Watering potted plants can be a very time-consuming and tedious task, especially if you have a large number of pots. Over the years, I shamefully have to admit that I lost quite a few plants due to infrequent watering during the summer heat or while being away for vacation.
So right before a big 3-week trip (longest I’ve ever had), I decided to find a way to keep my plants alive with minimal effort from the friends coming to check on my cats and started researching on how can I automatically water potted plants.
Because not only can automatic watering systems save you time and effort while ensuring that your plants receive the right amount of water, but they can also be used to water your plants when you’re away.
And these can be as simple as a DIY wick-based setup to complex drip irrigation systems powered by pumps.
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Auto water systems for plants
01. DIY wick watering system
One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to water potted plants automatically is by using a DIY watering wick system.
Bury one end of a cotton string (you can even use a shoestring in need) in the pot that you want to water, then tie something heavy to the other end (like a screw nut) and place it in a container of water.
Don’t forget to soak the string and water the plants thoroughly before doing this. Also, usually it’s best for the container to be placed higher than the pots.
The wick will then draw water from the container and deliver it to the soil, ensuring that the plant receives a constant supply of moisture. For bigger pots, you might want to add several wicks.
02. Blumat Plant Watering Stakes
The Blumat plant watering stakes are based on the same principle as the simple watering wick system listed above.
They have a ceramic end that you fill with water and bury it in the pot and a tube whose end you place in a container filled with water. Make sure you pre-soak the ceramic bit before installing it.
The Blumat stakes come in different sizes (Regular Classic and Classic XL), but you can also use several stakes to fulfill the watering needs of a single (bigger) plant. I used them on my Hydrangeas and they did a good job keeping them happy during the summer.
I do want to say that I saw there are some products that resemble the Blumat ones, but the stakes are made of plastic. However, I didn’t try them as the reviews weren’t that great, not to mention that the porous ceramic cone is a key component of the system.
03. Self watering globes
The self watering globes (also known as aqua globes) come in different shapes and colors, so not only they help you water less often, but they’re also decorative. You fill them with water, then stick them into the soil and they’ll slowly release water over time.
I have some red rounds ones and some green ones in the shape of a bird. Mine are made from plastic, but you can find glass and even terracotta variants as well.
I do want to mention that the aqua globes will probably require refilling more frequently than other options on this list, however they’re still good for prolonging the period of time between you actually watering the pots.
Also, I feel like they release a bit too much water, so I usually prefer to use them more during summer.
04. Self watering pots
Self watering pots are another great option for busy people, that want to lessen the frequency with which they water their plants.
There are different types out there (some have watering wicks, others come with water level indicators), but all follow the same principle: they have a built-in water reservoir that allows plants to take up water as needed.
From my experience, the bigger the pot, the less attention it requires from you. I have a big clematis in a very large self watering pot and I get away with watering it thoroughly only once in a while even during summer.
However, my plants in smaller self watering pots tend to suffer a bit if I don’t pay attention to them, so I usually supplement their watering with an automatic dripping system.
05. Watering spikes
Watering spikes work in the same as the watering globes, the only difference being that you can attach a regular bottle filled with water to their end.
They are typically made of terracotta, glass, or plastic and some come with adjustable valves that allow you to control the rate of the water release.
They can work well in a pinch, but I don’t like to use them long term as I don’t find them too aesthetically pleasing.
06. Watering terracotta bulbs (reservoirs)
I scratched my head a bit on how to name these to better reflect what they are, since many companies like to call them watering globes as well.
However they’re different from the usual aqua globes because they go almost completely in the soil and you refill them through a small opening at the top, which is usually covered with a cap. For this reason, they need to be made from terracotta, as plastic or glass wouldn’t work.
Also, since they need to be buried in the soil, they’re better suited for bigger pots or rectangular planters, where there’s enough room for them.
07. Drip Irrigation Kit
If you’re lucky enough to have a faucet at your disposal you can buy a drip irrigation kit and connect it to it in order to automatically water your plants. Some kits are really simple, others also have a timer for better watering control.
However, I wouldn’t recommend this solution when you’re away from home, since you’d need to leave the water running and if something were to happen, you won’t be there to fix the problem.
08. Battery operated watering system
Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of an electrical socket or a faucet in the location where you’d like to install an automatic dripping kit (for example, I have none on my balcony where I keep the majority of my plants). So the best solution in this case is a battery operated watering system with a pump.
I have three such systems and I usually recharge them every few months with my power bank. I can program how often they should be watering the plants (in days) and for how long (in seconds).
The pump eliminates the need of a faucet, so I just use a few large containers to store the water, one of which I keep hidden between the couch and the wall.
09. Solar powered watering system
If you don’t want to worry about your watering pump remaining without electricity or you feel like it’s a hassle to periodically recharge it, you can choose a solar powered dripping system instead.
Just make sure you place the solar battery somewhere where it gets enough sunlight.
From self-watering pots and watering spikes to solar-powered watering systems, there are many ways to automatically water potted plants that can help you save time and ensure that your plants receive the proper amount of moisture.
Not to mention they’re a real life saver when you’re away on holiday.