Gardening ~ Landscaping » How to Make Your Own Self-Watering Planters

How to Make Your Own Self-Watering Planters

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Are you looking for a way to save on your water bill? Do you want to give back to the environment? Or do you just want an easy way to grow some of your favorite plants at home without having to worry about remembering when and how much they need? A self-watering planter can be made from any type of plastic bottle, which is great news because most people have discarded plenty of bottles lying around their homes. So, it’s time to use those old bottles in a new, helpful way!

We want to share this simple do it yourself, homemade self-watering seedling and herb planter idea in honor of Earth Day. This is an easy way to recycle plastic water and soda bottles.

drilled hole in water bottle cap 2

We like to find new ways to recycle or repurpose items that might otherwise end up in landfills. While you can recycle plastic bottles, it never hurts to use them for other things before recycling them. Here’s a fun way to start seedlings indoors and not have to worry if you happen to have a brown thumb and forget to water things in your care.

How to Make Your Own Self-Watering Planters

You’ll Need:
Soil-Less Potting Mix
Empty Water or Pop Bottles
Cotton String
Mini Paper Cupcake Liners
Seeds of your choice

Most water bottles are about 8 inches high; cut the bottle in half, at about 4 inches. You want to have enough room to have plenty of soil to get your seedlings started.

cutting plastic water bottle with scissors

Poke a hole in the center of the paper cupcake liner. Measure a section of cotton string, the height of the cut bottle.

measuring cotton string

Feed the cotton string through the hole and tie it into a knot. It is imperative that you use 100% COTTON string; failure to do so will prevent water from getting to your seedlings.

threading cotton string through cupcake liner

Alternatively, if you want to keep lots of water in, you can also poke a hole in the plastic bottle cap and slip the string through the hole, knotting it on the other side.

tied knot in string inside cupcake liner

Slip the cupcake liner and string into the neck of the cut bottle, with the string hanging out.

Without the Cap:
without the cap

With the Cap:

with the cap

Fill it with soil-less potting mix. A soil-less planting mix is a growing medium that does not contain any soil. Instead, Instead, it consists of materials such as perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss.

Dampen it with water, plant seeds of your choice, and cover them lightly with “soil”. Water again. Fill the bottom half of the bottle with fresh water and place the planted half inside to rest, ensuring that the string is fully submerged.

self watering planters with seedlings resting on shelf

Water from the top daily until the seeds sprout, and then they should be able to stay moist on their own with the water from the cotton string.

These repurposed plastic bottles are a wonderful way to have a small herb garden in your kitchen windowsill with minimal effort.

If you’re concerned about BPA’s and other potential chemicals from bottles, use recycled beer and wine bottles and make your own GLASS self-watering planters instead. Then, simply follow this tutorial here.


Please note it is imperative that you don’t use compost or regular potting soil as they do not offer moisture-wicking capabilities that soilless mixtures offer.

How do self-watering planters work?

Self-watering planters are made by cutting off the bottom of any plastic bottle and filling it with soil. They also require cotton string or rope placed inside the container to wick the water to the soil.

The cotton string allows for a slow release of water, so your plants are never left dry. This is especially helpful in areas with long periods of drought or where people are worried about overwatering their plants.

Cotton string is a porous material that can absorb and transport water to a plant. The cotton string is placed in the soil of the planter, and the plant’s roots will grow through the string and into the soil-less medium. The string will then wick water to the plant, providing it with the hydration it needs to grow.

What are the benefits of using a self-watering planter?

Standard benefits:

  • Automatically water your plants.
  • No more worrying about whether or not you watered your plants enough.
  • Less work for you!

Emotional benefits:

  • Feel like a garden goddess/god.
  • Enjoy watching your plants thrive without having to do much work yourself.

Can I use any type of plastic bottle to make a self-watering planter?

Technically, yes, you can use any type of plastic bottle to make a self-watering planter. However, if you plan to grow food items, it would be best to seek out a BPA-free bottle so unwanted chemicals do not leach into the water, soil, or plant.

To get started creating a homemade self-watering planter, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Cut the bottom off of the bottle.
  2. Fill the bottle with a soil-less moisture-wicking medium, such as perlite or vermiculite.
  3. Place the cotton string in the soil.
  4. Plant your favorite seeds in the soil-less medium.
  5. Fill the bottom of the planter with water, then place the bottle in a sunny spot.
  6. Enjoy watching your plant thrive!

Self-watering planters made from water bottles are a great way to save on your water bill, give back to the environment, and grow plants without having to worry about remembering when and how much they need.

How to Make Your Own Self-Watering Planters

Learn how to make your own Self watering planter or windowsill herb garden using plastic water bottles or soda bottles
Prep Time5 mins
Active Time10 mins
0 mins
Total Time15 mins
Yield: 1
Cost: $1.00


  • 1 Pair of scissors



Prepare the Planter

  • Cut the bottom off of the bottle.
    cutting plastic water bottle with scissors
  • Poke a hole in the cupcake liner and thread the cotton string through the hole.
    threading cotton string through cupcake liner
  • Tie a knot in the cotton string to prevent it from slipping back through.
    tied knot in string inside cupcake liner
  • Place the cupcake liner in the top half of the cut bottle, threading the string down through the "top" of the bottle, then place it into the bottom of the cut bottle.
    repurposed water bottle self watering planter step by step

Get Busy Planting

  • Fill the planter with a moisture wicking soil-less mixture. Plant seeds, as desired. Water to moisten.
    Soil-less Planting Medium, Seeds
  • Add water daily until seeds sprout and root enough until plants can water themselves. The length of time this takes will depend entirely on the type of seeds planted. Some plants take longer to germinate than others.
    repurposed water bottle into self watering planter with seedlings growing
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4 thoughts on “How to Make Your Own Self-Watering Planters”

  1. love this idea. reusing used water bottles that we would throw out anyway and the fact that we do not have to purchase extra containers. also we do not have to remember to water!

  2. this self watering planter can also be done on a larger scale using two 5 gallon food grade buckets. It does require some power tool use and about $8 in materials (makes multiple planters), not counting soil. You can get food grade buckets from larger grocery stores that make their own cakes, doughnut shops and some ice cream stores.

    Drill small holes (1/4″ or smaller) in the bottom of one bucket-like a colandar. Drill 3 holes abut 1/2″ in diameter. Cut a piece of thin wall 1″ PVC8″ taller than the bucket and cut the bottom end on an angle to ensure water flow.

    Also, cut a hole in the bottom of the bucket near the side so the PVC pipe will go through. Using an old cotton T shirt cut into 2″ strips, Tie a knot about 5″ from one end of each strip. Feed three strips through the 1/2″ holes from the bottom of the bucket and knot just inside the bucket-longer ends insidethe bucket.

    Place prepared bucket inside a second bucket. Hold up to the light to determine where the inside bucket stops. Mark that point with a sharpie or crayon.

    Remove inside bucket and set aside. Drill a hole just smaller than the diameter of some aquarium air tubing 1/2″ below the mark on the outside bucket. Add a piece of tubing about 4″ long through the bucket as a drain which prevents over watering.

    Place the inside bucket in place, add the pvc pipe, angled end down. pulling the strips up the sides of the inside bucket, add a potting mix heavy with perlite and peat moss into the bucket. wet down from the top, add additional soil.

    add seedlings or seeds and continue as the plant requires. wet down from top once again until water exits the drain. add water and plant food through the pvc pipe about every 10 days to two weeks, if needed.

  3. I have been doing this for a couple of years now for my tomato and cucumber plants. I start my own seed for my garden. When the seed sprouts get tall enough I replant them in a 2 liter bottle that I have made like this.

    It works really well and when time to plant in the ground I just turn the top upside down in my hand, I put the plant between my fingers to support it, and all of the potting soil comes out without disturbing the roots. Hope this works as well for others.


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