No matter if you use a watering can or hose, watering is one of the most important parts of gardening when it comes to determining how healthy your plants are. Even though it sounds like a simple chore, there are so many things that can go wrong. The container can have inadequate drainage, and this can lead to root rot or other problems, or you may forget to water your plants and they dry out. This happens to everyone sooner or later, and this is why self watering planters are a nice investment. They help you keep your plants pretty with minimal effort, and we’ll review the top 10 options below.
You can get both indoor and outdoor self watering planters when you shop, and they come in a huge range of sizes, materials, and colors to match your decor.
How Self Watering Planters Work
Self watering planters have two main methods that rely on capillary action to move the water from the reservoir to the pot itself. The first way involves having a wick that is positioned inside the containers and both ends go in opposite directions. The wick is made out of a capillary mat or string, and sucks water from the reservoir and draws it up into the planter.
If your self watering planter uses the second method, it comes with a potting mix that is the source of water. Water will move from the bottom of the container to the rest of the pot using capillaries. This design is the standard one you’ll find on the majority of the self watering planters available, not the first method.
1. Plow & Hearth Self Watering Planter – Top Pick
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The first self watering planter on the list is one that is functional as it is stylish. You can choose from three different sizes when you shop, including small, medium, or larger. The biggest planter in this option is large enough to hold outdoor shrubs or bigger plants, and this is something that is harder to find at this price point. If you want to get a pair for your home, you’ll have to buy them separately since there is no option to buy them as a set, but this allows you to mix and match sizes too.
There is a frost-free resin on this self watering planter that makes the price point higher, but you get a quality material that comes built to last for years, so it’s a decent value. You will be able to rely on years of use without worrying about it fading, warping, or any other damage. It comes styled look like copper, but it’s a fraction of the cost and includes a self watering feature.
To use this planter, all you’ll have to do is fill the reservoir in the bottom of the pot before adding your plants. Once you plant them, you’ll water like usual. Any excess water will collect at the bottom of the reservoir until your plants need it. When they dry out, the plants can get to the stored water. This is an indoor/outdoor planter, but it’s very nice for outdoor use because it does come with drainage holes too. When it rains and there is too much water in your planter, the excess drains out once the reservoir is full.
- Made to mimic the look of copper
- Great indoor/outdoor planter
- Frost-free resin included
- Has drainage holes
- Larger reservoir
- Durable enough to last
- From a reputable company
- Doesn’t come in a set
- Bottoms are more narrow
2. FCMP Outdoor Heritage Planter – Step-up Pick
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This taller planter is our step-up pick that comes with a very timeless design to help you make a statement in your doorway or porch to boost your curb appeal. It comes in several classic color options, including black, white, gray, and black, and it’s 32 inches tall. This allows it to make a statement when you place it around your home, no matter if it’s inside or outside.
The water reservoir on this self watering planter does take up half the space, so you won’t use a ton of soil when you plant. It comes in at 128 ounces, and this can last for a few days to a few weeks, but this will depend on your plants and climate. If you have it outside, this reservoir will collect water as it rains. If it does, all you have to do is monitor the drainage holes and add water when you can’t see it coming out. When you see water trickling out of the drainage holes, it means the reservoir is full.
The sizable water reservoir and the drainage holes make these rust and weather-resistant self watering plants great to use outside. It is made out of plastic, so this makes it easy to move around. For the price, we would like to see an option made out of metal, resin, or a thicker plastic. However, the construction is solid, so it should last for years without any huge problems.
- Has a rust-resistant finish
- Weather-resistant in different climates
- Larger water reservoir
- Bigger drainage holes
- Sleek and stylish look
- Comes in several color choices
- Very portable
- Made out of thinner plastic
- Not suitable for smaller spaces
3. Gray Bunny Hanging Planter Basket – Mid-end Budget Pick
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The Gray Bunny self watering planter basket nails two very important aspects of any hanging basket as it self-waters and has great drainage. Watering these planters can be slightly tricky, so the less you have to do it, the better off you are. It’s also essential that your hanging baskets drain well to prevent root rot. This planter comes outfitted with an interior basket with triple drainage holes, a water measuring meter to make sure it never dries out, and three wicks to bring the water back to the soil. The interior basket, where you have your plants, is slightly shallow. So, it’s better to use it with plants that have wide root structures like hydrangea, periwinkle, or English ivy.
The exterior layer of this self watering planter features a wicker-style resin design that is very attractive, and there is a secondary drain. This is great if you have heavy rainfall and you need to get rid of water to prevent water logging around the roots. The outer shell is the reservoir that can hold up to four cups of water, and this can last up to a few weeks, depending on the climate and the plants you pick out. This basket comes designed to use outside, but you can remove the chain and bring it indoors to use as a tabletop piece. Just make sure you close the secondary drain to prevent a mess.
- Easy to set up
- Has a closeable secondary drain
- Holds four cups of water
- Attractive wicker-like look
- Sturdy chains
- Larger drainage holes
- Bigger size
- Not suitable for indoor use
- Can be difficult to drain
4. ETGLCOZY Self-Watering Planter – Bargain Budget Pick
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ETGLCOZY offers a five piece self draining planter st that is an excellent value while including all of the features you need to keep your smaller potted plants watered and happy for under $25. It works well for smaller plants like herbs or succulents, and you get a set of five pots that come with three six-inch pots, a 4.1-inch pot, and a 3.2-inch pot. This allows you to group and display your plants very easily too.
These planters have a very modern look with white or gray coloring, and the water reservoir in the bottom of the planter allows you to clearly see the water level. The reservoirs will show dirt after a while, but you can clean them out periodically to keep a neat look. Also, emptying out the reservoir and cleaning it once in a while will keep the plants healthy and happy. It suspends a cotton rope in the reservoir to pull water up to the plant’s roots as it needs it.
- Comes as a set of five pots
- Very modern look
- Neutral colors
- Easy to clean out the reservoir
- Can clearly see water levels
- Fun way to group plants
- Best for smaller plants
- Reservoir will show dirt
- Not available in larger sizes
5. Click & Grow Herb Garden Kit – Best for Herbs
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If you want to grow herbs inside and you have no idea where to start this project, this self watering planter is a great choice. You get three basil plants included for the pod when you buy it, and there are plenty of other pods that you can buy separately and use to give yourself a nice herb mix. The reservoir’s opening is on the side of the planter, and it’s easy to fill with a watering can or a glass of water. You get a water level indicator that tells you how much water is inside and when it’s time to fill it.
This herb garden planter works nicely for small plants or seedlings too, but you’ll have to transplant your herbs into a bigger container when they outgrow this self watering planter. If you’re growing herbs to use in the kitchen and you cut them back periodically, you can keep them in this container without a problem. It comes with a LED light included that makes it a great planter for darker kitchens or rooms that don’t have a lot of natural light streaming in.
- Comes with three basil plants
- Can purchase more herb pods
- Has a LED grow light
- Water reservoir is easy to fill
- Comes with a water level indicator
- Compact setup
- Best for seedlings or small plants
- Have to transplant bigger herbs
- Made out of plastic
6. Aquaphoric Self Watering Planter – Best for Beginners
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The water level indicator in this self watering planter is very easy to use and read, and this makes it a great choice for anyone who is brand new to using self watering planters or gardening in general. The reservoir is on the bottom of the planter, and it is on the smaller side. However, it’s also very easy to fill using a spout on the side whenever you need to. It’s right by the water level indicator, so you won’t ever have to worry about guessing how much water is in the pot.
This is a more compact self watering planter, roughly the size of a teapot. However, the kit includes the soil you need and it comes with five different finishes and colors. The manufacturer paid special attention to the design and style to make it easy to customize your planter’s look. Despite how it appeals to any beginner container gardeners, it’s also a nice choice for experienced gardeners who want to grow micro-indoor plants or herbs.
- Has a water level indicator
- Reservoir is clear
- Great for micro-plants or herbs
- Comes in five colors and finishes
- Great for beginners
- Easy to set up
- Comes with soil
- Very small container
- Has a plastic design
7. CedarCraft Elevated Planter – Best for Outdoor Use
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Featuring cedar that is weather-resistant, this self watering planter is one that makes it very easy to grow and water outdoor plants without having to bend over, kneel, or reach up and take down a hanging basket. You can use this raised planter for seedlings all of the way through the mature plant stage for most plants. It does require you to assemble it when you get it, but it has a tongue-and-groove construction that minimizes the need to use several tools. Most people will have the tools they need on hand to put this planter box together.
You get an impressive six-gallon reservoir that runs along the bottom of your self watering planter box. Depending on how many plants you add and their stages of growth, this can last from a few days to a few weeks. It comes outfitted with a water level indicator and a fill spout at one end. You can use it indoors without worrying about damage, but it’s really meant to be used outside with larger plants. It’s also heavy to move once you get it put together and filled with soil, water, and plants. We recommend put it together right where you’re going to keep it.
- Cedar is the main material
- Has a reservoir spout
- Can use it indoors out outdoors
- Great for larger plants
- Tongue-and-groove assembly
- Doesn’t require a lot of tools
- Very solid design
- Heavy once full
- Not great for indoor use
8. Bloem Self-Watering Planter – Best for Indoor Use
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If you want to coordinate how your self watering planter looks with your decor, try this opinion. They come in four colors, including charcoal, pebble stone, merlot, and misty blue. All of the colors are very muted and complement a huge range of decor styles and plants.
These medium-sized self watering planters are made out of plastic and very simple. You won’t get a water level indicator when you buy it, but the self-watering feature collects any extra water and stores enough for a few days for most plants. The simple design allows your plants to take center stage, and the planter comes with UV protection. So, if you expose it to the sun, you shouldn’t have to think about the color fading.
- Four colors available
- Very simple and straightforward design
- UV protection
- Decent size
- Allows the attention to fall on the plant
- Works with several decor styles
- Not too expensive
- Doesn’t have larger pots
- No water level indicator included
9. GardenBasix Elongated Planter – Best for Window Sills
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If you want something other than the basic round planter for your self watering planter, GardenBasix offers a rectangular option that fits in your window sills. This planter comes with a perforated inner pot that sits about the water level in the lower reservoir, and this allows the roots to grow downwards to the water. The planter also comes with coconut coir potting mix, and this wicks the water from the reservoir up into the soil.
Refilling this self watering planter is easy as it comes with a water inlet port that goes right into the reservoir. You won’t have to disturb the plants or give it too much water as some plants like drier conditions. It comes with a nice water level indicator that allows you to see when it’s time to refill at a glance. It’s 5.5 inches wide and 16 inches long, so you have enough space for a small herb garden or small plants. However, this planter is too small for plants with larger root systems or larger plants.
- Fits neatly into a window sill
- Rectangular shape
- Water inlet port makes filling it easy
- Perforated inner pot
- Roots can grow right into the reservoir
- Very solid design
- Water level indicator included
- Too small for big plants
- More narrow bottom
10. KETER Urban Bloomer Raised Planter – Best for Small Gardens
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The final self watering planter on the list comes from Keter, and it has a few options for large-scale planters. This one in particular offers reliable function with a stylish form. The self watering feature is at the bottom of your planting tray, and it is two narrow, long depressions. All you have to do is thoroughly water the soil and the excess water will go through into the depressions for your plants to soak up.
Even though it can seem like you water blindly each time you do, it comes with a water indicator level that guides the watering process. The indicator is shaped like a sprout, and it’s green on the top and red along the bottom. If you can see any red peeking through, you’ve added too much water. If you do, you have to open the drainage plug and allow some to flow out. When the green sprout sinks low, you have to refill it.
- Cute water level indicator
- Features depressions to hold the water
- Slightly larger shape
- Works well for smaller garden plants
- Stylish look
- Very functional and reliable
- Easy to drain
- Doesn’t hold a huge amount of water
- Drainage hole is smaller
How to Set Up a Self Watering Planter
When it comes to setting up your self watering planter, you’ll have a relatively easy process. The following steps will help you get it up and running in no time:
- Look at the manual that comes with your platner to figure out how to separate teh inner container from the outer one.
- Put the moist mix into the bottom of the planting pot to help encourage moisture movement. If the pot you’re using comes with a wick system, ensure that you have one end in the mix and the other in the reservoir.
- At this point, you’re ready to add your plants to the potting mix. Plant them in the self-watering planter and ensure that the mix supports them well.
- Water your plants using a can to sprinkle water onto your container’s surface. This will help get rid of any air pockets and settle the plant’s roots into the potting mixture. You will only need to do this once before the reservoir kicks in and waters for you.
- Allow the water to trickle down into the reservoir and then fill the reservoir to the correct level.
- Monitor your water levels and refill them as needed. However, you don’t want to let the tank dry out. If it does, you’ll moisten the mix before you add water to the reservoir to ensure it works correctly.
How you set up your self watering planter will depend on the one you pick, but most come with straightforward directions.
What to Consider When Buying Self Watering Planters
There are several factors you should consider when it comes to buying a self watering planter to ensure that it helps your plants stay thriving and healthy. A few considerations to keep in mind include:
The number of plants you can put in your self watering planter is something to consider because it’ll help you determine how many plants you have space for. Some pots are small and can only hold one or a few plants while others can hold several plants and have room to spare. So, you want to go with a highly-rated system that has enough space for everything you want to plant. If you have a lot of plants, a self watering planter box is a great idea.
Oxygen is something your plant roots need to ensure they grow and stay healthy. When the roots get soaked with water on a routine basis, they can suffocate, drown, and eventually rot. You want to pick out a self watering planter that prevents drowning by providing a barrier between the roots and the water reservoir. This will help ensure the plant stays watered while the roots have enough oxygen.
How often you have to refill your self watering planter will depend on the reservoir size, climate, and the plants. While some require you to refill them once every two weeks, some can go up to a month between fills. Most of the planters on the list had a water indicator built in that shows you the water level at a glance. This way, you can easily tell when it’s time to refill while preventing your planter from running dry.
Size of Pot
Different planters come in different sizes to accommodate plants of all sizes. Remember, the goal is to buy a self watering planter that allows for root growth without being too large. Picking a planter that is too small or too big can stunt your plant’s growth or production due to incorrect conditions. Also, consider the depth of your planter to ensure your plant has balance all year-round.
Type of Material
Manufacturers use different materials to make their self watering planters like BPA-free plastic and polypropylene. The plastic material comes in several forms like polished or lacquered finishes to make it visually appealing. For polypropylene, this material is harder to break, so it makes your planters last longer.
Some self watering planters also come with blends that you use in place of a soil or mix it into the soil while you plant. For example, the LECHUZA-PON substrate works like a natural storage space for nutrients because it absorbs extra fertilizer and slowly releases it into the soil. On the other hand, coconut coir is very popular as it uses coconut fibers to allow for better aeration, suitable pH levels, and great water-holding capacity to ensure you have healthy growth.
The planter that you pick out will depend on your climate, which plants you want to use, and how much space you need to get them all to fit.
Self Watering Planter Benefits
If you’re on the fence about buying a self watering planter over a more traditional one, there are a few benefits that can help tip the odds in this style’s favor. They include:
- Consistent Moisture Levels – Your plants will benefit from consistent moisture levels without having to water them each day or every other day. Even when the weather gets hot, the plants will have a good water supply without a lot of effort. These pots are great for plants that need a constant water supply to grow, but cacti and succulents won’t do well in these pots as they prefer drier conditions.
- Disease Prevention – Keeping fungal diseases away from your plants is key, and these pots can help. Since water won’t splash up on the leaves, you will get healthier plants all year round.
- Efficient Water Use – Water gets stored in an enclosed tank in a self-watering planter, and the evaporation rate is much slower. Unlike using a watering can that will splash water onto the foliage and cause waste, these planters help your plants effectively utilize all of the water by absorbing only what it needs through the roots. So, if you’re looking for a planter to help you save a small amount of money while providing your plants with the water they need, a self watering planter is a viable option.
We’ve outlined 10 of the best self watering planters available on the current market, and you can compare them to see which one will fit your needs the best. We’ve also added a quick buyer’s guide to consider as you shop, and a few benefits to help you see if this planter is right for you.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.