double wall ceramic self-watering pots: questions

Boston, MA

potter here planning to make some: Question: (1) are they in fact good for African violets? (2) How about other types of plants?
thanks very much

Montgomery, AL

Ceramic double pots are not ideal for AV's because they can tend to stay either too wet or too dry. The grower has to be observant to 'learn' how the pot tends; that is, to keep the reservoir more or less full of water. Remember, the soil should be allowed to dry ( to a fingertip level) before re-watering or root rot is a threat. It depends on the AV's soil porosity too. AV's can be grown beautifully in these pots, but it's up to the grower to be vigilant in the beginning to get the right 'match' of water diffusion through the ceramic with the soil density. Also, ceramic pots must be 'primed' by soaking in water before placing the planted AV in the reservoir. Some don't start water diffusion well unless this is done and revert if the reservoir is ever left dry. Hope this makes sense.

(tish) near Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

They are tricky to keep a plant growing in them. A key also is to add a lot of perlite to the soil mix so it will not hold too much water. My aunt has a ceramic shop and made me some...I have worked with them to get soil/perlite combination that works pretty good.

The thrift stores are full of them and a few I bought, I was not happy with them at all, so I think a lot of people are having trouble growing in them:

I had one set that the planter part was like a sive...It just filled up with water! Completely saturated the wasn't supposed to do that...unless it was made for hydroculture or lucky bamboo., ha. (violets like damp soil not wet)

I've had others that would not pull water into the soil.

Maybe you could look into wicking or oyama pots and come up with a different idea.


Boston, MA

hmmmm - thanks for the information all. Does not sound as though these double-wall things are something i should concentrate on! ( just a thought seeing as there are boat-loads of coffee mugs and tea bowls out there)
However - I still would like any info about other types of plants possibly suited to the double wall ( lucky bamboo excepted! that was a good touch!)

(tish) near Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

I think any plant could grow in them, african violets are really not much different than other plants, its just how pourus the fired clay will be and how much is glazed as to if the planter will be plant friendly or drown it or let it dry up. Like I said my experience with these type planters are mixed. Not just for african violets, but any houseplant would have the same problems. Like I said, they are not all bad planters, just some. Also another factor is over time, fertiziler salts, minerals, and such block the pourus material and further cause the water to absorb into the clay.

It is not true that african violets cannot dry out or that they cannot get water on their leaves....the growers - the plants available in grocery stores and such are grown in a peat soil that holds too much water...this is so they can ship and sit them on shelves without drying out. The down side is it stays too wet and will rot the plants or it drys out so much it is hard to re-wet it. We get these plants and take off as much of the peat as possible and repot into a better soil mix that has extra perlite added to it so it does not hold too much water and rot the plant. The roots like damp, not wet.

Did you look into what the oyama pots look like? I think you could make something with that design with the growing part compelely glazed with holes punched into it before it is fired. You would need to let people know they need to fill the bottom part with perlite for this to work. There is a type of home-make oyama pot post here...check that out, I'll have to check to see what it is named, but it would be this year...I make them out of plastic, sort of recycle and it could give you an idea to "throw" something together, ha.


(tish) near Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Called: Self watering pot, posted Feb 25, 2011

Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

Exactly Tish!

It all boils down to wick/saucer watering that has been with us for a long time. When I wick, I put the pre-soaked wick an inch or two into the pot and cover it with perlite and then fill with my wicking mix (1 part regular mix, 1 part perlite). After planting, I make sure over the next few days that the pot is, in fact, wicking.

Many Gessie, particularly AV and Strep growers love Oyama pots. I find them too expensive but that's just me.

One thing about wicking that people tend to forget is that it is crucial to flush the soil with plain water (better: distilled water) once a month or so to prevent salt build up. The plants are on constant, weak feed when wicked (1/8-1/4 strength fertilizer solution in the reservoir). Another thing that can't be stressed enough is frequent repotting. That doesn't necessarily mean to always go up a pot size, it means that you want to check on the status of your mix and replace it. This also helps prevent salt build up.

As for the "Gessies don't like water on their leaves"-legend: As usual, this is only part of the story. The truth is: Most Gessies don't like COLD water on their leaves. It will cause what's called "Cold Water Burn". There is a scientific paper on this subject but I don't remember who wrote it and where it was published. I'll have to look for it and provide the link.

Warm water usually isn't a problem but can, of course, leave unsightly stains. Best is not to get the leaves of especially the fuzzy ones wet but it can't always be prevented. It would be strange to assume that plants from the rain forest don't tolerate to be rained on...

The moral of the story: Never use cold water on your tropical plants.

Oh, and concerning grocery store AVs: I pulled some from the toss-bin at Lowe's a few years back. One was so dried out that the "soil" was just one brick-hard clump of peat. The plant itself still looked surprisingly good. I didn't even bother to try to re-moisten the peat. I took off some leaves, cut the crown at soil level, rerooted it in good mix and now it's my most vigorous and floriferous, NOID violet. Most people would have thrown it out because they wouldn't know what to do with it. And this is one of the reasons why a lot of people think that AVs are hard to grow when they, in fact, aren't.

The Heart of Texas, TX(Zone 8b)

Here's my 2 cents.
I seem to be the odd one though, however, I love the self watering pots . The one improvement they need is to have a drain hole when made so you can flush them when needed or as I have done with many of mine used a drill bit and made them wick watering pots/ but planted them oyama style or Texas style. Mine love it and seem to do well enough for average houseplant . I'm not sure they would be showable in them and that is probable where they loose their popularity.
I like them because they are more stable on the shelf than deli style wicking containers and they set a little lower on the shelf which allows me to set my lights closer to them.


Hanceville, AL(Zone 7a)

Thanks, jamiew, my thoughts exactly. I have 1 such pot and do not think I will buy another. Luciee

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