5 Ways to Automatically Water Your Plants When You’re Gone

Automatic Plant Watering System | Watered by Nylon Cord
Image: Deirdre Sullivan for HouseLogic

These DIY plant watering systems are a traveler’s best friend.

Sure, you can hope your neighbor or friend remembers to care for your houseplants during your next vacay. Or, you could forgo the favor and opt for one of our five self-watering ideas.

Tip: Before you pack your bags, do a test run. Otherwise, you risk vacation buzz kill when you get home.

Solution #1: Drip Water Irrigation System

This cheap solution only requires one plastic bottle for each houseplant. For potted trees, you may want to double-bottle to make sure water is dispensed evenly. 

Tips: Make sure each planter is saturated with water before inserting the plastic bottle. Otherwise, the bottle will quickly empty. 

If water flow is being blocked by compacted dirt, glue a tiny piece of screen to the bottle opening to prevent clogs.

Why we like:
 It's an easy, quick fix.
Trip length: Three days
Set-up time: Five minutes per plant

If you don’t like the look of upended water bottles, here’s an elegant alternative: aqua globes.

  • Globes are available in many sizes, so make sure the style you purchase is appropriate for your plant.
  • The planter needs to be saturated with water before you insert the globe.
  • To avoid the impacted dirt at the tip, embed the globe at an angle.

Why we like: It’s a pretty and easy solution that can be used 24/7.
Trip length: Up to three to five days
Set-up time: Three minutes per plant

Solution #2: String Watering System

A wick-edly good idea that uses cotton or nylon string. But I learned that if you only have thin cord, braid it so it holds water better. I also learned that if you use a string that’s not 100% water absorbent, it’ll fail.

Just remember to use a container filled with water appropriate for your plant’s size.

Why we like: It's an easy, quick fix.
Trip length: Three days
Set-up time: Five minutes per plant

Solution #3: A DIY Electronic-Sensored Watering System

Perfect for advanced DIYers who like working with electronics, this low-tech system uses sensors to detect when the soil is dry. You just have to remember to water the machine once in a while. 

Why we like: It’s a neat and nerdy solution for the lazy plant lover. 
Trip length: Up to seven or more days  
Set-up time: Once built, two minutes

Solution #4: Grobal Hydroponic Planter

A no-dirt fix for small house and herb plants, this stylin’ system comes with everything you need to get started and is available in trendy colors. 

Why we like: It's a designer solution for casual indoor gardeners with small plants.
Trip length: Three to seven days
Set up time: Five to 10 minutes per plant

Tip: If you’re transplanting to the Grobal from a dirt planter, hold the exposed roots gently under running, room-temperature tap water. Once the dirt is washed away, cut off any dead roots and transplant into the hydroponic pot.

Solution #5: Oasis Self-Watering System

Oodles of houseplants? This automatic drip-watering system claims to keep up to 20 of your leafy and flowery friends happy.

Why we like: It operates independent of faucets and electrical outlets.
Trip length: Up to 40 days
Set-up time: Right out of box; plan on spending a few hours to set up the machine


Deirdre Sullivan bio photo
Deirdre Sullivan

Deirdre Sullivan is an NYC-based writer who's obsessed with maximizing every inch of her urban dwelling. She's a former fashionista who has worked for Lucky Magazine and InStyle. She recently traded her high heels and Fashion Week pass for a drill and bandsaw. Follow Deirdre on Twitter, and Pinterest.