Problems With Self Watering Pots

Problems With Self Watering Pots Image

Self-watering pots, AKA self-watering planters, are popular among busy plant parents. But for today, in this article, get to know the 9 problems with self-watering pots.

Apart from problems, these self-watering containers help water our indoor plants. They mainly come in handy when you’re extra busy doing watering sessions. 

Unfortunately, with every good thing, there’s always a wrong side. And a self-watering container isn’t exempted. Fortunately, self-watering pots pros do exist, something undeniable. 

Besides decoding the problems with self watering pots, we’ll give you some solutions too. So, continue reading.

What Is Self Watering Planter?

Self-watering pots use the sub-irrigation method to deliver moisture to your plant’s roots. The good thing is that they do so without guesswork. Further, at the bases of the self-watering pots, there lies a water reservoir. 

This moisture reservoir lets your plants drink at their pace. Apart from that, this reservoir visually shows when your plants need moisture. Also, the self-watering containers help maintain the plant’s moist soil. 

The science behind self-watering flower pots and sub-irrigation boils down to basic botany. In this case, your plants absorb moisture via osmosis, then move it via the plant. They do so through the following:

  • Water potential differences
  • Capillary action

In summary, you can call that whole process transpiration. When the plant roots have less contact with moisture, they draw less water. That means the plant growth will decline since it won’t maintain its rigidity. 

Because of that, your favorite Peace Lily will droop when it gets extra dry.

How Does A Self Watering Pot Work For Plants?

The potting soil draws moisture from the outer self-watering pot via the wick. The soil does so through the capillary system. But that happens provided the pot’s reservoir has enough moisture.

Among self-watering pots, flooding through the overflow hole is a rare problem. I say that since these self-watering planters have several drainage holes. 

The drain holes help drain excess moisture from the soil of your self-watering plants. Subsequently, excess water collects within the reservoir of your self-watering planter. 

In other self-watering pots, you’ll find an overflow hose. This hose ensures moisture never swamps the platform. Importantly, leaving the potting mix and the container to dry is wrong. 

That’s so because the wick won’t draw moisture, causing death from withering. 

How To Use Self Watering Pots?

  • Use a mulch to cover the soil’s top if you’ve got a sizeable self-watering pot.
  • Moisture-retentive potting mixes help decrease the refilling frequency.
  • Potting soil for a self-watering planter should be crispy, well-drained, and light. Otherwise, it’ll discourage tremendous growth. 
  • Never leave your self-watering planter outdoors after extreme frost. If you do so, the moisture pot at the bottom may freeze or expand. Thus, making the pot chamber break.

If putting your self-watering planter outdoors during winter is a must, then ensure you drain the bottom completely.

Problems With Self Watering Pots

Breeding ground for mosquitoes

A common issue with most self-watering pots is the reservoir holding moisture. And because of that, your self-watering pots turn into mosquito hotbeds. That creates their favorite egg-laying environment since moisture still exists.

Most mosquito eggs hatch after 28 hours. Further, in that time and soggy conditions, mosquitos multiply faster. Unfortunately, this menace turns severe if your home is within humid and warm areas.

Not suitable for all plants

Elsewhere, these planters aren’t perfect for plants like well-drained or dry soil. Such indoor plants include; succulents and cacti. The continuous moisture flow into the potting soil puts your succulents at risk.

If they’re at risk of overwatering, they may die. 

Succulents have adapted to desert environments. So, between watering sessions, these succulents must dry out. Unfortunately, self-watering planters do the opposite.

Algae and fungus gnats

Self-watering pots continuously produce very moist soil. Thus, your potting mix will become open to fungus gnats and algae.

Excess moisture within the potting mix causes or promotes algae growth. If that happens, the algae will cause poor root growth. And in turn, it causes plant death since it’ll compete with it for moisture and nutrients. 

Elsewhere, Fungus gnats are insects the size of fruit flies. They resemble mosquitoes and affect most indoor plants. Further, soil moisture attracts these insects.

When attracted, they’ll lay their Fungus eggs on the soil’s surface with organic matter.

Not for large plants

Some self-watering planters aren’t suitable for large indoor plants. That’s mainly for plants with long but sophisticated root systems. Moreover, that applies to standard pots. But the issue becomes critical in self-watering pots.

That’s so because the plant roots may reach the pure moisture of the reservoir. 

Not ideal for outdoors

Other self-watering planters don’t have overflow holes. And if they lack these free-flowing overflow holes or drain holes, they’ll waterlog. Thus, your houseplants may experience root rot. 

And so, if you leave the pot outdoors, you’ll expose it to excess moisture from the rainwater. 

More expensive than regular pots

These self-watering containers are, in most cases expensive than standard pots. That’s because of the extra parts and their construction. Moreover, these self-watering pots’ prices depend on their styles and sizes. 

Not a set and forget system

Among new houseplant parents, there’s a myth/misconception. This myth is that one should fill the pot’s reservoir with moisture and leave it. Unfortunately, there’s no truth to that.

You’ll still need to comprehend your houseplant’s needs. And assess, monitor, or provide appropriate soil. Filling the reservoir and walking away isn’t the true meaning of self-waterers.

May Lead To Poor Growth Of Roots

Regularly, most houseplants like spreading out their roots. Thus, pressure can push the roots in different directions. And that includes toward the underneath ground. 

Further, underneath the self-watering planter is where its moisture is located. So, the roots sink into the water when the plant roots branch in the pot’s way. If that happens, and the roots meet the pure water, plant growth will be limited. 

Plant growth limitation happens when there’s insufficient oxygen.

Problems With Self Watering Pots-Poor growth of roots

Causes Toxic Mineral Build-Up

Minerals that your houseplants don’t absorb will dissolve in moisture. When they dissolve, they become soluble salts. Unfortunately, their concentration is extreme.

Further, houseplant care implies adding moisture-soluble fertilizer to the potting soil. That provides a nutritious plant diet and ensures better potting mix quality.

How To Solve Issues With Self Watering Pots?

  1. Mosquito growth. Flush the self-watering pot’s moisture after some days. Doing so discourages the breeding of these mosquitos in your pot. Also, you can plug the pot’s holes using pot scrubbers. That prevents the insects or mosquitos from flying for some time. Still, when that happens, it won’t prevent moisture flow.
  2. Toxic mineral buildup. Your plant’s tips/leaves may turn brown and then dry if there’s a toxic mineral buildup. Detaching the moisture reservoir and flushing the potting soil with fresh water helps. Also, you can change your potting mix after each planting season. Again, avoid liquid fertilizers, high-salt waters, or time-release fertilizers. 
  3. Do your research. The research will help you avoid using the wrong plant types in your self-watering pots.
  4. Root rot. You should pick self-watering planters with overflow holes. But when you get pots with none, drill. Using a more airy/porous minimizes root rot.


What are the negatives of using a self wicking watering system?

Self-wicking watering systems aren’t suitable for all thirsty plants. The sophisticated bottom-up watering system is among the cons of these self-watering pots. Moreover, self-watering plants never soak thirsty aquatic plants properly.

Such thirsty aquatic plants include fiber-optic and umbrella palms.

Where to buy wick and grow pots?

You can buy wick or grow pots at local garden centers or stores. But online stores like Walmart and Amazon are preferred. That’s so because the delivery of your wick and grow planters is faster.

Do self-watering containers cause root rot?

It’s almost impossible for self-watering containers to cause root rot. Root rot only happens when something overwaters your plants, causing moisture to stagnate. The stagnation can occur at the pot’s bottom, away from the plant roots. Or via drain holes.

Can you overwater with self-watering pots?

Self-watering planters for indoor plants. Your plants can’t overwater themselves. So, you only need to fill the pot reservoir with moisture between 2-4 weeks. That’ll boost your plants’ growth.

What plants are not suitable for self-watering pots?

Succulents and cacti need well-drained potting soil. Then again, you can’t grow these plant types in self-watering pots. That’s because a constant water supply to the potting soil puts your succulents/cacti in danger. 

Moreover, the dangers originate from overwatering. Elsewhere, desert succulents must dry between watering sessions. That’s so because they adapt to arid environments. 

Are self watering pots good? 

Self-watering pots are the best way of growing some plant types like vegetables. Further, self-watering planters can increase your plant’s yield and health. That’s because they offer a consistent moisture level.


As we’ve seen, self-watering pots offer convenience and excellent benefits to busy Gardeners. However, it would be helpful to do plant research before buying a self-watering pot. 

You’ll only be good to go if the plant loves constant damp soil and will only grow short roots. So, to avoid problems with self-watering pots, pick the right ones. Good luck!

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