Are Self Watering Pots Good For Succulents? Succulent Success

Are self watering pots good for succulents

Are Self Watering Pots Good For Succulents

You may think self-watering pots are the perfect solution for keeping succulents healthy and hydrated.

But hold your horses! As an avid succulent grower for over 5 years, I’ve learned it’s not so simple.

Self-watering pots can work well for succulents, but only if used properly.

Misuse them and you could end up with soggy, rotting plants.

In this beginner’s guide, I’ll share tips from my own experience on how to use self-watering pots successfully for thriving succulents.

Whether you’re new to these specialized planters or have had some troubles, you’ll learn the best soils, watering, and maintenance needed to help your succulents thrive in self-watering pots.


Are self watering pots good for succulents?

Yes, self-watering pots can be beneficial for succulents, as they provide a controlled, consistent moisture level, helping prevent overwatering. (1)

However, proper usage and monitoring are crucial to ensure succulent health.

Planter Suitability for Succulents

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When it comes to picking the right planter for succulents, you want one that mimics their native growing conditions as closely as possible.

In the wild, succulents thrive in well-draining soil and receive infrequent watering.

The right pot will help recreate this dry, desert-like environment.

I’ve tested out different planter styles over the years to see which ones yield the best results for my succulents.

Here’s what I’ve learned about choosing pots that make these plants happy and healthy:

  • Drainage: Excellent drainage is an absolute must. Succulents do terribly in moisture-retentive soil. Look for pots with multiple bottom drainage holes to allow excess water to freely escape. Unglazed terracotta and plastic nursery pots offer the best drainage.
  • Shallow pots: Opt for wide, shallow containers versus deep, narrow ones. Succulents prefer to spread out their roots laterally in the soil rather than downward.
  • Smallish pots: Don’t use huge pots that will swamp the succulent’s small root ball with excess wet soil. Pot up succulents incrementally in 2-4” size increases.
  • Breathable material: Unglazed terracotta, concrete, resin, plastic, and wood planters allow air exchange through the pot wall. This helps the soil dry out faster between waterings.

When paired with a very gritty potting mix, breathable shallow pots with ample drainage give succulents the dry, airy environment they need to avoid rot.

How Self-Watering Pots Work

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Self-watering pots provide a constant yet controlled source of moisture through an internal reservoir system.

Here’s an in-depth look at the key features that make these planters effective (2):

At the bottom of a self-watering pot is a built-in water reservoir that serves as the moisture source.

This reservoir can be filled and refilled through an opening at the top of the pot.

Common reservoir materials are plastic, terra cotta, and woven fiber.

Resting above the water reservoir is an elevated platform that holds the potting soil and plant roots.

The platform usually contains large drainage holes to allow excess moisture to return to the reservoir below.

This creates a closed watering system.

A wicking material connects the water reservoir below to the soil and roots above.

The wicking material acts like a cotton rope, absorbing water utilizing capillary action and wicking it upwards.

Common wicking materials are nylon rope, cotton rope, and cocopeat.

As the potting soil dries out from the plant absorbing moisture, the wicking system draws up more water from the reservoir to keep the soil evenly hydrated.

This maintains the ideal moisture balance – never too wet or too dry.

The wicking action happens passively due to capillary action, moving water into the soil continuously as needed.

Gardeners don’t have to do anything to make it happen.

The water reservoir acts as a buffer, holding extra water that wicks up gradually over time.

This means self-watering pots can go days to weeks without needing refills.

Understanding the reservoir, platform, wicking material, and capillary action is key to utilizing self-watering pots successfully!

Capillary Action (Wicking)

The self-watering system relies on capillary action, also called wicking.

Here’s how it works:

  • The potting mix rests above a water reservoir at the bottom of the pot.
  • A wicking material connects the reservoir to the soil, usually made of nylon rope, cotton rope, or coco coir.
  • The wicking material acts like a paper towel, absorbing water from the reservoir through capillary action.
  • Moisture travels up through the wicks into the potting mix by capillary action as the soil dries out. This keeps roots evenly hydrated.

Self-Watering Pot Wicks

The wicking material is the hero that makes self-watering planters work their magic:

  • Wicks create a continuum of moisture from reservoir to soil.
  • Proper wicking action depends on the thickness and absorbency of material.
  • Cotton or nylon rope wicks provide excellent capillary movement.
  • Coco coir pads offer high absorbency and humidity retention.
  • Wicks need occasional changing as they break down over time.

Understanding capillary action is key to getting the most out of self-watering pots. A good wick keeps just the right flow of moisture to roots.

Benefits of Self Watering Pots

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Self-watering pots offer a convenient, hands-off way to keep your plants hydrated.

As a busy plant parent, I’ve found these watering pots to be a lifesaver for my indoor succulents.

Here are some of the biggest benefits I’ve experienced:

  • Consistent moisture: Self-watering pots maintain a consistent level of moisture in the soil through a water reservoir in the base. This provides a gradual release of water as the soil dries out, preventing the cycles of bone-dry and soaked soil.
  • Reduced root rot: With the soil moisture staying more evenly regulated, your succulents are less prone to overwatering and deadly root rot.
  • Fewer droughts: The water reservoir acts as a buffer against forgetful watering. I’ve gone weeks without refilling without my plants showing signs of drought stress.
  • Convenience: Checking and refilling a water reservoir is much simpler than remembering to water each individual pot on different schedules.
  • Visibility: Many self-watering pots come with useful water level gauges so you can easily check if a refill is needed.
  • Vacation readiness: Heading out of town? Self-watering pots have your plants covered for longer than regular containers before drying out.

For the hands-off, low maintenance grower, self-watering pots are a great hassle-free way to maintainconsistent moisture for succulents.

Just be sure to use well-draining soil and not overfill the water reservoir.

Why Choosing Self Watering Plants

Here are some top reasons self-watering pots can be a wise choice for succulent care:

  • Mimics native climate: The cycles of wetness and dryness in self-watering pots is similar to the moisture regime desert succulents experience naturally.
  • Prevents under and overwatering: It’s easy to have moisture extremes in traditional pots. Self-watering pots balance these out.
  • Reduces root rot risk: The biggest killer of succulents is excess moisture leading to root rot. Self-watering pots do a better job preventing oversaturation.
  • Easier for beginners: Keeping soil moisture perfect can be tricky with succulents. Self-watering pots take some of the guesswork out.
  • Convenience: Traveling or busy periods make regular watering tough. Self-watering pots need less frequent monitoring.
  • Use less water: Self-watering pots lose less moisture to evaporation, so your plants get more of what you give.

For succulent growers struggling with traditional watering methods, self-watering pots are worth trying. Pay attention to drainage, gritty soil, and occasional dry periods for success.

Pros and Cons of Pot Selection for Succulents

Beyond basic drainage and breathability, different pot materials each have unique upsides and downsides when used for succulents:



  • Allows high evaporation through porous walls
  • Readily available and inexpensive


  • Heavy if large
  • Can crack or chip over time



  • Looks stylish and modern
  • Helps wick away moisture


  • Heavier than other materials
  • Can develop lime or be prone to cracking



  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Good drainage and air exchange


  • Less decorative for indoor use
  • Can become brittle and degrade over many years



  • Lightweight with versatile styling
  • Mimics look of ceramic without weight


  • Not as breathable as unglazed terra cotta
  • Decorative/artificial look not for everyone



  • Looks natural and rustic
  • Stays lighter than terracotta


  • Can dry out and split over time
  • Not as durable as other materials

Try out different pot materials to see which you prefer. Just be sure adequate drainage and breathability are present for happy, thriving succulents.

Here are what I recommend for the best self-watering planters.

Debunking Myths and Revealing Facts About Succulent Self-Watering

After testing self-watering pots for years, I’ve separated succulent care fact from fiction. Here are some top self-watering myths debunked:

Myth: Self-watering pots always lead to overwatering.

Fact: With very gritty soil and infrequent reservoir refills, these pots can mimic desert dryness.

Myth: Succulents self-water through their leaves, so pots are unnecessary.

Fact: While some succulents can absorb moisture through leaves, roots provide most water and nutrients.

Myth: Succulents need to completely dry out between waterings.

Fact: Allowing some moisture helps mimic desert humidity. Cycles of wet and dry are beneficial.

Myth: Self-watering pots require no effort.

Fact: Some maintenance like refilling, occasional soaks, and re-potting is still essential.

Myth: All succulents thrive in self-watering pots.

Fact: Some like drier conditions. Focus on succulents naturally adapted to sporadic rainfall.

Knowing fact from fiction allows you to use self-watering pots successfully. Pay attention to soil, drainage, plant choice, and routine maintenance.

Plant Guide: Best and Worst Plants for Self Watering Pots

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I’ve tested growing dozens of succulents in self-watering pots. Below are my top recommendations for plants that thrive and struggle in these self-watering environments:

Best Choices:

  • Jade
  • Echeveria
  • Aloe
  • Haworthia
  • Snake plant
  • Burro’s tail

Proceed With Caution:

  • Lithops
  • Split rocks
  • Sedum

Not Recommended:

  • Cacti
  • Most agave
  • Sempervivum

The plants most adapted to sporadic rainfall in deserts tend to do best.

Think succulents native to regions with mountain fog or seasonal humidity.

Avoid very arid climate plants like lithops. Choosing compatible succulents leads to self-watering success!

Unlocking the Mechanics of Self-Watering Planters

Self-watering pots hydrate plants through a unique underlying mechanism. Here’s an inside look at how these clever containers actually work:

  • A water reservoir at the base provides a supply of moisture for uptake.
  • Growing medium and roots sit above this reservoir, separated by a wicking material.
  • The wicking material (often coco fiber) absorbs and transports water upward.
  • As the soil dries out, capillary action through the wick maintains a flow of moisture.
  • Excess water held in the reservoir prevents oversaturation while ensuring a supply is available.
  • Reservoir levels need periodic checking and refilling as moisture depletes.
  • The soil and roots stay evenly hydrated via the wicking action of the water below.

Understanding the internal workings of self-watering pots allows you to use them most effectively. Pay close attention to the wicking system and water levels.

Tips for Successful Succulent Gardening in Self-Watering Pots

Follow these tips and tricks from my experience for growing thriving succulents in self-watering pots:

  • Let soil dry out some between waterings to prevent constant sogginess.
  • Add extra perlite or pumice to soil for even better drainage.
  • Check reservoir levels weekly and refill as needed.
  • Soak entire pot every 2-3 months to redistribute moisture.
  • Repot annually in fresh gritty soil to prevent salt buildup.
  • Remove dead leaves promptly to avoid moisture getting trapped.
  • Choose succulents that tolerate occasional moisture like echeveria.
  • Ensure pot has drainage holes, don’t just rely on wicking system.

Adjusting routines to account for the self-watering reservoir will lead to happy, vigorous succulents.

Stay attentive and learn your pots’ needs!

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I water succulents in self-watering pots?

The benefit of self-watering pots is they require less frequent watering than regular pots.

However, succulents still need less water than most plants.

Allow the soil to dry out some between waterings, and refill the reservoir every 2-3 weeks.

Monitor the water level indicator to know when a refill is needed.

What is a good soil mix for succulents in self-watering pots?

Use a very gritty, fast-draining soil.

Aim for 50% potting soil mixed with 50% amendments like perlite, pumice, or coarse sand.

The grit helps soil dry out between reservoir waterings.

How do I choose the right sized self-watering pot?

Pick a pot that’s only slightly larger than the succulent’s current nursery pot, ideally 2-4 inches larger.

Don’t repot succulents in a container that’s too big.

Oversized pots stay wet too long.

Can I grow cacti in self-watering pots?

Most true cacti don’t do well in the consistent moisture of self-watering pots.

Opt for succulents better adapted to semi-arid environments with some rainfall like aloe, echeveria, haworthia, jade plants, and snake plants.

Should I use coco coir as a wicking material for succulents?

Coco coir works well to channel moisture from the reservoir.

Its high absorbency offsets the fast-drying gritty soil needed for succulents.

Just be sure to let the soil dry out adequately between reservoir refills.

How often do I need to repot succulents in self-watering pots?

Repot into fresh soil about every 1-2 years.

This prevents old, soggy soil and salts accumulating from the reservoir water.

Carefully remove the root ball and loosen any compacted roots before repotting.

Can I grow African violets in self-watering pots?

The consistent moisture of self-watering pots suits African violets well.

Keep the reservoir filled and use a soil with good water retention like peat-based mixes.

Let the soil dry out a little between refills for a balance of moisture.

Should I use planter pots with drainage holes for self-watering systems?

Yes, drainage holes are still important even with the built-in reservoir.

The holes prevent waterlogging if the reservoir overflows.

Let excess moisture drain freely out the bottom of the pot.

How do self-watering pots make plant care easier?

Self-watering pots are a convenient, fuss-free way to maintain ideal soil moisture for plants.

Busy indoor gardeners don’t have to stress if they forget to water on schedule.

Refilling the reservoir periodically is much simpler than watering each pot individually.


Before you plant, hold up!

Now that you know the ins and outs of using self-watering planter pots for succulents, don’t stop here! 

Proper sunlight, fertilization, and re-potting are also critical for keeping your succulents healthy long-term.

Stay tuned for my next guide sharing 5 rookie mistakes that kill succulents and how to avoid them!

Coming Soon: 5 Rookie Succulent Care Mistakes To Avoid

Related Content:

How To Revive A Dying Succulent Plant 

The Best Fertilizer For Succulents 

Easy DIY Succulent Planters



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