Common Questions, Tools & Techniques  |  February 21, 2021

How to use our Self-Watering Pots

How to plant our self-watering pots

Potting your plant in our self-watering container is a quick and easy task that shouldn't take more than five minutes. Make sure you pot your plant in an area that's easy to clean, because it's likely you'll spill a little dirt along way.


Place the Sub-Irrigation Insert inside the planter, ensuring it sits evenly. Pour the included Aeration Stones over the insert until it is covered.


Gently remove your plant from its existing pot and place it within your new planter. If necessary, put some dirt into the bottom of the pot so that the base of the plant aligns with the top lip of the planter, allowing for a half inch to an inch of clearance. You'll want to make sure that when fully planted the soil mass is slightly below the top of the planter.


Add soil to fill your planter and gently compact it to ensure the plant is secure in the pot. Water the soil thoroughly and set the planter on the provided saucer reservoir.

Initial set-up

You'll want to top water for the first couple of weeks. This is because it takes time for the plant's roots to grow into the Sub-irrrigation Insert. Different plants grow at different speeds, depending on the amount of light they receive. For instance, Ficuses' roots will usually grow into the insert within one week, while plants with shallow root systems like succulents may not be visible for months. After two weeks, you can test to see if the self-watering function is working by filling the catchment tray about 1/2 full with water. If the water level starts lowering on its own, congratulations, your plant is ready to start drinking directly from the reservoir! If the level doesn't move noticeably in about a week, continue to top-water for a couple of more weeks and test it again.

When to water

Most plants need a dry-out period. This means that between watering, you'll want to let the roots dry for a couple of days. Certain plants, like those native to wetland areas, can handle constant moisture, but for the majority of plants letting the roots sit in water indefinitely will lead to root deterioration.


Fertilizing your plants in a sub-irrigated vessel is easy when you use a liquid low-grade organic fertilizer. Follow the dilution directions on the fertilizer package and pour directly into the planter reservoir. The plants will absorb the nutrient-rich water as they drink. We recommend fertilizing your plants every 4 to 6 weeks during their growing season, generally in the spring and summer months when they receive more light throughout the day.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when the soil gets too dry?

If watering is missed for an extended period and the soil mass gets too dry, it looses its ability to transfer water from the reservoir. The easy fix is to lift and separate your planter from the bottom reservoir and bring it to a sink where you can top-water your plant until the soil is completely saturated. This can take anywhere between one and five minutes for a dry root mass. Wait a few minutes until no more water runs through and and try watering a small amount again. The soil should absorb the water without letting it run through the bottom. If not, you may need to add more water. After using this re-hydration method, do not fill the reservoir. The plant will need a time to dry out before you're ready to use the reservoir again. Try to be consistent with your watering as extreme drought and flood can stress and weaken plants over time. 

What happens if the soil gets too wet?

Certain plants that tend towards dryer soil might have difficulty adjusting to sub-irrigation if the reservoir is kept full of water at all times because the Aeration Stones help facilitate the transfer of a small amount of moisture even if the plant's roots aren't drinking. This is usually a seasonal issue in fall and winter when plants aren't receiving enough light to process water. If you notice this becoming a problem, simply give the plant time to "dry out" between refilling the reservoir, usually for a period of 5-7 days. We've noticed this can be an issue for the following plant families and recommend dry out periods in fall and winter months:

  • Thaumatophyllum
  • Alocasia
  • Pilea

Root pruning

Sub-irrigation can encourage big spurts of healthy root and foliar growth, and if you notice your reservoir is becoming crowded with roots you may want to do some pruning. When trimming plant roots, never remove more than 1/3 of the root mass at any one time. Also be sure to focus on the thread roots, not the major tap root which often will appear as the thickest root of the plant.

How to repot?

Repotting your plant once the roots have grown through the sub-irrigation insert can seem daunting, but fear not, it is actually quite simple. In fact, you may not need to remove the roots from the insert at all. Place the planter on its side in your hand and gently grab the base of the plant. Pull gently to remove the plant from the vessel. If the roots have not significantly grown through the sub irrigation insert you can gently pull the insert away from the plant and put is aside. If the root system has thoroughly grown through insert, you can simply repot the plant with the insert included! The roots will continue to envelop the insert and it will not obstruct its growth over time. As in nature, when roots interact with obstructions such as stones or other masses, the roots will grow around to reach the water source and continue to thrive. For more general information on repotting your plant, check out our blog post on repotting.

Can I flush the soil?

Over time, fertilizing your plant can cause salts to build up in the soil, which can be harmful to the plant. It depends on how much you fertilize, and what type of fertilizer you use, but if you're fertilizing regularly it's a good idea to flush your soil every few months to a year. Thankfully, flushing your soil is extremely easy using our self-watering pots. Simply take the top portion of the planter and run it under a faucet for a period of 10-20 minutes. Once the roots are firmly established they should hold the sub-irrigated insert in place, so you should be able to simply balance it in the sink. Make sure you're not running your water at a high pressure or else you'll run soil out of the pot.

How do I clean the White Dolomite and Terracotta finishes?

White Dolomite and Terracotta both have very porous surfaces, which can be prone to smudging over time. We recommend cleaning these finishes with a damp Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

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