There is a wide range of self-watering planters available or you can make your own. Basically a self-watering planter consists of two chambers. The upper chamber is the potting chamber. There is a series of slits in the bottom of the upper chamber allowing water to be drawn from the lower chamber (water reservoir) by the plant roots using capillary action. There is some type of hole at the top of the lower chamber where you can add more water as needed. Inexpensive versions consist of the two chambers but more expensive versions have a water float in the reservoir and some type of wick on the bottom or even going up the side of the upper chamber.
It is also quite possible to make your own self-watering planters. There are many, many designs and instructions available online to suit every need. When it comes to houseplants and smaller patio plants, the purchased self-watering planters are likely less expensive than homemade but larger containers (eg. plastic totes) used to grow vegetables on the patio are less expensive if you make them yourself. The question is, why should you use self-watering planters? Here are a few of my reasons:
- healthier plants - Self-watering planters eliminate over watering and drying out. The moisture is consistently provided as the plant needs it so plant stress is greatly reduced.
- fewer infestations and diseases - Healthier plants ultimately means fewer infestations (eg. aphids, white flies) and diseases (eg. fungus, dampening off, leaf mold). While this is less of a concern indoors, it can be a problem for any container plant grown in the garden, on decks or patios. A healthy plant can tolerate an infestation better than a stressed plant.
- reduced time watering - If you have houseplants in every room of your house as you should as well as container plants outdoors you can easily spend an hour or so water plants each week. Each self-watering planter reservoir holds enough water to water the plant for 2 to 4 weeks. Instead of watering houseplants every other day or every week, the timing is cut in half to a quarter by using a self-watering planter.
- plant friendly - The reality is most home gardeners water according to their schedule not on the plant's schedule. A self-watering planter keeps the soil moist as needed but doesn't over or under water.
- easy fertilizing - All container plants require fertilization on a regular basis because they deplete the soil nutrients quickly. Simply use an organic liquid fertilizer added to the water in the reservoir. The plant will use it as the nutrients are needed without the fear of fertilizer burn.
- worry free - One of the biggest concerns anyone who grows plants in containers, indoors or outdoor is what to do when you go on away for an extended period of time. I know I have called family on more than one occasion when we decided to stay away longer than expected asking them to check my container plants because I couldn't remember if I had watered them before we left. I have an excellent network of family and friends to come to my rescue but not everyone has this. The self-watering planters remove this worry. As long as you keep water in the reservoir you know your container plants will be fine for 2 to 4 weeks. This will be a huge relief for those growing on patios too as patio plants can dry out quickly on a hot day.