If you are like most of us, sometime this summer you are going to leave town for some rest and relaxation. The last thing you want to come home to is a plant funeral. So, it’s time to figure out how to water plants while you are gone. Forget hiring a plant sitter or a kid from your neighborhood to take care of your garden and plant babies. Instead, why not try an automatic watering system? Whether it’s for your seedlings or houseplants, we’ve got a solution! Check out these 5 DIY self watering ideas for your garden or planters.

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5 DIY Self Watering Ideas for Plants

Here’s my five favorite ways to set up automatic watering for your plants! These are great for anytime you’ll be away, and some can even just help to minimize the task of watering your plants when you’re home!

Self Watering Idea Number #1: The Wine Bottle Method

This first method is my personal favorite – the wine bottle self watering method. I have personally tested this one, folks. It works for any planter. Keep in mind this method is best for plants that need regular watering.

Step 1: 

Rinse an empty wine bottle (or other glass bottle with a narrow neck) and fill it with water.

Step 2:

Drill a hole in the cork or screw cap and place back into bottle

Step 3:

Turn the filled bottle upside down and push the neck several inches into the soil near the center of the planter.

How it works:

The excess water in the bottle will seep into the soil over several days, keeping the ground evenly moist. How long the water will last will vary with this DIY self watering system – experiment!

Optional

To support the bottle’s neck and help push it into the soil, use these Plant Nanny Stakes. They also help control the water flow, ensuring your plants get the perfect amount of water they need.

self watering ideas

#2: The Plastic Bottle Method

Need a self watering plant idea for a larger container or planter or an in-ground plant? We’ve got you covered!

self watering ideas

Step 1:

Rinse an empty two-liter soda bottle. Punch small holes in the body of the bottle, as shown in the photo.

Step 2:

Bury the bottle in the center of the planter (or next to the plant roots of an in-ground plant), leaving the bottle’s open neck exposed above the soil surface, and fill it up!

How it works:

With this DIY self watering system, water seeps slowly into the soil through the holes in the bottle. Burying the bottle in the ground helps prevent evaporation and promotes a deep root system. Your garden never had it so good!

#3 The Tub Method

This simple self watering method works indoors and outdoors and works best for plants requiring a lot of water. Use potted plants in containers with good drainage. If using indoors in a bathroom, be sure the plants you use this for don’t need much sunlight since bathrooms don’t get much.

Step 1:

Fill your tub, sink, or even a kiddie pool with a few inches of water. (Place a towel at the bottom to prevent the pots from scratching that gorgeous tub or sink.)

Step 2:

Place the potted plants in the water, and you’re done!

How It Works:

With this self watering planter, the excess water in the tub is absorbed into the plant roots. Simple, easy, and keeps your plants healthy while you are away!

#4: The Wick Method

For this self watering planter method, you will need a bit of cotton rope, a bucket, a large vase, or a watering can. It works great for one plant or many!

Step 1:

Fill the bucket with water and place the plants you want to self-water near it.

Step 2:

Cut a length of rope for each plant, long enough for the rope to reach from the potting soil and well into the water bucket.

Step 3:

Bury the rope several inches into the soil and place the other end in the bucket of water.

How it Works:

The cotton rope will wick water into the soil as needed, creating the perfect DIY self watering pot! PS- there are some kits available on Amazon that work very similarly (see here), but really all you need is the wick material and a bucket!

Self Watering System #5: The Greenhouse Method

Consider the greenhouse method for self watering plants that won’t be in direct sunlight! This long-lasting self watering solution is best for house plants and non-succulents. Be sure to follow these instructions to avoid ruining your plant’s beautiful foliage.

Photo by “Gardening Know How

Step 1:

Place four wooden stakes in the corners of your planter – these are the base of your greenhouse.

Step 2:

Water your plant as you would usually (avoid over-watering!).

Step 3:

Grab a plastic bag that is big enough to cover your plant and more. Gently place the plastic bag over the top of your plant (be careful to keep the bag from touching your plant!) and secure the bag to the planter.

How It Works:

You’ve just created a self watering planter that recycles its water. A self watering plant with its own water cycle? We love it!

Commercial Self Watering Systems

If the above DIY options won’t work for you – or you are in a time crunch getting out of town (hello, last-minute getaways!) – there fantastic commercial options that will keep your plants thriving while you are gone.

Plant Watering Globes

Plant watering globes are the perfect ready-to-go self watering method for your plants. Like the wine bottle method above, a watering globe keeps your plants healthy and adds a pop of color! We love these Watering Globes that you can buy on Amazon.

SELF WATERING POTS AND SELF WATERING PLANTERS

Self watering containers for your plants are the perfect no-fuss self watering system. Plant or re-pot your plants into a self watering planter or self watering pots, fill the water reservoir, and voila!

We love these self watering plant pots from Amazon, and there are even self watering hanging baskets (PS if hanging baskets are your thing, check out our tips for beautiful hanging baskets here). Looking to keep fresh herbs without remembering to keep up with watering them? I have something very similar to these planters (seen below) on my windowsill and they are perfect for that! Be sure to choose self watering pots that fit your plants well and are durable enough for indoor or outdoor use depending on your needs.

self watering planter for herbs

Figuring out how to water plants while you’re on vacation should be the least of your worries. These DIY self watering systems for your plants will keep your garden green and happy while you enjoy a well-deserved break. So go ahead: get outta town!

You’ll also love our post on 10 No Fail Drought Resistant Plants, the perfect plants for those who like to travel a lot. And be sure to stop by our sister site OhMeOhMy to check out these ‘Stunning Planter Box Ideas‘!

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27 Comments

  1. Charlene Spinelli May 24, 2020 at 8:47 am

    I love these ideas. I’ve tried a plastic soda bottle in mine after the soil was watered. The pots I’m putting these in have drainage holes. So the water is seeping out Does this only work if they’re no drainage holes?

    Reply
  2. Mario August 7, 2017 at 6:27 am

    ¿Argentine wine? xD

    Reply
  3. Fran July 28, 2017 at 8:18 am

    You have solved one of my garden problems! Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Lorraine Brauckhoff March 25, 2017 at 9:50 am

    What if you have sandy soil, will it just filter through?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard April 17, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      Well the water will go through he soil faster, that is true! Maybe use 2?

      Reply
  5. Caroline Jordan January 4, 2017 at 8:56 am

    On idea number two what size should the holes be in the bottle? I don’t want the water to flow out too quickly.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard January 9, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      I would think a wood punch or awl would be a good place to start… they look about the size of the diameter of a pencil to us, or a touch smaller!

      Reply
  6. Basavaraj December 18, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Very nice good idea for dry land farmers perpose.

    Reply
  7. Emily Heise June 20, 2016 at 3:46 am

    Love #1 and will try #2 asap. Thanks for your tips.

    Reply
  8. OhSally June 8, 2016 at 10:33 am

    I measured the distance between the 2 liter bottles I “planted” next to my tomato plants and put holes in a regular hose where each bottle would be. Using Rain Drip (watering system) attachments (the ones that are sharp on both ends and allow the water to flow through) I put holes in a regular hose where the holes lined up with one of the buried bottles, put the Rain Drip attachments into the holes and added 1/4″ tubing to the other end of the attachment. I measured 1/4″ tubing to make it long enough to go from the hose into the buried 2 liter bottle plus a few inches to stuff into the bottle so the water pressure wouldn’t push them out. Next, I put one piece tubing into the bottle. Now, all I have to do is turn on my faucet and all the bottles are filled automatically…no need to try and fill each bottle individually.

    Reply
  9. Cami jones April 11, 2016 at 7:23 am

    You can also fill up a shallow wadding pool. Set your potted plants in them for a few days while your out of town.

    Reply
  10. Jen Y March 11, 2016 at 9:20 am

    You don’t need the plant nanny tops to water with a bottle this way. You do have to use a little coordination but if you quickly turn the filled bottle upside down & stick it into your soil, it will seep out slowly without the cap. I do this all the time to keep from having to water more than once a day in our very hot summers.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard March 18, 2016 at 8:36 am

      We agree Jen, we do the same!

      Reply
  11. Mary September 9, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    I am having trouble with number 2. I am doing milk crate planters lines with thick felt and a bottle in the middle. I’ve mixed compost, potting soil a little bit of clay. The holes end about an inch from the bottom and there’s another 2 inches of dirt under the bottle.
    My problem is the water just leaks right out.
    I’ve tried a new bottle and punched holes with a sewing needle and packed the dirt very tightly around the bottle. Still leaks :(

    Help!!!

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard September 17, 2015 at 9:04 am

      Hi Mary,
      Im a little confused… The idea is to have the water leak out and keep the soil evenly moist… Once the soil is saturated with water, the water will seep out of the bottle slower because it has nothing to absorb it… Does that make sense? Are you doing the milk crates as temporary planters?

      Reply
  12. Adriana August 22, 2015 at 8:42 am

    I stumble upon these great ideas just on time for my trip! Love them! (also love your appreciation for argentinian wine!)

    Reply
  13. Avril April 9, 2015 at 8:03 am

    I just wander if a bottle with the top pierced won’t work……still sticking it into the soil upside down..

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard April 10, 2015 at 8:06 am

      I have seen people use pop bottles with holes pieced in the top as well!

      Reply
  14. Sherri Winter March 13, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I have some orchids that I need to water slowly. Those Plant nanny things look great! Where could I find some of these?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard March 16, 2015 at 8:36 am

      You can find them in most nurseries now, I even saw them last spring at Home Depot!

      Reply
  15. james March 9, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    how long does it take for the water to be completely gone?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard March 12, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      It depends on weather, humidity, etc… Ours lasted for 3-4 days…

      Reply
  16. Annette September 15, 2014 at 10:37 am

    I love the idea but what keeps the water from coming out so fast when you turn the bottle upside down?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard September 23, 2014 at 11:11 am

      You just do it quickly… not much drips out by the time you get it into the soil, then the natural resistance of the soil slows the emptying of the water… Try it, it really works!

      Reply
  17. Gloria June 26, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    I really appreciate the wine bottle watering tip – tomorrow we are leaving for a week and up till now have been worried about my several pots of beautiful geraniums which are under the hot sun every afternoon. I have enough wine bottles to hopefully remedy my watering concerns, let’s hope the neighbors don’t notice! Thanks! Gloria

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard June 26, 2014 at 4:43 pm

      We use it every summer… and if they do, invite them over when you get back for a wine party! They won’t care after that! :)

      Reply
  18. vera costa March 21, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Love the ideas (and the argentinean Quara). Will try that this summer

    Reply

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