The 35-cent Wine Bottle Plant Waterer




Introduction: The 35-cent Wine Bottle Plant Waterer

About: Weekend warrior with a day job creating workforce programming and standards for the material handling industry and keeping me from making a mess in the garage.

After breaking a few of the fancy blown glass plant watering bulbs, I figure there could be a more durable, homemade system that would serve the same purpose.  After killing a bottle of wine, the inspiration came to me!

The watering system utilizes the empty wine bottle, cork, and a small piece of tubing.  A hole is drilled into the cork to hold the tubing in place, and the bottle is inserted into the ground with the tube pointed downward to water the plant roots.

This Instructable focuses on how I modified the cork to fit easily in the bottle and hold the tube in place.  I was able to build these using materials around the hose, with the only exception being one quick trip to the store to purchase a length of tubing.  With a $1.39 (plus tax) expenditure, I was able to make four waterers, which computes to a total expenditure of less than 35 cents apiece.


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Step 1: What You’ll Need:


• Wine bottles (emptied of their yummy original contents), rescued from the recycle bin;
• Cork from wine bottle (I used one of the newer rubberized corks with great success)
• ¼ inch O.D. soft copper tubing.  I found a two-foot section for $1.39 at a local big-box home store:;
• A spare block of 2 x 4 to make the cork clamp;
• A small piece of ¼ inch wooden dowel.


• Drill press or hand drill;
• 7/8” spade drill bit and a 7/32” regular drill bit;
• Sandpaper (I used 150 grit);
• Tube cutter;
• Chop saw or table saw (used because they were available, hand saws would also work);
• Pencil and straightedge;
• Handscrew clamp.

Step 2: Step 1: Build Cork Clamp.

The rubber wine corks I used were approximately 0.82 inches in diameter.  I wanted a mechanism to clamp them while drilling to keep my fingers out of harm’s way.

First, I cut off a piece of the 2 x 4, approximately two inches long.  I drew a pencil line down the center of the wood block.  I then set up my drill press with the 7/8” spade bit and drilled a hole in the block, with the center of the bit aimed at the pencil line.  I then cut the block along the pencil line.  I placed a cork in the hole, and placed the two wood pieces and cork in the handscrew clamp.  The saw blade kerf allows for enough room to create sufficient clamping pressure to hold the cork in place without deforming it.

If I were using a circular saw or handsaw for building the clamp, I would have done this on a longer piece of 2 x 4, and cut it off at the end of the procedure.  The extra length of 2 x 4 would allow a place to hold it or clamp it to a workbench while keeping my fingers away from saw blades and drill bits.

Step 3: Step 2: Cork Modification.

With the cork clamped in the screwclamp, I installed the 7/32” drill bit into my drill press and drilled a hole through the center of the cork.  The soft rubber of the cork was easy to drill through.

Optional:  Cork tapering.

My attempts at dry-fitting the rubber corks into the wine bottles showed that this is a bit of a challenge.  The corks are wider than the bottle opening and do not compress easily.  I decided to taper the cork at one end so it would fit easier into the bottle.

To do this, I placed the ¼” wooden dowel into the cork hole and installed the cork and dowel in my drill press chuck.  I then sanded the bottom edge of the cork to give it the contour I want using a strip of 150 grit sandpaper.

In doing so, I discovered that the rubber corks consist of a hard rubber exterior, with a spongy interior.  The sanding operation leaves some small gouges in the softer rubber.  While not good for wine, this should not pose much of an issue for the plants.

This step requires that the hole be placed as close to the center of the cork as possible.  A few attempts to sand off-center corks resulted in substantially lob-sided corks not worthy of a photograph.

Step 4: Step 3: Tube Cutting.

As a preliminary proof of concept, I cut various lengths of the soft copper tube with the tube cutter.  All told, I managed to get four pieces of tube from the 2-foot section of tube.  After cutting, I sanded the cut edges with the same sandpaper to remove sharp burrs.  I also found that rolling the cut tube on my workbench helped to remove some of the inadvertent bends I placed in the tube while handling it.

Step 5: Step 4: Final Assembly.

Place the copper tube in the rubber cork.  The tight squeeze resulting from using a hole slightly smaller than the tube was sufficient to keep the tube in place without the use of any adhesives.  Fill the wine bottle with water, and push the cork into the wine bottle.  Place the bottle in the root zone of your thirsty plants and you’re finished! 

Unfortunately, since the first snow of Michigan hit approximately 48 hours before I built my first wine bottle plant waterer, I wasn’t able to fully validate the concept.  Let me know how yours turns out!

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    7 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Great idea! I wonder if you could have one bottle supplying a few pots?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    great ible, but i think you should use some other metal than copper... i'm not sure if it will kill most of your plants, but a coppernail insterted into a tree can kill it within a year


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comment. Other rigid materials could be used, I just happened across the copper first. I'm not sure whether the copper in this instance would have an impact on plants because there isn't direct contact, as opposed to the nail in the root example you mentioned. Several decorative garden items are made from copper and stuck in the ground, presumably without creating a plant toxicity concern.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    why? cause their copper plated, check with a magnet first tho


    6 years ago on Introduction

    u 4 got the expenditure 4 the gas depending on when u posted the video it couldve been around 4.00$ a gallon?


    7 years ago on Step 2

    Nice clamp idea for wine corks. I had to drill several with hand drill while holding them with other hand and it was quite scary. Even managed to drill two 10mm holes through a single cork without spilling any blood. So might be quite safe if you use your brainpower.

    How quickly do these drain? Some of the commercial ones empty so fast they're of no use.