For a crazy plant lady like myself, the thought of going away for a long weekend is utterly overwhelming. And a vacation? Picture me breathing into a paper bag at the mere thought of it. After coming home to one too many sad, crispy plants, I’ve become more careful when it comes to my leafy friends.
Aside from hiring a plant sitter (that’s a real profession, btw), there are a few things you can do to keep your plants happy and hydrated while you’re away. These three self-watering planter hacks are just what you need to put your plant care on autopilot.
3 Self-Watering Planter Hacks
As with any self-watering planter, the idea is to let the plant water itself by either wicking water when needed or through a slow drip irrigation system of sorts. But you don’t have to spend a ton of money on specialty (read: expensive) pots. Just use materials you already have or repurpose old containers like soda bottles and milk cartons for a zero-waste alternative to pricey planters. Not only will the soil stay at the right moisture level but concentrating moisture at the roots may even help strengthen your plants root system, thus giving you stronger, more resilient plants.
There are lots of different ways to create self-watering planters, but different methods work better for different plants. Moisture loving ferns and hardy rubber plants have very different watering needs so you should tailor your methods accordingly. Same goes for size of the plant you’re watering. If you’re not sure which method is best for your plant, do a test run before hitting the road. You want to make sure the soil stays consistently damp but not soaking wet.
Here are my three favorite hacks for watering plants of all shapes and sizes.
This is the easiest way to water plants, especially for small plants that don’t need a ton of water. Simply line a small tray (if using metal, make sure it has a plastic liner to keep it from rusting) with small stones from a garden supply center or the dollar store. Place your plants in the tray and fill it with water until it comes about 1/8” above the stones.
The plants will absorb the water above the stones and then bask in the humidity created as the rest of the water evaporates.
Just make sure the water doesn’t sit more than 1/8” above the stones, as most plants don’t like having their roots sitting in water for long periods of time. Once absorbed, the plants will sit on the stones and not have their roots sitting in a pool of water.
Soda Bottle Planter
For medium size plants, you can turn an old plastic bottle into a self-watering planter with just a wick and a water reservoir. Trust me, it’s much less complicated than it sounds.
- 2-liter soda bottle or plastic milk jug
- 24 inch long piece of cotton string
- Phillips head screw driver
- Cut the bottle in half.
- Remove the plastic bottle cap and punch a hole all the way through using a screw driver.
- Feed the cotton string through the hole, stopping so that the cap rests at the 12-inch mark. Tie a knot on either side of the cap so the string can’t shift.
- Feed one of end of the string through the neck of the bottle and screw the cap back on.
- Fill the bottom half of the soda bottle with water, then invert the top half so the cap is pointing down. Nestle it inside the bottom half so that the loose end of the string submerges in the water.
- Fill the top half with the potting soil and your plant. Water consistently wicks up and into the soil, helping keep it at just the right moisture level.
If you don’t like decorating your house with plastic soda bottles, simply tuck the planter into a larger pot and voila! Form meets function.
Wine Bottle Drip Irrigation
A wine bottle makes the perfect drip irrigation system for larger plants. Simply punch a few holes in the cap, fill it with water and invert it in the potting soil so the water slowly drips out. But a word of warning: you should do a trial run for this one before leaving on vacation. You want to make sure the right amount of water drips from the bottle – not too much or too little.
- Wine bottle (I prefer the kind with a screw on cap because it’s easier to refill, but you can also use a cork)
- Remove the cap from the wine bottle.
- Gently hammer 2-3 small holes into the cap. If using a cork, hammer the nail lengthways through the cork.
- Fill the bottle with water and replace the cap. Invert the bottle to make sure some water drips out. If you think it’s not enough, add a few more holes.
- Invert the bottle and bury the neck about 3 inches deep in the soil. Check on your plant the next day to see if the soil around the bottle feels damp to the touch.