Self irrigating pot for house plants

Self irrigating pot for house plants

Self-irrigating pots or pots with a water reservoir for houseplants have a huge advantage: you do not have to guess when to water your plant, simply water whenever you see that the water meter is at its minimum position.

The bottom of the pot has a water reserve and water from that reserve arrives at the roots by capillarity.

The problem is that it’s hard to find appropriate self irrigating pots in the trade: usually they are too big or too small and often they are quite expensive.

Therefore, it is useful if you can make such a self irrigating pot yourself. And you really do not need to be a champion at DIY, it requires little equipment and little skill.

Advantages of a self irrigating pot:

It takes the guesswork out of watering:

The plant always gets the amount of water it needs. The water is sucked up by capillarity, depending on the amount of water consumed by the plant.

This works as well for plants which must always be moist as for cacti and succulents, because the plant absorbs the amount of water it needs.

You would think that cacti and succulents should be allowed to dry between waterings but they actually do very well with a constant supply of water.

You will need to water cacti and succulents less often than other plants, but that’s really the only difference.

For plants which must always be wet or drowned, a self-irrigating pot is not necessary, they may stand in a simple pot without holes in the bottom.

Less frequent watering:

Thanks to a self-irrigating pot you need to water less frequently: once every 2 weeks for this palm tree, once a month or even less for cacti and succulents.

The frequency of watering is difficult to predict with precision: it depends on the needs of the plant, the volume of the water reserve and the temperature. But that is something you will work out quite easily.

You can leave for a holiday without fear of your plants dying:

A self-irrigating pot with water reserve has another big advantage: before you leave for a holiday, water the plant to the maximum level and you can go away for 2 weeks without fear that your plants die from lack of water.


The frequency and amount of fertilizer you add to the water depends on the plant.

This palm tree receives fertilizer with each watering, even in winter when it needs watering only every 3-4 weeks.

I would recommend to dilute the fertilizer by half of the recommended dilution for cacti and succulents.


  • 1 pot without holes in the bottom
  • expanded clay pellets for the water reserve at the bottom of the pot
  • potting soil
  • coco peat (optional)
  • a piece PVC pipe
  • a wooden stick
  • a cork or a piece of Styrofoam (expanded polystyrene or polystyrene foam)
  • a handsaw


Cut 2 pieces of tubing with a handsaw at the height of the pot.

Cut 2 opposite notches at the bottom of the tube. Large enough to let water through, but small enough to not let the clay pellets through.

Water meter

Place the 2 pieces of tubing next to each other on the bottom of the pot, with the notches at the bottom.

Place a thick layer of clay pebbles of 5-10 cm depending on the height of the pot and the size of the root ball of the plant.

Self irrigating pot for house plants

Place the plant on top of  the layer of clay pellets, the top of the root ball should be slightly below the pot rim.

Self irrigating pot for house plants

Fill the pot further with potting soil, optionally mixed with coco peat.

Self irrigating pot for house plants

This is your water meter.

Water level with cork
Insert a wooden stick into a piece of cork or Styrofoam so that it fits without rubbing in the PVC pipe.

Insert the water level meter in one of the 2 PVC tubes in the pot and cut the stick flush with the upper edge of the tube.

This is the minimum level of the water meter.

Self irrigating pot for houseplants

Mark the wooden stick at a height which is approximately equal to the height of the layer of clay pellets.

Self irrigating pot for houseplants

Now pour water into the other tube until the marking of the water level meter arrives at the upper edge of the first tube.

The first time there is no need to add fertilizer: there are enough nutrients in the potting soil for about 1 month.

After that, you may add liquid fertilizer to the water with each watering.

Self irrigating pot for houseplants

Your plant is now ready to be put in place.

You can easily see whether the water meter (the stick with cork) is at its minimum level and you need to water the plant.

Self irrigating pot for house plants

Image sources

  • Self irrigating pot for house plants: Own work