Wondering how to make your own self-watering planter using only a kitchen knife and a pair of scissors? We’ll show you how in this tutorial.
How to Make a Self-Watering Planter (no drilling required)
There are many self-watering planter tutorials on the internet, but most of the ones I found required tools for drilling into the cap and other customizations. I wanted to design a tutorial for a self-watering pot that required only a couple tools you probably already have in your kitchen.
As you know, we’re all about reusing, recycling, and repurposing around here and I’ve been collecting all sorts of different sized bottles, jars, and other plastic containers over the years (okay, probably a few too many – ha!) and I’ve narrowed down my favorite selection which I’ll share with you here in this article.
If you’re not comfortable cutting into a plastic bottle, you’d like a more elegant pot for indoor plants, or this just doesn’t seem like the DIY project for you, there are some commercially available self-watering planter pots that look really great and work well, too.
One of the best self-watering planter designs I’ve seen is this one, which you can get on Amazon:
- ★ MULTI-PURPOSE: Drain holes at the bottom. Suitable for indoor or outdoor, balcony, window sill, table top, shelf, etc.
- ★ SELF WATERING. You don't have to water the plants every day, it can store enough water for a week or more, and it's easier to grow.
- ★ INCLUDING 4 COCONUT COIR SOIL. Each coconut coir disk becomes a 1 quart of fluffy plant fiber after using 0.5 quart of water. There is very little nutrients in the coir soil, so it is best to add some fertilizer After adding water to expand it, so that it can be used for a long time, just add some fertilizer at the right time. Due to policy reasons, the packaging of products sold in Australia/Japan does not contain Coco Coir Soil.
- ★ STYLISH AND SIMPLE APPEARANCE. It can be used in a variety of environments, whether it is for home, apartment, office, desktop, outdoor or indoor, it will complement your home environment. Rectangular flower pots with a length of 40 cm (15 1/2''), a width and a height of 14 cm (5 1/2''), can grow multiple plants, and are suitable to be placed on the balcony or office desk or bookshelf.
- ★ EASY TO OBSERVE. The water level indicator allows you to observe the water level at any time. Once the water level is below or close to the minimum water level, you can consider pouring water into the pot. There is a special water injection port for easy water injection.
Materials for self-watering planter
Time to Build:
Plastic bottle (square/rectangular preferred)
Old t-shirt or other tight-woven fabric
Steak knife (or other serrated knife)
Heavy gloves and eye protection for safety
Step 1: Choose your plastic bottle
You can use nearly any type of plastic bottle for your homemade self-watering planter, but the best one I’ve found is this 64-ounce Cranberry juice bottle from Walmart.
The cranberry juice bottle is somewhat rectangular in shape, which makes it easy to align the two sections once you’ve cut the bottle as shown in Step 3 below. Another benefit is that the squared shape allows for several bottles to be placed together on a shelf or table in a neat, clean order.
Of course, it also helps if your family likes cranberry juice like ours does — so you end up with quite a collection of plastic bottles to use for planters.
Step 2: Prepare to cut the bottle
Once you’ve selected a plastic bottle for your homemade self-watering planter pot, you’ll need to cut the bottle into two sections.
A finely-serrated knife like a steak knife works great for this step. Just remember not to use your finest cutlery, because cutting plastic bottles may dull your knife blade.
I’d also recommend wearing heavy gloves to help avoid cutting yourself and always wearing eye protection. Safety first, folks!
Step 3: Cutting the bottle for your self-watering planter
Another reason I really like the 64-ounce cranberry juice bottles from Walmart is that the top of the label makes a perfect spot to align your cut.
Using a cutting board to protect your counter — and heavy gloves plus eye protection to protect yourself — place the bottle on its side and carefully cut through the plastic. Roughly follow the top of the label with your cut but don’t worry about being perfectly accurate. We’re creating self-watering planter pots for functionality, not because they’re the prettiest things in the neighborhood.
Step 4: Wash off the label glue
Now it’s time to peel off the bottle’s label. You’ll likely be left with some glue residue from the label. If you’re lucky, a little soap and warm water will remove the residue. But if the glue is persistent, I’d recommend using the citrus-based product Goo Gone to get the stubborn stickiness completely off the outside of your bottle.
Step 5: Cut the self-watering wick (t-shirt fabric)
I’ve seen many how to make self-watering pot articles that call for using a cotton string or thin piece of rope to wick the water up into the soil. Because I didn’t want to drill a hole in the bottle’s cap, and I didn’t have any string laying around, I decided to use an old t-shirt that was already destined for the rag pile.
I found the easiest place to cut the shirt for your water wick is right along the seam on the end of the sleeve. But really any section of the shirt will do.
Once you’ve cut a length of the shirt, slide the top of the bottle into the bottom as shown in the photo below, and measure your shirt piece visually. You’ll want to cut it so the bottom will dangle in the bottom section and there will about 2″ of the shirt that stays in the top section’s dirt.
Step 6: Attach the self-watering wick
Now that you’ve cut your water wick to length, slide about 2 inches of the fabric up into the top section and screw the cap back on. This is why I like using the slightly thicker section of the t-shirt fabric, because you don’t have to worry about screwing the cap on too tight. The thick fabric will still allow water to wick up into the soil even with the cap fit quite snugly.
Step 7: Fill self-watering pot with dirt and add your plant
The the cap screwed on and the fabric in place, you can now fill the top section of the bottle with your favorite potting soil. We make our own compost here at the house and blend our own soils, but any commercial potting soil will do.
For this particular project I wanted to see if I could start a Crepe Myrtle tree from cuttings. My father has a wonderful flowering Crepe Myrtle in the front of his house, and the tree was recently damaged in a storm. It would be great if I could start my own tree from that mother plant to ensure its legacy.
While not specifically related to the self-watering planter project, when I start plants from cuttings I like to use a rooting hormone to help the new plant kick off its new life in soil. It’s an inexpensive and effective way to get your cuttings started a bit faster.
The final arrangement of your DIY self-watering planter will look similar to the photo below. Soil fills the top of the plastic bottle, which sits upside down in the bottom section. Water is filled nearly to the level of the cap, which is screwed on tightly with the wick fabric slid within it.
When you first set up your homemade self-watering planter, you’ll want to water the top of the soil a bit just to get the soil settled and keep it fully moistened for the plant’s new life.
While I used this particular project to start a new plant cutting, you can use your self-watering planter to start new seeds or even grow herbs in your kitchen window. And now, when you go on that weekend trip, you don’t have to worry about whether your plants will dry up while you’re away. They’ll be slowly sipping the water below through their t-shirt wick.
And don’t forget your DIY garden markers to label your plants in their new self-watering planter pots. They’ll add a bit of design to your self-watering garden and help you keep track of all your new plants.
Have you made your own self-watering pot or bought one that you love? Let me know in the comments below!