Plants love nothing more than a big drink of water, and keeping them hydrated at the right time is the key to helping them thrive.
If you’re a succulent parent and want to make watering your favorite plant easy and stress-free, you might have considered an automatic watering system before.
Before you can dive into choosing an indoor automatic plant watering system there are a lot of features to consider to make sure it’s going to be a good fit for you and your greenery. Whether you want to keep just your succulents watered and healthy or have a range of plants to consider, there’s a right and wrong way to do it.
How do you build your own automatic watering system to water you plants?
Depending on the type of system you want to build and whether it’s for long or short term irrigation, there are lots of DIY options for making your own. There are simple self-watering pots, mini-greenhouses, and drip watering systems, so there are lots of choices to suit you and your plants.
If you’ve been considering implementing an irrigation system at home, we’ve got you covered. With all of the options available for an automatic watering setup and what you need to contemplate to choose the right fit, you’ll have happy and healthy plants that never have to suffer due to a forgetful owner again.
Table of Contents
How Long Should a Watering System Last?
The first thing to establish when building a DIY watering system is whether you’re looking for a short term or long term option.
Having a garden that waters itself might only be a requirement while you’re away on vacation, or you could be planning something long term that takes care of all your plants for you.
- Short Term
A short term watering system is one you might set up before going on vacation, and they’re designed to last just a few weeks at most. These are the easier and cheaper alternatives, and allow you to test out which methods work best, so if you’ve never had an irrigation system before start here.
- Long Term
A long term watering system is better suited to people with large gardens, even if you don’t plan on going anywhere. With one of these in place, you don’t have to give any thought to your watering schedule and they can be quite detailed in how they operate, with all of the plants having their irrigation needs met.
The Benefits of Using An Automatic Watering System
For many succulent owners, watering by hand is something they’re happy to do.
However, once your plant collection starts to grown and you have a range of them indoors and outdoors to look after, it can get tiring. These are some of the benefits you can get from installing an irrigation system for your beloved plants:
- Some kits take only minutes to install and save you so much time each week from watering.
- When you add a watering system that has a timer, you don’t have to do anything for it to turn on.
- You can choose a fully customizable system to suit the type of plants you have and your garden setup.
- Many of these systems save water because they use a minimal amount fed directly to roots.
- Once they’re installed, they’ll be there all season long, meaning no hassle from you.
Automatic Watering Options
There are loads of choices out there for the gardener who wants some assistance with hydration, and it all depends on your garden and how much effort you want to put in yourself.
These are some of the most popular irrigation systems for gardens that can take the hassle out of keeping your plants healthy.
- Self-watering pots
A self watering pot or planter is a little different to what the name implies, as it doesn’t mean it will do the work for you. These systems generally provide a constant source of moisture to your plants which means you can spend longer in between watering, which is helpful when you have a vacation coming up or minimal time for irrigation. Water is poured into the reservoir underneath the plant and then wicked up into the soil using one of several methods.
- Smart-home automatic systems
Smart home irrigation systems can be as basic or advanced as you need. These complete setups allow you to schedule watering or set timers, and can be used in conjunction with other parts of a smart home. The system can be controlled through your smart home hub or mobile device, and you can turn it on and off even when you’re not around.
- Wick watering
A wick watering system is a simple method of watering your plants that doesn’t require any fancy parts. A wick is inserted into the soil of the plant, and another end in a water reservoir. As the soil dries out, the wick draws water from the reservoir and places it directly in the soil. These are ideal for shorter-term setups as the reservoir needs to be full for it to work, so many people use them over a few weeks or less.
- Drip watering
A drip emitter allows this type of system to work, effectively dripping water slowly and steadily while it’s one. This type of hose is set up directly beneath the soil so that the water reaches the roots, which is the main source that requires irrigation. A drip water system can be as simple as one hose or run around the entire garden, depending on what you need from it. Unless attached to a timer, this setup requires you to turn it on and off at the faucet, which can be done once or twice a week. Make sure you don’t over-water as you end up with root rot.
- Soaker hose
A soaker hose irrigation system works similarly to drip watering, as it features a hose with small holes through it that release water slowly to feed your plants. These hoses can be manipulated to be put anywhere, whether you want them directly on fruits and vegetables, (like spinach or carrots) or pointed at the soil to give water to the roots. They can be set on a timer or turned on manually, depending on how much automatic you want your irrigation system to have.
- Capillary mats
A capillary mat is made specifically for potted seedlings and might be used by someone wishing to grow new plants from scratch. The seedlings are in pots and they sit on a felt mat that is absorbing water from a separate reservoir. The pots absorb the right amount of water from the felt and do so as needed, making for a hands-free growing experience for the gardener.
- Mini greenhouses
A mini greenhouse is set up to be a smaller version of a standard-sized greenhouse, designed to have everything a plant needs to thrive. These mini systems do everything including maintaining the right temperatures and giving the right amount of light. The plants are housed in plastic trays where irrigation can be delivered, so there’s nothing for the gardener to do during seed germination.
Which System is Best for Your Plant?
To determine which system is best for your plants, you’ll have to look at what your garden needs specifically.
If there are only a few potted plants and succulents to take care of, something simple like drip watering or a self-watering pot is ideal. For those with large scale gardens ranging from fully grown plants to seedlings, an irrigation pump or mini greenhouse might be more suitable.
You’ll also have to consider how much autonomy you want the system to have. Some people would like their irrigation set up to do everything for them, which means installing pumps, hoses, and timers. Others might be happy to turn on the faucet and let the system take over, so it all depends on your preferences.
How long you want the system installed will also dictate which method you choose. Most people opt for the simpler options like wick watering for shorter periods, but if you’re after something you can leave on all season to do the work for you, soaker hoses and complete irrigation systems are ideal.
Easy DIY Wick System
Making your own wick water system is one of the easiest short term irrigation solutions around.
If you have succulents that need taking care of while you’re away, try out this simple DIY project to keep them hydrated and healthy.
- Plastic bucket
- Nuts or bolts for weights
- Cotton shoelaces (one for each small succulent pot)
Step by Step Guide
- Tie a bolt to the end of every shoelace you plan on using.
- Soak the shoelace in water so it’s completely drenched.
- Put the bolt end of the shoelace in the plastic bucket.
- Place the bucket higher than your plant containers and fill it to the top with water.
- Give your succulents a light watering and then bury the non-bolt end of the shoelaces a few inches into the soil.
- The water will drip into the soil over time slowly, meaning you don’t have to water them.
Easy DIY Drip System
A drip irrigation system delivers a slow flow of water to the root system under the soil, and at a rate that makes it easily absorbable by the plant.
There are loads of DIY kits for making this type of watering system, but if you want to test it out in your succulent garden outside, you can do it with a few pieces of equipment first.
Another cheap method of drip water is using ice cubes. This alternative method of drip irrigation is usually used with plants like orchids.
- Soaker hose
- Wire garden pins
Step by Step Guide
- Dig a few inches into the soil underneath where your plants are going to find the best spot for your soaker hose. You want it to run parallel to the roots of the plants without interfering with any of them.
- Lay the soaker hose in the position you want and connect the other end to the garden faucet.
- With the hose in position, fasten it into place with the wire garden pins.
- Cover the newly installed hose with the garden mulch, but do not put any soil on top of it.
- Turn on the faucet of the garden to allow it to water your plants slowly.
Installing an irrigation system to keep your succulents hydrated and happy is just one of the ways you can care for them with minimal fuss.
If you have questions about watering your plants or other aspects of plant parenting, we’ve answered some common FAQs to help you out.
How Much Water Do Indoor Succulents Need?
As a general rule of thumb, an indoor succulent only needs to be watered once a fortnight.
However, as each plant can vary and their positioning indoor may get more or less sunlight, it’s best to check the soil for signs of moisture to tell when it’s right to water again. Once the soil has dried out completely, it’s okay to give it some more water. If you have jade plants, we have a complete guide on how much and when to water jade plants.
How Long Can Succulents Go Without Water?
Depending on the variety of the succulent and its positioning in your home or garden, you can leave a succulent for around two weeks before you start to notice signs of dehydration.
Most succulents will survive up to four weeks without water but you may do some damage to the plant if you leave them this long.
Should You Mist Succulents?
Some plants do well in humid conditions and need their leaves sprayed with a mist of water to keep conditions good, however, a succulent is not one of them.
Misting the leaves of your plant will make the top layer of soil wet and the leaves, which can lead to rotting and fungus growth on a succulent.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She furthered her gardening education by working on various organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to discuss gardening tips and tactics. Whether it’s succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs, growing and caring for just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden always makes her happy.