Introduction: Turn Any Flower Pot Into a Self-wicking Planter

Hi All,
I’m sure we’ve all seen the Self Watering / Self Wicking pots and planters made using 5 gallon pails and other containers on YouTube and other sites. I like the convenience, but if you want to use it for decorative flowers they don’t look very pretty when compared to nice big fibreglass or concrete pots.
And their construction almost always requires you to have a pot with no hole at the bottom and to drill a hole on the side. Both of these approaches effectively rules out 90% of decorative pots and concrete planters.
This instructable shows how you can use your existing pots (yes, even with a hole in the bottom) and without drilling into the side to convert them to Self wicking/ watering pots with a water reservoir contained inside


Your existing pot/ planter
Empty 4l container (larger or smaller depending on your pot)
Landscape fabric
Old garden hose or length of pvc (24 inches in my case)
Empty water bottles ( I needed 4 in my pot)
Small 1litre cup (or 2l bottle cut to height)
Old long sleeve shirt
Loose rock / gravel /pebbles

Soldering iron
Sharp craft knife

Step 1: Select Your Planter

These two pots were on both sides of our garage door and they framed it nicely and complemented the exterior finish of the house.

Converting them to self-wicking maintained the appearance and made them much more convenient with longer intervals between waterings.

As you can see, this is a regular fibreglass planter pot with a drain hole in the bottom

Step one:

Line the bottom with about 2 inches of rock or gravel.

This is essentially to elevate your reservoir and allow drainage to take place

Step 2: Select Your Reservoir

Step 2:

Choose a container, the largest you can find that would fit in the bottom of the planter on top of the rock.

Here I used a 4L margarine tub with a tight fitting lid that fit in the bottom of the planter.

You would need two holes on this reservoir, one drain and one fill- I planned to use a piece of old garden hose I had lying around which was 5/8" (16mm) in diameter as my fill pipe.

Use the appropriate drill bit based on your fill pipe and make a hole on the top corner of the reservoir.

Drill another hole on the side of the reservoir as close to the top as possible. - it could be smaller , but I stuck with the same 5/8 (16mm). This will be the maximum level of water stored in the planter

Step 3: Step 3: Choose a Wicking Cup

Step 3:

Determine if you want to use a 2L bottle cut down to size or some other container as your wicking cup

This will hold the soil and serve as the "wick" to absorb the water from your reservoir and transfer it to your plant roots

Here, I was able to find a small disposable flower pot that you get at plant stores

Cut a hole in the lid of your reservoir to allow your wicking cup to snugly fit inside

Step 4: Step 4: "Ventilate" Your Wicking Cup

Step 4:

In order for the water to wick from the reservoir to the soil, we need to make several holes on the wicking cup.

To do this, I tried the same 5/8 (16 mm) bit which almost destroyed the cup, back up plan - use a soldering iron to punch as much holes as possible in the cup . Make sure to do this in a well ventilated area, the melted plastic cant be good for you if inhaled.

Step 5: Step 5: Sleeve It !

Step 5:

To allow the water to saturate the soil and not end up in the reservoir, the wicking cup must be placed in some sort of a membrane. This was made from an old shirt sleeve. This would allow the water to soak the soil while keeping it out of the reservoir

Step 6: Step 6: Fill Tube Installation

Step 6:

To ensure that the reservoir could be filled properly, cut the PVC , or garden hose at an angle and place it into the hole drilled on the reservoir lid.

Put the whole assembly in the planter to determine the length of fill tube. Remember to account for the final level of soil that will be in the planter and cut it about three inches above this level.

Step 7: Step 7: Landscape Fabric

Step 7:

Use some Landscape Fabric to keep the majority of the soil above the reservoir.

Cut two holes in the fabric, one around the wicking cup and the other for the fill tube

Stabilize the reservoir with some water bottles

Place the wicking cup and fill hose through the landscape fabric and into the reservoir

Step 8: Step 8: Add Dirt and Fill Reservoir

Step 8:

The Planter took about 25 litres of dirt to fill and about 31/2 litres of water before it started flowing out of the bottom

Step 9: Step 9 : Add Plants

Step 9 :

Plant your flowers and plants and fill up any extra space with dirt

Step 10: Two Weeks After Plants Added

Adding water about once a week kept the soil moist.

If you look carefully you can see the top of the fill tube in the back corner of the planter.

It took just about half litre before water started to flow out through the drain hole

Two weeks after the plants were added, they seem to be full and blooming nicely !

Planter Challenge

Runner Up in the
Planter Challenge