However, this one is not as efficient as the ones we have mentioned above.

Why Use Self-Watering Pots?

Consistent moisture is obtained while watering is minimized

One of the most beneficial reasons to imply this method of watering your plants is that it makes gardening a lot simpler and fun. The daily tasks of your everyday life drain enough battery out of all of us to be able to water plants with utmost discipline and will. Maintaining a garden starts to feel like a burden. This is why self-watering pots are essential. You would just have to water your containers once a week, and if possible, you can do it on your weekends too.

Another great thing about this is that watering is made unbelievably easy. You don’t even have to worry about being consistent with your watering every single day. It has also been found out that growing veggies has been more efficient using this method than others.

Use of water

Through the use of self-watering pots, the water used is in a closed reservoir so this makes the process easier and simple. Let us explain what that means – Closed reservoirs help the water reach directly to the roots, further helping save against wastage of water. Compared to the wastage of water that usually happens during direct spraying of water on the plants, this is a brilliant plan.

Prevents diseases for plants

Fungal diseases are majorly caused when the leaves of the plants are left wet. In the case of self-watering plants, the whole plant is covered, so many diseases that may be harmful to the plants, and in turn to the owners, are prevented and kept safe.

Setting up of the container

Now that we know much about the self-watering system, let’s go ahead and learn how to set up our very own container for self-watering our garden.

Firstly, make sure you have inserted the necessary components and parts, and also the plant, inside the container.

Now, add the type of soil that you would want for your moist potting mix and place it inside the planting container. Make sure you have a high-quality mix for this purpose.

Pack the mixture and then place it inside the bottom of the container. Or if you have a system where you have also decided to add a wick make sure you keep the one end at the water reservoir.

Plant your favorite plants but make sure that you don’t make the pot compact. It is also advisable to see to it that they all are well supported inside.

Once this is done, water from the top of the container so as to remove any and all air pockets and have the water settle in deep down to the roots. This the only time where you need the water from above the container. From the next time, you won’t have to do it.

Wait for a bit, while water has finished reaching the entire unit and then fill the reservoir.

After the setup is done. Leave it and only refill when you find it to be empty, but make sure to never leave it dry. Also, if you have to keep a dry potting mix, then water will not be able to reach it and it won’t be moistened enough to that level.

Is Self-Watering Pot the ultimate solution?

While it is true that there are several advantages to using a self-watering pot in your garden, it is not a completely full-proof solution. There are a number of problems with self-watering pots as well, and these are listed below:

Toxic mineral salts

One of the problems with using self-watering pots is that there is a combination of various salts in different concentrations, and this becomes a bit difficult to manage. As time goes by, they all build up and cause a serious issue to the plants.


Drainage holes are essential for many purposes, but there are also some problems that arise because of them. For instance, if you employ a method like this, it naturally also attracts mosquitoes, which are, in general, a big threat to your family and yourself, and will have to be cleared out immediately.

Root rot

Some of the plants don’t have an overflowing opening. This might be a problem here as it can all flood. Deeply wet and moist soil can cause the roots of your plant to rot and this will eventually result in the death of your plant.

Not all plants can adopt this method

Some plants prefer dry soils. For such plants (like the cactus and other succulents), it doesn’t make sense to keep watering at regular intervals. Hence, this method cannot be used for every plant in the world.

Limiting the growth of the root

Plants love to spread out their roots and grow rapidly into the soil, but here, the growth of the roots is limited. This can cause the plant to not grow as efficiently as it could’ve grown.

Self-watering is a great idea for optimizing garden nourishment, however, like most ideas, it has a few drawbacks. But it is still a good way to reduce water consumption and help in the effective growth of the garden.