Introduction: 'Eleplant 3D' Hydroponic Indoor Planter
If you've seen the 'Eleplant' Hydroponic Indoor Planter made from repurposed waste but fancy making something a little more professional looking have a go at the 'Eleplant 3D'. It uses some repurposed parts, some purchased and some 3D printed. It's suitable for growing all kinds of indoor plants including kitchen herbs, micro-greens, salad leaves or just indoor house plants. Once you've collected all the component parts, it takes about 2 hours to build your Eleplant 3D from scratch.
Step 1: Collect Your Materials and Tools
You will need:
1 x outer container (this one measures 150x150x150 mm)
1 x inner plant pot or container (this one is 100 mm diameter)
1 x sheet of 3 mm Plexiglas acrylic (at least large enough to cover the outer container as a lid)
1 x pump from a hand soap dispenser
1 x j-cloth for the wick
1 x 'Elehead' 3D printed elephant head - available to order from 3DHubs online, or if you have a 3D printer, I have attached the .stl file here
You'll also need the following tools and materials:
Electric drill, with assorted drill bits up to 15 mm diameter
Electric jigsaw, with fine-toothed blade
Cyanoacrylate adhesive (superglue)
Step 2: Make Your Lid
First, measure your outer container and mark your Plexiglas sheet so you can cut it to size. Then measure your inner plant pot at its widest point and mark the Plexiglas where you want to cut out the middle. I like the round pot sitting snuggly in a square hole so I've marked a square 2 mm narrower than the diameter of the top of the pot. As I'm going to cut straight lines, I've marked the positions of four drill holes inside each corner so I can insert my jigsaw. The drilled holes will need to be a little wider than your jigsaw blade to allow it to turn. take your time with this and remember the rule 'measure twice - cut once!' Leave the backing on the Plexiglas when cutting or drilling it, or use masking tape over the lines/points.
I use a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade with teeth as fine and close as I can get. Take your time when cutting so the Plexiglas doesn't chip or crack. If you're making many cuts in one go, allow the saw blade to cool from time to time as a hot blade will melt the acrylic and make an untidy cut. Similarly, when drilling the holes use a small drill bit at first and work up to the size you want. Plexiglas prefers a blunt drill bit to avoid snagging and chipping, cracking or breaking the acrylic. Drill slowly so the bit doesn't get hot and melt the acrylic either.
Remove the backing plastic or masking tape. Now smooth all the edges and round off the corners off with glasspaper and/or a file. You should end up with a lid with the centre cut out and a hole in each of two opposite corners large enough to sit the base of the pump in. I have also stuck two small squares of waste Plexiglas on the underside of the other two corners using a drop of cyanoacrylate adhesive. This will anchor the lid and stop it sliding around.
Step 3: Prepare the Pump and 'Elehead'
Now take the pump unit and pull off or unscrew the dispenser nozzle. Then use a Stanley knife to cut the screw collar from it.
Use a pair of mole grips to hold the neck of the pump as shown and carefully push the Elehead onto it. My pattern of the Elehead as printed by 3DHubs was designed with a 7mm diameter hole in the neck which fits the pumps from Lidl and Tesco soap dispensers nicely.
My 'Elehead' was 3D printed in white PLA. I chose PLA as it's ultimately biodegradable and somewhat eco-friendly compared to other plastics. They only had white available at the time so I painted the Elehead and the eyes and other features with enamel paint. However you may be able to choose other colours and other plastics when ordering or printing your own.
Step 4: Prepare the Pot and Hydroponic Wick
The next step is to make a hole in the base of the pot. The most straightforward way I have found of doing this is to melt a hole using a soldering iron, as attempting to drill holes in brittle plastics tends to end in disaster with cracks and splits! The hole should end up about 15 mm in diameter.
Now take the folded j-cloth and make cuts in from each end to about 15 mm from the centre line. The aim is to cut it into thin strips on both sides.
Roll the cloth lengthways so you have fronds at each end, and push one end through the hole in the base of the pot until the middle of the cloth is at the level of the pot base.
Step 5: Assemble the 'Eleplant 3D'
Simply push-fit the Elehead/pump through one of the corner holes and sit the inner pot assembly in the centre.
Well done! Your 'Eleplant 3D' is assembled and ready for use!
Step 6: Plant Away!
You can fill your plant pot with compost or a hydroponic medium such as vermiculite or perlite for a cleaner and more hygienic growing medium. Ensure the fronds of the wick are evenly spread throughout the medium. Now fill the container to just below the inner pot with clean water and add a drop or two of a fertiliser such as Baby-Bio or use a hydroponic feed as directed by the manufacturer. I also added some small plastic fish to the water just for fun!
You can sow seeds, plant seedlings or transfer living plants to the planter. Place the Eleplant 3D on a window sill or under a hydroponic lamp to ensure adequate lighting.
Water the growing plant when needed by pressing down on the Elehead pump a few times to deliver extra water to the growing medium. The wick will do the rest for you. Keep the reservoir topped up as needed by pouring water in through the filling hole.
NB - the basil plant shown here doubled in size in just two weeks!