Plant Pro Speaks Up: Gimmicky Self-Watering Pots Are Ruining The Houseplant Hobby

Watering plants is the Achilles heel for many plant lovers. 

If you’re looking for an easy solution to your watering woes, you may have stumbled upon products that promise to take the work out of keeping your plants hydrated: self-watering pots. 

But TikTok gardener @tannertheplanter cautions against these containers. 

Why? Self-watering pots can actually give your plants too much water. These pots, available at many garden stores, contain a built-in reservoir. This reservoir holds water, operating off of the idea that the plant can then access the water whenever it needs it. 

truth about self-watering pots
Image Credit: TikTok @tannertheplanter.

Water Water Everywhere

watering a snake plant

Think about what would happen if you put out an entire bag of dog food for your labrador. The dog wouldn’t stop eating once it had consumed enough to sustain it.

Plants are pretty much the same when it comes to water. The roots will attempt to “drink” water as long as it’s available. Overwatering plants can lead to root rot, fungal infections, pest infestations, and more undesirable consequences. 

If in doubt, err on the side of caution. Many plants can tolerate some amount of dryness, but few do well with overwatering. 

How Often Should You Water Plants? 

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when you’re developing a plant watering routine. 

Different plants will require different amounts of water and myriad factors such as sunlight, soil quality, pot size, temperature, and humidity can all influence your plant’s water needs. Even conditions such as time of year and altitude can impact plant watering!

Not to mention certain plants that are succulents, such as snake plants, need much less water than a Spider plant.

In general, plants growing in sunny, warm, dry conditions will need watering more frequently than those growing in shady, cool, humid areas. Potted plants will likely also require more often than the same plants growing directly in the ground. 

Alternatives to Self-Watering Pots

In addition to being potentially harmful to your plants, self-watering pots are also pricey. So what’s the alternative if you’re struggling to perfect your watering routine? 

You could create an elaborate regiment of reminders on your phone or download an app. But use these tools as guidelines rather than hard and fast watering rules. 

Instead, approach each plant on its own terms. This will involve researching the water requirements for your plants. It also involves paying attention to the physical plant and its surrounding soil. 

Many houseplants, for example, require water relatively infrequently. It’s a good idea to let the soil dry out completely between watering rather than keeping the soil constantly damp. 

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@tannertheplanter

Self watering pots in and of themselves aren’t bad, and are completely fine for your plant. The problem is with how misleading the marketing is. You’re supposed to use them as you would any potted plant and only water when the plant needs watered. Then, you dump water in the reservoir and it sucks it up from the bottom. Self watering pots are just fancier, more expensive cache pots. However, the marketers of these products would have you think that water should always be kept in the reservoir and the plant will just drink what it needs which is completely false! What a shame…. planttiktok planttips houseplants

♬ original sound – Tanner Mitchell
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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.