Introduction: 3D Printed Self-Watering Planter

About: I'm an inventor / maker / designer based in Portland, OR. My background is in residential architecture, film set design, animatronics, media arts, exhibit design, and electronics. I use digital design and fabr…

Avoid the danger of over or under-watering your plants with this self-watering planter. With a 3D printer, you can quickly make an attractive water-tight planter pot that will keep your plants healthy and fit in with your modernist aesthetic.

Step 1: Design

I looked around online at self-watering planters and came up with the design you see here. Basically, it consists of a basin that keeps standing water and a cup with a perforated bottom that stays submerged in the water. The water in the basin wicks into the potting soil keeping it moist without drowning the plant. From what I gather, roots need water but they can’t be submerged in it for too long or the plant will die. The other danger with over-watering (I’ve heard) is that it can help propagate mold and fungus, which can also kill the plant.

In my design, I created a sphere with two circular cutouts in it. A larger one holds the planter cup that snugly fits a 3” plant, and a smaller cutout is for a spout that keeps water from spilling everywhere when you fill the pot.

I designed this pot in Fusion 360 because it’s easy to create complex geometry with it and it’s a breeze for 3D printing. I printed this on a Dremel 3D Idea Builder. The Dremel file and the STLs are attached here if you want to print your own.

Fusion 360 is free for students and hobbyists, and there's a ton of educational support on it. If you want to learn to 3D model the kind of work I do, I think this is the best choice on the market. Click the links below to sign up:



Step 2: Assembly

I won’t get into the ins-and-outs of 3D printing here. If you need an intro, check out this instructable. The important thing is that the print is set to “solid infill”. You want a solid piece because any gaps in the infill will most likely cause the pot to leak.

Once the parts are printed, just insert the planter cup and the spout.

Step 3: Plant

I’m not sure if it was necessary, but I added some pumice gravel to the bottom of the cup. I figured that if the water stays about on level with the top of the gravel, the soil at the bottom of the pot won’t be flooded, but rather will just wick up the right amount of moisture.

With the gravel in, I just placed the root ball into the cup on top of it.

Step 4: Done

That’s it! I talked to the folks at the nursery, and they seemed to think it was a good idea. They said that with the right kind of plant (the thirsty kind), a constant low level of moisture in the soil should keep it healthy for a long time. If you’re like me, you tend to kill plants- hopefully this pot will save me (and my plants) from myself.