19 Easy DIY Ideas for Self-Watering Planters 2023

It can be hard to remember when your plants need watering, especially if you have a busy day-to-day schedule or own a lot of houseplants. 

Luckily, there are ways to keep your plants hydrated without putting in too much work. There’s a wide variety of self-watering pots you can make yourself with items you likely already have lying around your home. 

DIY self watering indoor planters are not only cost-effective, but they can also be a lot of fun to make! 

Below, we walk through 19 self-watering planter ideas that will make gardening less stressful for anyone – even those with a deeply-refined green thumb.

How does a Self-Watering Planter System Work?

plastic water bottles used as self-watering indoor planters

A system for self-watering plants works by allowing the soil to hydrate itself. 

Most planters have a water reservoir and soil wicks that act like straws, allowing the plant to drink and saturate the soil in a process called capillary action. This process allows the plant to drink precisely how much water it needs when it needs it. 

Because this process allows the plant roots to regulate their soil moisture, the chances of overwatering are significantly decreased!

Since most self-watering systems hydrate the soil from the bottom rather than from the top, the soil remains evenly moist, and the top of the soil will likely stay dry. This helps to prevent fungal growth, pests, compact soil, and root rot. 

How Often Do you Need to Fill Self-Watering Pots?

You need to ensure that your water reservoir is always filled with water. How often you refill the reservoir will depend on a few factors, including temperature, the amount of sun your plant is getting, and more. 

On average, the reservoirs will hold enough water for 1-2 weeks, so you should only need to check on the water level every week or so. 

What Types of Plants work with Self Watering Systems?

monstera obliqua plants growing in a plant container

Most plants will do well in a self-watering system – especially tropical plants like African Violets, Calathea, Philodendron, Monstera, or Syngonium. 

Plants with “evenly moist soil” requirements, like different varieties of alocasias, are great candidates for self-watering planters.

DIY self watering indoor planters are also popular if you have a vegetable garden or want to grow fresh herbs in your kitchen or balcony. 

What Types of Plants Don’t Work with Self Watering Planters?

Certain plants with shallow root systems will not work well in self-watering systems. Plants like cacti, succulents, or snake plants have a small, delicate root system that usually does not reach deep into the soil. 

Because self-watering containers will mainly saturate the bottom part of the soil, the roots of these plants may not reach the necessary depth. 

As this system keeps the soil consistently moist, the plants that love to dry out between waterings or need dry soil to grow are not ideal for self-watering planters.

19 DIY Self Watering Indoor Planters

1. Plastic Bottle Self-Watering Planter

These DIY self watering indoor planters are super easy to make. 

You should even be able to make them with recycled items you already have lying around your house! 

What You Need: 

  • Plastic Water Bottle (any type of bottle, just make sure it has a cap!) 
  • Cotton String 
  • Utility Knife
  • Scissors
  • Soil
  • Your Plant of Choice!


  1. Cut your plastic bottle in half using the utility knife. 
  2. Poke a hole in the cap using your scissors, and thread the cotton string through the hole. 
  3. Fill up the bottom part of the bottle with water. 
  4. Flip the bottle upside down with the cap screwed on and place it onto the bottom half. 
  5. Add your plant, and you’re done!

2. Self-Watering Glass Bottle Planter

Finally, a use for all of those empty wine bottles! 

This glass bottle self-watering planter is another easy-to-make, cost-effective project that will look just a little more elegant than a plastic bottle. 

What You Need: 

  • Glass Bottle (i.e., an empty wine bottle)
  • Glass Cutter
  • Sanding Paper
  • Net
  • Cotton String
  • Soil
  • Plant


* Make sure your bottle is completely clean before starting! 

  1. First, cut your glass bottle in half. (Make sure to be super careful. The glass is sharp!) 
  2. When you’re done cutting the glass, sand the edges of the bottle to make them less harsh and easier to handle. 
  3. Thread the cotton string through the net and place it in the top half of the bottle. 
  4. Fill the lower half with water and place the top half upside down onto the lower half. 
  5. Make sure the string is touching the water. 
  6. Fill the top with soil and add your plant. 

Et voila, you’ve just made your very own self-watering planter!

3. Deep Water Bottle System 

This self-watering method is considered a type of “drip irrigation.” 

The drip system provides constant and even moisture to the soil and is suitable for outdoor plants, trees, or herbs. 

What You Need: 

  • Plastic Bottle
  • A Nail
  • Hand Trowel 


  1. Get your bottle and poke small holes around the base of the bottle. 
  2. Dig a hole where you want a steady supply of water, and bury the plastic bottle in the ground. 
  3. Leave the top bit (with the cap) poking out of the soil. 

All you need to do is fill up the bottle with water whenever you notice it’s empty. The soil will absorb the water through the holes of the bottom whenever needed.

4. Self-Watering Foam Box Planter

This self-watering foam box planter is an excellent option for a vegetable or herb garden or general outdoor use. 

This DIY project is cost-effective and requires hardly any maintenance when set up! 

It also takes up very little space, so it is specifically handy for those with balconies or small garden spaces.

What You Need: 

  • Foam Box Without Holes
  • PVC Pipe 
  • Scissors
  • Stanley Knife
  • Waterproof Tape
  • Stick or Branch

Check out these DIY instructions for this self-watering foam box system. 

5. Upside Down Bottle Irrigation

This is another easy-to-make self-watering planter that will provide constant moisture for your plants!

What You Need: 

  • Plastic Bottle with a Cap
  • A Needle (or some other type of slender, sharp tool)
  • Small piece of cotton thread
  • Your Plants


  1. Poke a few holes into the cap of your bottle and screw it back. 
  2. Put the cotton thread in the hole in a way that it fixes in the hole.
  3. Fill the bottle with water and stick it upside down into the soil. 
  4. The soil will absorb water as needed from the bottle, and you will only need to refill it with water when you see it is empty.

6. Stacked Planters

This is a super easy DIY project that requires little work but gives amazing results. 

You can use any size pot, but we especially like this DIY with small pots for cute little plants that require less water. This system is particularly suitable for different plants with a shallow root system, as they need moisture near the soil surface. 

What You Need: 

  • Two Stackable Garden Pots (each of similar size and one without drainage holes)
  • Electric Drill
  • Small Bricks or Blocks
  • Cotton String


  1. If both pots do not have drainage holes, you will need to drill some holes into one of them! 
  2. Stack the pots onto each other. (You will need a little space at the bottom to create room for a reservoir of water.) 
  3. If the bottoms of the pots are touching, add some heighteners like small bricks or blocks to elevate the inner pot. 
  4. Optional: You can add your cotton string through the holes of the bottom pot, making sure it reaches the reservoir. (The other side of the string should be inside your soil, near the plant’s roots. 
  5. When you water your plant, the excess water will drip into the reservoir, creating a self-watering system!

7. DIY Concrete Planter

A self-watering container that makes for a fun, creative project to take on if you have some spare time on your Sunday afternoon. 

Remember, concrete can affect the soil pH level, so it may only be suitable for some plants. Plants that like high acidity in their soils will not thrive in concrete! 

Check out this awesome step-by-step tutorial for making concrete planters.

8. Nursery Pot Mason Jar Planters

This planter will look adorable in your window and works great for herbs and other small plants you like to keep in your kitchen. 

What You Need: 

  • Plant or Herb of Choice
  • Mason Jar
  • Plastic Nursery Pot (or a plastic cup that fits inside the jar)
  • Two Screws
  • Cotton String


  1. If you use a plastic cup with no holes in the bottom, you will want to start by poking a hole in the bottom of the container. (Make sure the string fits through the hole!) 
  2. Thread the string through the hole, and add screws on opposite sides of your plastic pots. (You can simply screw them through the plastic, ensuring that the head of the screw is on the outside.)
  3. Now, you can rest the screws onto the mason jar, and the plastic pot will be inside the glass jar.
  4. Add your plant or herb to the pot and fill the mason jar with water. 
  5. Ensure that the string is touching the water, and voila! Your planter is ready to use. 

All you need to do is keep the mason jar filled with water, and the plant’s roots will absorb it when needed. 

9. Water Jug Planter

A water jug planter is another good option for those who want to grow a vegetable garden or container garden with limited space and time. 

Because of the large 5 gallon self watering reservoir, these large water jugs don’t need to be filled often and are also super helpful if you are going on a long vacation! A great idea for those on the move.

What You Need: 

  • 5-Gallon Water Bottle (preferably one with a handle)
  • Electric Drill and Drill Bits
  • Electric Saw (Sawzall)
  • Measuring Tape
  • Tomato Cage (Optional)


  1. Drill holes along the sloping sides near the neck of the bottle or the top of the bottle for soil aeration.
  2. Cut the jug in half near the center, creating a soil holder at the top and a water reservoir chamber at the bottom. (Measure the jug before cutting. The spout at the top of the jug should rest on the bottom when placed upside-down inside the water reservoir for  optimal stability)
  3. Fill the internal reservoir with about a week’s worth of water (or more if you won’t be around for longer).
  4. Once situated, fill the soil holder with your potting mix.
  5. Place your plant in the soil. 
  6. If you plan to grow large plants or vegetables, place a tomato cage in the soil for additional stability.

10. Multi-Watering Pitcher

This self-watering method is the perfect solution if you plan to be away from home for a long time. 

What You Need: 

  • Potted Plant
  • Pitcher or Vase
  • Cotton String
  • Books or Similar Stackable Items


  1. To arrange this setup, fill your pitcher with water and place it on a heightened surface. (You can use books or a box to elevate. As long as the pitcher is positioned higher than your plants, you will be fine!) 
  2. Place your plants around the pitcher. 
  3. Cut off pieces of string long enough to reach the plants from your pitcher. 
  4. Stick one end of the string as deep into the soil as you can and the other into the pitcher. Ensure that it is long enough to reach the bottom of the planter! 
  5. Repeat this for every plant. 
  6. If you want to add a lot of plants, use two pitchers and split the plants into two sections. Otherwise, the pitcher will be empty very fast! 

Now your plants will be able to drink while you are away, and they will be as happy and healthy as ever when you return! 

11.  Bucket Planters for Larger Plants

This self-watering indoor planter is ideal for growing larger plants like Bird of Paradise, Fiddle Leaf Fig, or Monstera! 

What You Need: 

  • 5-Gallon Bucket
  • PVC Pipe
  • Other Household Items

Check out this article for detailed instructions on how to build a self-watering bucket planter for your large plants.

12. Pot and Saucer DIY Watering System

This planter is great for those who won’t like the look of your typical DIY planter and is an excellent option for indoor plants. This wicking system looks like any other pot but has a built-in self-watering system! 

The best part of these planters is that you can build them with readily available materials you likely already own. 

What You Need: 

  • Large Cache Pot (without drainage holes)
  • Plastic Saucer (should fit inside the larger container)
  • Empty Plastic Bottle (1-2 liters is good)
  • PVC Pipe
  • Drill
  • Hand Saw
  • Plant and Potting Soil


  1. Drill holes in the bottom half of your plastic bottle (the wicking bottle) for a wick system. The drill bit should be about ⅝ of an inch for best results. 
  2. Cut a large enough hole in the center of the plastic saucer so that the plastic bottle can fit through it. 
  3. Cut your plastic soda bottles to sit flush with the surface of the saucer.
  4. Place the PVC pipe on the saucer and mark the outline with a sharpie. 
  5. Cut out the outlined area on the saucer. 
  6. Adjust the height of the fill tube to only come out of the soil by a few inches.
  7. Add a drainage hole under the base of the saucer for sufficient drainage. 
  8. Fill the planter with potting soil, and you’re good to go!

13. DIY Watering Globes

Probably the best option if you are particularly lazy and don’t like big DIY projects. 

What You Need: 

  • Empty Glass Bottle with a Lid
  • A Nail
  • Your Plant


  1. Use the nail to punch a few holes into the cap of your bottle. (To make this easier, heat the nail with a match or lighter.) 
  2. Fill up your bottle with water and screw the cap on tightly. 
  3. Now, push the bottle into the soil as deep as possible! 
  4. Be careful when doing so, as forcing the bottle roughly into the soil can damage the roots of the plants.
  5. The plant will absorb the water from the bottle as needed. All you need to do is keep an eye on the bottle and ensure it’s full!

14. Large Box Planter

If you are crafty and like larger projects, this is the DIY for you! This planter is also an excellent project for beginners, making gardening much easier and more efficient. 

Even though this planter is a little more work than others on this list, it is aesthetically pleasing and efficient! So if you’re up for it, it’s worth a shot! 

Check out this comprehensive guide on how to build a large, self-watering planter box

15. Self-Watering Tomato Planters

These tomato bucket planters make growing your tomato plants a piece of cake! 

With this DIY project, you can enjoy fresh, organic tomatoes from your garden during the growing season. 

It’s also a great option if you have limited space. 

What You Need: 

  • 5-Gallon Buckets
  • Rubber Grommet
  • Plastic Colander or Plastic Containers
  • Fabric Bag
  • Electric Drill and ¾ Inch Drill Bit
  • Heavy Sheers or Snips
  • Hose


  1. Drill ¾ inch holes all the way around the 5-gallon bucket, starting about 6 inches from the bottom. 
  2. Near the very bottom of the bucket, drill a single hole. This hole will serve as an opening to the water reservoir.
  3. Add a water-tight fitting for your grommet to the reservoir hole. You can find these fittings at most stores that sell hydroponic equipment. 
  4. Place your plastic colander inside the bucket.
  5. Place the fabric bag inside the colander.
  6. Plug the reservoir hole and fill the base with water. 
  7. Add soil in layers, wetting each layer as you go. 
  8. Add a plastic layer at the top, then cut a hole in the center where your plant will grow.
  9. Run a hose from the primary reservoir to the 5-gallon bucket. 

16. Self-Watering Pebble Tray

A simple yet highly effective way to keep your plants hydrated and happy is through a pebble tray.

You can assemble this in minutes, making caring for your plants much more manageable. This method is especially suitable for plants that don’t require a lot of water. 

What You Need: 

  • Shallow Plastic Tray 
  • Pebbles (from the garden center)
  • Your Plant


  1. Simply line the tray with the pebbles, and make sure that there is room at the top. 
  2. Fill up the tray with water, ensuring that the water reaches nearly the level of the stones. 
  3. Place your plants on top. Ensure that the bottom of the pot is not in the water! 

The plants will absorb the water through the pebbles. Ensure the tray is always filled with the right amount of water! 

This method also enhances humidity for your plants, which will help prevent dry tips and brown edges.

17. Ziplock Bag Method

This DIY is a very low-cost, easy-to-make option for those who don’t like big projects or don’t have a lot of time. 

It comes together in less than 15 minutes and will work like a charm! 

What You Need: 

  • Ziplock Bag
  • Two Clothespins
  • Cotton String
  • Paper Clips 
  • Scissors


  1. To assemble, fill up your zip lock bag with water. We recommend filling it up about halfway.
  2. Attach it to the side of your planter, ensuring the bag remains upright. 
  3. Cut off two pieces of string, and make sure that they are long enough to reach from the bag into your soil. 
  4. Place one end of the strings into the soil as deep as possible. The other end goes into the ziplock bag. Ensure that the strings are touching the bottom of the bag. 
  5. To make it more secure, you can tie the ends of the strings to the paper clips before putting them into the water, which will ‘anchor’ them down to the bottom of the bag!  
  6. All you need to do is ensure that the ziplock bag remains filled with water.

18. Milk Bottle Self Watering Planters

Instead of throwing out that used, empty milk bottle, why not convert it into a beautiful seedling planter for your garden? 

A milk bottle self-watering pot is a great way to keep your plants hydrated without having to water them yourself. 

What You Need: 

  • Plastic Milk Bottles (with lids)
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Cotton T-Shirt
  • Stapler/Staples
  • Potting Mix

Mother Earth Living gives an excellent walk-through on how to make a self-watering milk bottle planter at home. 

19. Tea Strainer 

This is a simple project that requires little effort to put together.

This project is only suitable for small plants due to the size of the tea strainer. It works wonderfully as an herb planter as well!

What You Need: 

  • Mason Jar
  • Tea Strainer (should fit inside your mason jar)
  • Cotton String
  • Potting Soil


  1. To assemble, fold your string in half and place the fold into the tea strainer. You’ll want the string ends to dangle over the edge. 
  2. Place your plant in the canister and ensure that the rope stays in the bottom of the tea strainer. 
  3. Fill up your mason jar with water about halfway, and add your tea strainer. 
  4. Make sure that the cotton string ends touch the water, but the bottom of the tea strainer isn’t! The soil will absorb water through the string as needed! 

From there, you just need to keep an eye on the mason jar and fill it up when needed. 

Need more inspiration for your green space? Check out our top tips for hanging plants in your apartment!

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