How to Make a Self Watering Planter

Take some of the stress out of gardening by creating a self-watering planter, which contains a reservoir that holds an extra supply of water. Water enters the reservoir through a pipe that runs from the top of the planter into its base. A cloth wick leads from the reservoir to the potting soil, and as the potting soil dries out it draws up more water through the wick. Select food-grade buckets to make a self-watering planter; don't use buckets that contained solvents, paint, pesticides or other harmful substances.

Compact plants grow best in self-watering planters.

Step 1

Drill a hole 3/4 inch wide in the side of a 5-gallon bucket so the top of the hole is 2 1/2 inches from the base of the bucket. This is the overflow hole for the reservoir.

Step 2

Saw the perforated drain tile into three pieces with a hacksaw. Each piece should be 2 1/2 inches long. Place the pieces flat side down in the bottom of the 5-gallon bucket. These tile pieces support the base of a second 5-gallon bucket and create the space for the reservoir.

Step 3

Drill a hole 1 3/4 inches wide through the bottom of a second 5-gallon bucket. Drill the hole in the corner, where the base meets the side. Drill a second hole 3/4 inch wide through the base of the bucket. The placement of this hole is unimportant, providing it's in the base of the bucket. Drill 15 holes 5/16 inch wide and equally spaced through the base of the bucket.

Step 4

Thread a piece of an old hand towel or dish towel through the 3/4-inch hole in the bottom of the 5-gallon bucket, until half of the towel is inside the bucket and half hangs out the bottom. Place the bucket with the towel inside the first bucket, which contains the pieces of drain tile.

Step 5

Push the PVC pipe through the 1 3/4-inch hole in the base of the inner bucket until it meets the base of the outer bucket. You may need to adjust the position of a drain tile if one is in the way.


  • Don't allow the self-watering planter reservoir to run dry. This dries out the wick, and when the wick dries out, water won't flow into the potting soil even after the reservoir is refilled.

About the Author

A graduate of Leeds University, Jenny Green completed Master of Arts in English literature in 1998 and has been writing about travel, gardening, science and pets since 2007. Green's work appears in Diva, Whole Life Times, Listverse, Earthtimes, Lamplight, Stupefying Stories and other websites and magazines.