Best and Worst Plants for Self-Watering Pots


monstera obliqua growing in self-watering pot against a white wall

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Self-watering pots can be a godsend for the busy or forgetful indoor gardener. For moderately moisture-loving plant species, I’d highly recommend self-watering pots, but not so much for the plants that need a lot of water or very little. Knowing which plants suit self-watering pots and which don’t can mean the difference between your plant thriving and your plant dying due to improper watering.

What are the best and worst plants for self-watering pots? Self-watering pots are best for plants such as tomatoes, snake plants, and African violets but do not work well for succulents or fiber optic plants. 

Before you buy that self-watering pot make sure you check out this article. Ahead, I’ll present complete lists of the best and worst houseplant species for self-watering pots, so keep reading!

The Best Plants for Self-Watering Pots

Self-watering pots include a moisture-wicking system, a water reservoir, some potting soil, and a growing bed for your houseplants. Water reaches the plant’s roots from the bottom up and the soil begins to wick away excess moisture. Your plant is now well cared for, at least regarding its hydration.

Similar to self watering globes, the goal of self-watering pots is to keep the soil consistently moist. As you know by now, there are some plants that thrive when they are continuously kept at a damp or moist state. These particular plants are the ones that will respond best to being grown in self watering pots

Over the years I’ve experimented with many types of plants, in all types of self watering pots and while there are quite a few plants that grow really well in them, this list includes the best plants for self-watering pots.

African Violets

The first plant species that are compatible with self-watering pots is the African violet. 

This African (and Tanzanian) flowering houseplant is known for its stunning purple blooms. The flowers grow in every shade of purple, from lavender to deep royal purple.

Soggy conditions are a no-no for the African violet. It likes some moisture in its pot, but that moisture must be allowed to drain before more water is added.

With a bit of tinkering with your self-watering pot’s settings, you should be able to provide the right amount of water to the African violet.

Since the water enters the plant’s root system, the African violet’s topsoil doesn’t get super wet. That’s preferable. 

Make sure to use the pot’s overflow hole, which catches excess water so it doesn’t accumulate in the African violet’s soil. 

Most Herbs

Are you an herb lover? Take a more hands-off approach to indoor gardening by growing herbs in a self-watering pot. 

Herbs that can withstand direct sun and don’t need to be soaked in water work best. These include bay leaf, sage, thyme, and rosemary.  

Venus Flytraps 

Have you always dreamed of growing the Venus flytrap, but you just don’t have the time to commit to it? A self-watering pot can maintain the soil moisture this carnivorous plant needs while you can enjoy the fascinating beauty of a flytrap in your indoor garden.

One of the best parts about having a Venus flytrap–besides that it’s a great conversation piece–is that the plant can kill off insects. Flytraps happily eat spiders, many flying insects, grasshoppers, beetles, and ants.

Just don’t expect the Venus flytrap to remove every last pest around your garden. Once a flytrap has its meal, it can wait for months for the next one. 

Snake Plant

Snake plants have a reputation of being hard to kill, but that doesn’t make the plant invincible. Excess water can fast-track the snake plant’s death. 

You’ll quite appreciate the overwatering protection offered by a self-watering pot to reduce your rate of watering mistakes.

The ideal soil conditions for a snake plant are lightly moist but not too damp. A self-watering pot is a great solution. You pour the water in, then you can walk away and let the self-watering pot take care of the rest! 

Tomatoes 

Once you start growing your own tomatoes, you’ll never go back to buying store-bought again. 

If you thought you’d labor and stress with a homegrown vegetable-bearing houseplant, I have some good news. A self-watering pot takes so much of the pressure off.

Rather than measure the inch and a half of water that a tomato plant should receive weekly to thrive, if you keep the plant’s soil moist, that suffices. Consistent moisture is key here, which your self-watering pot can do with no problem! 

Carrots

Tomatoes aren’t the only indoor vegetable you can grow with a self-watering plant. Carrots are another great one. 

You’ll love saving money on your grocery bills each week as you skip purchasing the expensive produce and grow your own.

Like tomatoes, carrots need about an inch of water per week. In lieu of that, by keeping the plant’s soil moist around the clock, you’ll soon have thick, juicy carrots to harvest. 

Garlic

You already have a collection of herbs growing in self-watering pots that will liven up all your recipes moving forward. Why not add some garlic to your indoor garden as well? 

You can then whip up authentic garlic bread, aioli, or tasty honey garlic sauce.

The best soil conditions for garlic are well-draining but moist. The soil should never be soaking, which a self-watering pot will prevent. Check that the soil pH is in the range of 6.0 to 7.0 for one happy garlic plant.  

Peace Lily 

Many indoor gardeners struggle to understand what it takes to get the peace lily to bloom

Watering mistakes and overly moist soil are two areas that can cause the peace lily to stay green rather than expose its pretty faux white flower.

If you’re tried growing a peace lily in the past and you’ve overwatered it, then use a self-watering pot this time. The overwatering protection afforded to you by these pots will maintain soil moisture but leave no standing water.

Before you know it, you could finally witness that most beloved of sights, your peace lily in bloom!

Hostas

Northeastern Asia native the hosta (which is called giboshi in Japan) is a frequent pick of indoor gardeners who can’t provide a lot of sunlight since this houseplant is so shade-tolerant. 

Besides that perk, it’s also an ideal plant to grow in a self-watering pot.

Like many of the houseplants I’ve discussed to this point, the hosta prefers its soil to stay moist but never soaking. 

This level of moisture should be maintained around the clock, which can be hard for beginner indoor gardeners to handle. Your self-watering pot will take care of it for you.  

Japanese Irises

From one Asian plant to another, the Japanese iris is yet another good candidate for a self-watering pot. 

The houseplant requires moisture retention. Even standing water is okay for this plant, but you won’t get that from your self-watering pot, FYI. 

The purple blooms that Japanese irises grow are reminiscent of the African violet but on a much smaller scale. 

Monstera

Growing the Monstera deliciosa aka the Swiss cheese plant in a self-watering pot? Oh yes! 

As the snake plant above likes slightly moist soil, the same conditions suit the Monstera too. Since self-watering pots have overwatering control, you shouldn’t have to worry about the Monstera’s soil getting too soaking wet.

Still, the fingertip test from time to time will be your best gauge, so use it!

Some Orchids

Certain orchid species such as the boat orchid or Cymbidium prefer moisture in their pot, so you could theoretically use a self-watering pot. 

If you care for a boat orchid, you could be rewarded with beautiful flowers. The blooms are mostly pink or whiteish, but some are orange with yellow centers or yellow with red centers. Get your camera ready, as you’ll be sure to take lots of photos! 

Pothos

The last plant on my list of those that are suitable for self-watering pots is the pothos. 

The pothos likes moisture in its soil, but its soil should also be well-draining to avoid standing water. That’s among the biggest enemy of the pothos whether yours is plain green or variegated in such hues as creamy white or even pink.

Pothos can begin drooping when it’s starving for water, but that’s not something you should see with a self-watering pot. 

The Worst Plants for Self-Watering Pots

As wonderful as self-watering pots are, they’re not appropriate for every houseplant. The following plants are better off grown in traditional containers or pots without self-watering functions. 

Yes, that does mean you’ll have to manually water the plants yourself, but the results are surely worthwhile. 

Succulents

It’s mostly houseplants that need very moist, even soaking soil that aren’t candidates for self-watering pots. With succulents, the opposite issue is the case.

Succulents don’t like soaking soil or even moist soil. They prefer their conditions very dry just like their native desert environment. From cacti to Haworthia and echeveria, the fleshy leaves of succulents are designed for retaining water.

When the succulent leaves absorb all the water–which can take weeks–then you can pour some H2O into their pot. Doing so any earlier than that though is simply too hasty.

While it would be convenient to grow succulents in a self-watering pot, they’ll end up too soaked and your succulents could die. 

Fiber Optic Plant

The fiber optic plant or Isolepis cernua, sometimes called fiber optic grass, is technically a sedge. The inflorescences on the tip of each blade of “grass” look like fiber optic cables, hence the name. 

To grow this plant, you’re better off with a saucer of water under its pot or container. You can also use a basin. 

Umbrella Palm

The semi-aquatic umbrella palm or Cyperus alternifolius isn’t a true palm. That’s why it’s also called the umbrella sedge and umbrella papyrus. It’s a sedge family member and resembles grass.

To maintain the high humidity and moisture levels the umbrella palm requires, you need a saucer kept under its pot, not a self-watering system

Selaginella

The Selaginella, the only genus from the Selaginellaceae family, is known as spike moss but is often confused for a fern. Some call them fern allies.

The Selaginella prefers moist, very wet soil throughout, more so than what your self-watering pot can provide. Without enough water, its leaves become small balls and turn brown. Dormancy also occurs.

Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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