The 10 Best Self-Watering Planters
This wiki has been updated 15 times since it was first published in January of 2017. For the forgetful, absent-minded, or lazy gardener, self-watering planters will help keep your greenery alive. They also help prevent oversaturation by using a discrete reservoir system for your plants to draw upon as needed, rather than keeping the roots submerged. Whether you've got a yard to fill or are looking to grow herbs in your kitchen, our selections include a solution for you. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best self-watering planter on Amazon.
September 17, 2019:
While self-watering planters are a convenient time-saver, it's important to know how to use them properly to prevent rotting roots.
These planters work by drawing moisture from a reservoir at the bottom. To ensure any roots that grow deep into the container stay dry, place a layer of substrate between the soil and the water below. The Lechuza Balconera and Puro 20 include the brand's own granular compound to keep the roots aerated.
Benefits Of Using Self-Watering Planters
In addition to regulating moisture levels, self-watering planters also help to retain the nutrients in the soil.
In theory, keeping plants alive seems like it should be easy. Water them, make sure they get plenty of sunlight, and the rest will take care of itself, right? Unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated than that. Some plants are rather persnickety about how much light and moisture they require to stay healthy, and giving them too much or too little of either can lead to a quick demise. Luckily, if you weren't blessed with a green thumb, self-watering planters make it a breeze to ensure that your photosynthesizing friends get just the right amount of water.
If you're the forgetful type, you've probably had a plant (or two) die because you simply couldn't remember to water it on a regular basis. With a self-watering pot, the plant is perched above a reservoir full of water, allowing it to absorb moisture whenever it's needed. Using the traditional method, some plants need to be watered every couple of days, but depending on the size of the reservoir, you may be able to wait a week or longer before filling it again. This comes in especially handy when you go on vacation or other long trips.
Overwatering is just as bad for plants as not watering them at all. When the soil doesn't have a chance to dry out, the excess moisture prevents the roots from absorbing oxygen, essentially drowning your plant. The wet environment also provides a perfect breeding ground for certain types of fungi that cause root rot. Self-watering planters help to prevent this problem by watering plants from the bottom, so they only take in as much as they need. This also encourages the roots to grow deep in order to seek out moisture.
In addition to regulating moisture levels, self-watering planters also help to retain the nutrients in the soil. When you water plants from above, nitrogen, phosphorous, and other minerals that plants need to grow will gradually flow out from the drainage holes in the bottom of the container along with the excess water. Thanks to the closed environment of a self-watering planter, those nutrients are captured in the reservoir so that plants can absorb them, meaning you won't need to add fertilizer as often.
When using self-watering planters, it's important to choose the right type of potting mix. You want something that's lightweight and well-aerated so that it can wick moisture to your plants without becoming waterlogged. Heavier mixes, like regular potting soil, are too tightly packed. Soilless, peat-based mixtures tend to work best, and perlite is often added for better aeration. You can buy special mixes that are made for self-watering containers, or make your own to save money.
What Types Of Plants Work Best With Self-Watering Planters?
Some plants can thrive in just about any conditions, even if they're almost completely neglected. Pothos, Chinese evergreen, and ZZ plants, for example, are extremely hardy and can handle low light and very infrequent watering, so a self-watering planter, while convenient, is not necessary for them. But these tend to be the exception rather than the rule — most plants require a bit more care, and some can be downright picky.
Most vegetables, especially the ones that require a lot of water, do very well in them.
Azaleas, zebra plants, elephant ears, and Ctenanthe plants are very high-maintenance and need a consistent level of moisture, making them perfect candidates for self-watering planters. African violets are also notoriously fussy about their watering needs. They have very shallow root systems that can easily become waterlogged, and self-watering pots are great for preventing their soil from getting too moist.
If you want to try your hand at gardening but don't have a big enough yard, self-watering planters are great for growing edible plants, as well. Most vegetables, especially the ones that require a lot of water, do very well in them. These include tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, celery, broccoli, and cauliflower. They're also great for herbs that like moist soil, such as parsley, chives, and mint, and you can even buy indoor herb garden kits, many of which are self-watering.
On the other hand, some plants are just not suited for self-watering containers. Cacti and succulents prefer drier conditions than most other plants, and a self-watering pot will not allow them to dry out enough between waterings. The same goes for certain herbs, like basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary.
Choosing The Best Self-Watering Pot For Your Plant
This may not be true for all things in life, but when it comes to planting containers, size matters. While you certainly don't want to choose a pot that's too small and will leave your plant root-bound, too much extra space can cause the soil to hold onto excess moisture, and it doesn't look very good, either. Shoot for a container that's two to four inches larger in diameter than your plant, so that it has room to grow without being swallowed up.
Terra cotta and other clay pots are porous, which can cause the soil to dry out faster, so they aren't ideal for plants that require a lot of water.
The material your planter is made of makes a difference, as well. Terra cotta and other clay pots are porous, which can cause the soil to dry out faster, so they aren't ideal for plants that require a lot of water. Glazed ceramic pots hold in moisture, but the larger sizes can be extremely heavy and difficult to move. Plastic containers are lightweight, nonporous, and inexpensive, and you won't have to worry about them breaking when the weather gets cold. It typically isn't as aesthetically pleasing as other materials, but if you care more about function than form, plastic is a versatile and reliable option.
Most self-watering pots are meant for single plants and made to sit on the floor or a shelf, but there are some unique designs out there for less traditional applications. Tiered planters are great for herb gardens and smaller fruits and vegetables. Hanging containers add a decorative touch to your porch or patio and give vines and other sprawling plants plenty of space to grow. Some options even come with a tower or trellis for tomatoes and other plants that grow tall and need some extra support.
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