So, I noticed that all my "self-watering pots/planters", the bottoms, where the water reservoir is, detaches from the planter part. My question is this... am I supposed to remove that part and adjust the reservior a little so that water CAN reach the soil, or if I leave it put together the way they were purchased (without removing the reservoir and readjusting it), and put water in there, will the water still be able to reach the soil?
I am new to using and growing plants indoors like this, so I feel like I am in unfamiliar territory. So far, I have not removed the bottom from the top part yet on my other planters like this, and have been watering my plants by making sure the top of the soil is moist, but it seems as if I am overwatering this way, and killing my plants, so I thought I would try things differently, to ensure I don't overwater.
You need to decide whether you want to water plants from the top or from the bottom using the self-watering reservoir and do one or the other (not both--if you water from the top when you also have water in the reservoir at the bottom, your plants will drown). If you want to use the self-watering feature, then leave the reservoir on the bottom, add water, and let it do its thing, refilling the reservoir when it gets empty but don't ever water the plants from the top (if you decide to do it this way, the reservoir is designed to allow the water to wick up into the soil, you shouldn't need to adjust things). Or if you prefer watering from the top then get rid of the reservoir and treat it like a normal pot where you allow the water to drain out the bottom (vs sitting in the reservoir). If you end up doing that, I'd save yourself money next time and buy regular pots instead of self-watering ones--the regular ones tend to be cheaper.
Ok, so I can use it as is directly from the store then, right? What is the purpose of the reservoir bottom snapping off then?
P.S. I am planning to start watering from the bottom only. Until this point I was only watering from the top and not messing with the reservoir thing, but I am finding that I am still drowning the plants so I wanted to try to use the self-watering reservoir feature instead and see if that will help me prevent overwatering.
I've been having trouble finding regular pots lately, which is why I just settled on the selfwatering ones, figuring if nothing else, by NOT using the reservoir feature as a self watering feature, at the very least it would serve as a way to keep things aerated and allow any excess water to drain out the bottom. But now that I'm seeing that I'm still managing to overwater... i'm just looking for a better alternative so I dont overwater anymore.
If you want to use them as regular pots, water from the top and make sure you drain the excess out of the reservoir at the bottom when you're done rather than letting water sit in there. If you let water sit in the base and you also continue to water from the top then the soil stays permanently sopping wet rather than having time to dry out in between. But if you either stop watering from the top or stop letting water sit in the bottom reservoir then you should have less trouble with overwatering.
I would just snap off the bottom and leave the pots that way permanently. Water from the top. Catch the overflow in a sink, and then when the pot is finished dripping, place it on a saucer. Then put the plant back into the light.
It was late last night, and I was going to add to the thread what TJ just said, but decided to wit until this AM, so now that I've been saved the effort, I'll just second what he/she said.
There are potential issues with SWCs for houseplants. The main two are passive over-watering due to overly water-retentive soils that wick too well (peat based soils from a bag generally don't work well in these containers for this reason) and the fact that they ENSURE a build-up of soluble salts, because ALL the dissolved solids from tapwater AND fertilizer solutions remain IN the soil. It's much better to water from the top and flush the soil each time you water, removing accumulating salts from the soil, than it is to water by wicking from the bottom. If you feel you cannot water in this fashion, your soil is inappropriate for best health/vitality/growth.
You can't see it well, but notice the soil this plant is in - It is like fine gravel mixed with a little bark. It is VERY easy to grow in, provides an extremely well-aerated environment for roots, and provides the grower with a much wider margin for error in the watering/fertilizing departments. I've been using it for more than 20 years, and the many photos of houseplants with perfect foliage is ample evidence to its efficacy.
Hi, I'm glad I spotted this thread. I also bought one of those self-watering containers because that was all that was available this winter. I never had one before. Mine had instructions to water the first couple of times from the top, but I have continued to do so afterwards. I never thought to empty the reservoir, duh...
Thanks, Al, and thanks to Mrs. Lidwell for asking the question!
That's very interesting Al! Do you suggest that soil mixture for strictly houseplants, or would this also work for plants one started in pots, but intend to transplant to the garden. Reason I ask is because I realized that I started some things too soon this year (bulbs mostly) in pots with intentions on transplanting them. They are growing very well, despite not draining the water-reservoir of the excess water (which I will start to do now that I know I should do this lol. Like KyWoods, I didnt think to drain it). I do however have a dracaena tree that I need to repot in a larger pot with newer soil though. Do you think this gravel/bark soil mixture would work well for that tree? Also, this soil mixture, since I know soil provides lots of nutrients plants need... does this particular soil mixture you are talking about still provide the same nutrients, or is there something more that I need to apply to plants to thrive like that? Maybe if I did a mixture of soil, small gravel, and bark... would that be better, that way the soil that would be in there would still provide the plants with the nutrients they need? Is that soil mixture you are talking about a mixture you made, or one that can be bought?
The salt build-up thing that was mentioned does make sense too. I assume thats what is causing the soil that is close to the pot (not on the plants/plant stems) to have a white look to them.
Many people like to try to bring the garden to container culture, thinking that the soil has to supply all the plants nutritional needs, but that doesn't work well. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being growing in the ground and 10 being hydroponics, container culture is about a 7 or 8 - much closer to hydroponics than growing in the ground. For that reason, the most consistently successful container growers look to their soils for proper structure, that is to say to retain a favorable ratio of water and air in the soil, and to a well thought out fertilizer program for the plants nutritional needs.
I make all my own soils. I use the gritty mix I showed for long term plantings. Its 2/3 inorganic fraction of baked clay and crushed granite are natural ingredients that don't break down. The other 1/3 of the soil is pine or fir bark, which breaks down so slowly that the soil is sure to retain its drainage and aeration for much longer than it's appropriate to go between repots. For other, short term plantings, I use another highly aerated soil that is almost all organic, but based on larger particles of pine bark, which is what ensures the aeration/drainage properties much superior to most bagged soils based on peat and other fine particulates. You can't start with a soil based on fine particles and amend it by adding large, because the soil has to have well over 50% large particles before the soil takes on the aeration/drainage characteristics of the large particles. To picture this in your mind's eye, ask yourself how much perlite you would need to add to pudding to get it to drain well & be well aerated. A LOT - yes?
I have all my houseplants (including cacti/succulents), bonsai, woody plants growing on for future bonsai in the gritty mix. Each of the 3 ingredients were the best I could find after extensive searches at fulfilling their particular role. I've been tinkering with soils and helping people improve their growing skill sets for a long time now, and I haven't yet found a way to improve on what has been the end product for nearly 20 years. I know it will sound like a Superthrive commercial when I say I've helped many relatively new to growing in containers produce plants consistently superior in growth and vitality to the plants of others that have been using the same methods they learned many years ago. Technology and science have advanced so rapidly and touched every aspect of our lives. The world of horticulture has advanced just as quickly, but for some reason the information and innovations don't seem to make it to the mainstream very quickly. That's a shame, because there are a lot of growers who could advance their abilities by being infused with some of the science that in the end governs our effort:satisfaction quotient. ;o)
I use the self watering pots for my African Violats. I never water from the top. I just make sure that the water level in the reservoir reaches the bottom of the pot when I set in there. This way the water wicks up through the unglazed part of the pot. I check them once a week and make sure the water level is high enough. This keeps them evenly moist and that what AVs want. I always age my water before I put it on my houseplants or in the self watering containers. I have never had a problem with salts or any sort of build up. Even when I repot my AVs there is no evidence of salts.
I don't know how you would use the pot as a traditional pot ( without the reservoir ) because there are no drainage holes. Where would the water go when you water from the top?
I make drainage holes in all my plastic pots with a soldering iron. If there are already drainage holes, I make them bigger; if there are none, I create them. The soldering tip works great, but caution is advised as it is an electrical device that must be handled with care.