Do Self Watering Planters Really Work?
Yes – but you have to use them correctly.
A “self watering” container doesn't actually water itself. It is a watering system using planters that contain a reservoir of water at the bottom. This reservoir connects to the area where the plant is with a soil “foot” or a fabric “wick”.
With a soil foot system, the plants send roots down into the foot, and draw up as much water as needed. In a wick system, water is drawn up the wick via capillary action into the soil of the main pot. Either way, if there's water in the reservoir, the plants have access to water. This allows you water less frequently and still have healthy plants.
When you first fill your planter, make sure the soil is evenly moist. Water from above until plants have a chance to establish a strong root system. With larger containers (especially outside), adding mulch prevents the soil surface from drying out too quickly. This improves planter performance.
After your plant is settled in, simply add water as needed to keep the water level in the reservoir topped off and you should be good to go.
Are Self Watering Planters Good?
I'm a fan! Self watering planters are good for a wide variety of plants – from a vigorously growing tomato plant in a patio garden to petite house plants. Just find the right size and style for your expected plant growth, and you're set. With a growing interest in urban agriculture, these pots offer a great “first gardening experience” for new growers.
There's no chance of accidentally drowning a plant, unlike with closed pots or containers that sit in a drip tray. If you accidentally add too much water, it comes out the overflow drain. (You may want to add a drip tray if you have a habit of adding too much water, or set your container outside when you water.)
Are Self Watering Pots Good for Succulents?
Maybe. If you want to use a wicking self-watering container, it's not a great fit, because they rely on keeping the soil moist. If you want to use a soil foot type, that will work. Just make sure to let it dry out between watering's. It's also helpful to limit the size of the soil foot to reduce soil moisture.
Tips for Root Veggies, Potatoes and Other Plants That Prefer Drier Soil
Some plants have more issues with disease problems if the soil is too wet, including root vegetables like carrots and tubers, like potatoes. Succulents kept in wet soil will develop root rot in short order. You can still use a self-watering planter with these plants, but there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- Limit the size of the soil foot to 10-15% of the base to reduce water flow to the plants.
- Used a lighter soil mix, or add a little sand to your base mix, to limit wicking action.
- Allow the reservoir to to dry out between watering's.