Build a Simple Hydroponic Wick System and Avoid Tipburn on Your Houseplants

Introduction: Build a Simple Hydroponic Wick System and Avoid Tipburn on Your Houseplants

About: I am an owner-operator of a hydroponic vegetable greenhouse in Saskatchewan, Canada. I work at that too many hours, but I try to do the odd DYI project in my free time... well when I have time between gaming...

I'll teach you how to make a simple hydroponic system using materials that you likely have around your house. This system allows your houseplants to choose how much water they'd like to drink and will make developing that green thumb easier.

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Step 1: The Problem

Most houseplant problems, such as the leaf tip damage here, comes from poor watering technique. Often it's because the grower lets the plant dry out too much then waters it too much. It is much better to keep the plant's rootzone at a moist--but not wet--level.

Step 2: What You'll Need

- a plant to transplant
- old, clean towel or rag
- a pot that has drainage
- a container which is slightly bigger that is watertight 
- something, such as a brick, to elevate one pot several inches
- a knife
- coarse soilless media such as coconut choir
- granular, slow release fertalizer

Step 3: Place the Brick Into the Pot

I took the brick outside and smashed it on the ground until it broke. (Be careful and watch your toes if you use this technique.) Then I took the pieces and put them inside my watertight container.

Step 4: Prepare Your Pot for the Wick.

Cut a hole in the bottom of your pot (the one with drainage). (Please be careful and don't cut toward yourself).

Step 5: Prepare Your Wick and Insert It Into the Pot.

Cut a strip of cloth off of your towel or rag. It should be at least as long as the height of the pot with drainage and a couple inches wide. Roll it up and stick it through the hole you cut in the pot, then pull it until it is hanging out the bottom a few inches (it is important that the bottom end of the wick is hanging out below the pot at least as far as the bricks are high--in other words the wick will need to reach the bottom of the bricks but still be well into the pot).

Step 6: Prepare the Soil and Fill the Pot

Check whether the soilless media that you're using already contains fertilizer. If not, mix some slow release fertilizer into the media (follow the directions on the fertilizer) and begin filling the pot with your mix. Hold the wick up while you fill. You will want to put enough material into the bottom of the pot that the top of the media which your plant is currently growing in will be about an inch below the lip of the pot that you're transplanting into once you set it on that material.

Step 7: Add the Plant

Remove the plant from it's original pot. Check the roots; if they are winding tightly around the outside of the media gently tease some of them looser. Place the plant into your newly prepared pot and hold the wick along the plant's current rootzone material. If your wick would stick higher than the top of the plant's growing media, cut the wick off so that it will be below the surface. Fill in around the pot with your soilless media mix.

Step 8: Adding the Watertight Container...

Fill the watertight container with water to 80% the height of the bricks. You do not want the level of water in that pot to ever be higher than the top of the bricks. It's very important that your pot with drainage holes is able to drain! (It cannot if the water level in the watertight container is too high).

Now set the pot holding your plant into the watertight container in such a way that the bottom of the wick reaches the bottom of the watertight container and is submerged in the water. At this point I usually water the soilless media a little bit from the top if it was quite dry when I was working with it. It seems to work better if it begins moist. 

Step 9: Some Final Notes

The container that we used is not very pretty. This whole contraption can be placed into a prettier pot which is a bit larger (which is what we plan to do with Kaytee's plant). Or you can start off with a nicer watertight container than we did.

Now, in order to water this plant, you will add water to the bottom container. It's very important to never allow the water level to get higher than the bricks.

Every two or three months you should water a little from the top of the plant to help wash away some of the salts that build up (from the fertilizer), but basically, your plant will self water as long as you keep water in the lower container. 

Don't let the watertight container dry out! You will be able to water much less often than  you normally would, but you still have to keep that reservoir filled.

For more information about growing plants indoors, please check out!

A special thank-you to Kaytee.

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    3 years ago

    Nice instructable