How-To: Create a Simple Houseplant Wicking System

How-To: Create a Simple Houseplant Wicking System


My friend Goli recently went on a solo backpacking trip. When she returned, she discovered that an unexpected heat wave had taken a toll on some of her plants. I volunteered to show her two very simple ways to keep her houseplants watered while she’s off on her adventures. Cotton strips buried in the soil of each plant slowly wick water, keeping the root zone moist without leaving them soaked. A crafty little setup like this is super easy, and it’s way cheaper than a house sitter!

Setting your plant directly into a tray of water might seem like a good solution when you are out of town, but that technique can easily “drown” the roots. Roots love oxygen, so sopping wet soil can cause rot, mold, and infection to set in. Using a simple wicking system means the dirt will have just the right amount of moisture. But always choose cotton — polyester just won’t work the same.



Cotton fabric
Large bowl of water taller than the plant’s container
Small bowl of water smaller than your plant’s container


Prepare the wicks:
Cut the cotton fabric into strips 1″ wide, about 12″ long.


Method One:

Step 1: Lay one end of the cotton strip on the soil. Wrap it loosely around the base of the plant’s stem.



Step 2: Use your finger to gently dig into the soil of the first plant. Try not to disturb the roots. Bury the end of the cotton strip in the dirt.



Step 3: Fill the tall, large bowl with water, and set it next to the plant. Place the other end of the cotton strip in the bowl of water. Be sure that the strip increases elevation as it spans between the plant and the container of water. The water will slowly wick over, from the bowl to the soil, via the cotton.


Method Two:

Step 1: Wrap the wick loosely around the base of the plant, and bury its end in the dirt.


Step 2: Place the free end of the wick in a bowl of water that is a tiny bit smaller than the width of the plant’s pot.


Step 3: Set the plant’s pot in the bowl of water. You want the plant to rest in the bowl, but with a reservoir of water beneath it. The water will wick up through the cotton from the bowl of water under the plant.

5 thoughts on “How-To: Create a Simple Houseplant Wicking System

  1. mohamed uzail says:

    pleace my dear.
    I need your help on my home gerdan

  2. jessica says:

    thanx!!!! this really helpedme

  3. Tori says:

    Does the method you use make any difference?

  4. 5 Clever Tips for Travel in Japan | the refill says:

    […] Lastly, if you’re worried about leaving your delicate plants to the ravages of Japanese summer, but don’t want to pressure your friends into plant-sitting, you can easily make your own automatic plant-waterer with an old shoelace. Simply put a container of water next to your plant and run your shoelace from the water to the plant pot. Raise the water container so that it’s higher than the plant pot and let capillary action do the rest. And voila! A slow, steady supply of water for your precious plant friends. Be careful, though, the water will drip from the lowest point of the lace, so make sure it doesn’t sag in the middle. If you don’t want to mess up your laces, or you have too many plants, you can substitute wool, cotton string, or anything else absorbent. More details here. […]

  5. Kristen Marie Jackson says:

    This is so cool! This could be a total game changer as I always forget to water my plants. You might have just saved some plant lives! ha. Thank you

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