I like to grow herbs like cilantro, mint, and basil in my container garden. But it can be a pain having to water the plants every day. I heard that self-watering pots can be a good idea for herbs and wanted to know more about using them.
Self watering pots are good for herbs like parsley, mint, chives, and marjoram because these herbs need moist soil to grow well. But self watering pots are not good for herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, and oregano because they prefer the soil to dry out between watering.
I’ve written a lot more details about the benefits of using self-watering pots for herbs, how to use such containers, and why you should avoid using them for certain plants.
Which herbs can you grow in self-watering pots?
A self-watering pot will provide the plant with a constant supply of water. This means the plant’s roots will have moisture available whenever they need it.
So a self-watering pot is good for herbs like chives, parsley, marjoram, and mint that need a constant supply of water for their roots.
However, herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, and basil prefer to stay in dry soil for a bit before you water them again. So using a self-watering pot for such herbs is not suitable.
If you do use the self-watering pot for such herbs, the plants will not have good flavor and they might even have poor growth.
How to choose a self-watering pot for herbs
You want to pick a self-watering pot that is the right fit for the herb plant that you’re growing.
Choose a pot that is the right size
You may have grown the herb seedling in a seedling tray or bought it from a local garden center or nursery. You need to pick a self-watering pot that is 1-2 sizes larger than the plant.
This helps you fill the container with enough potting soil for the herb plant to grow well. You will be able to fill enough water and nutrients for the herb plant as well.
Choose a pot based on your budget
Self-watering pots are made by different companies and will come in different prices. You can pick one based on your budget but make sure that you don’t compromise on the quality just to save a few bucks.
A good quality self-watering pot will last you for several years and will make up for the price with the value it provides.
What is the best self-watering pot for herbs?
I think the Lechuza Classico Self-Watering Pot available on Amazon is a good choice for growing herbs. It is inexpensive but has a good quality and an attractive design.
There’s a water-level indicator that will help you check the water level and refill if the water is low. It’s easy to fill water in the reservoir using the water inlet on this container.
And it comes with a drainage plug at the bottom that you can unplug when keeping the container outdoors or plug when indoors.
How to use a self-watering container for herbs
Once you’ve picked a good self-watering pot for your herbs, you can start the process of growing them in it.
Transplant the herb to the container
The first thing to do is to add good potting soil to the self-watering pot. Make sure to cover the pot fully with the soil. Gently tap the bottom of the seedling tray or container to extract the herb seedling.
Make sure to hold the base of the herb plant with your hands as you slide it out of the container along with the root ball.
Make a hole in the center of the potting soil you added to the self-watering pot. Place the root ball of the herb plant in this hole and cover it well with more potting soil.
You can even the soil out and make sure that the soil is covering the roots. Firm the soil near the base of the herb plant to give it good support. But don’t apply too much pressure as that can compact the soil and cause a lack of moisture and aeration.
Fill the reservoir with water
The next step is to fill the reservoir with water. The way you do this depends on the type of self-watering pot you are using.
For some pots, you may need to lift the inner pot containing the herb plant. Then add water to the reservoir in the outer pot. For other pots, there may be an inlet connected to the reservoir inside the pot. You just need to fill the inlet with water till the required level is reached.
You may need to use a watering can that has a long, narrow neck to be able to fill a self-watering pot with a small inlet for the water.
Keep the reservoir clean
The water in the reservoir may last anywhere from 1-4 weeks depending on conditions like the type of plant, humidity, heat, and size of the reservoir.
I recommend cleaning the reservoir every 2 weeks to keep it free from the growth of any fungus, algae, salt, or mineral deposits that may happen from tap water.
If you can take the reservoir out of the self-watering pot, clean it with a mixture of soap and water. Then rinse it well with water before attaching it back to the self-watering pot.
What are the benefits of a self-watering pot?
There are some benefits you get when using a self-watering pot than a regular one.
Saving of water
In a self-watering pot, you just fill up the reservoir to the indicated level. The herb plant’s roots will absorb the required moisture from the substrate using the wicking action.
This means there is no need to keep watering the plant till the water drains out from the bottom as you would in a regular pot. And you save a lot of water due to this.
Regular supply of moisture
As long as you keep the reservoir filled with water, the herb plant’s roots are always getting the required amount of moisture from the potting soil.
This is very beneficial for growing herbs that need consistent moisture in the soil and don’t like it when it becomes dry.
Prevents overwatering or underwatering
The most common problem that beginners face when growing herbs is to either underwater or overwater the plants. The underwatering will cause the herb plants to dry out and not grow. The leaves will turn yellow and fall off.
Overwatering is an even serious problem where you give too much water to the plant. This causes the potting soil to get soggy and the roots to drown. The roots get infected with a disease that causes root rot.
The roots become soggy and turn black. They are unable to provide nutrients to the herb plant and it will eventually die.
The self-watering pot helps prevent these problems. You just fill the reservoir with the right amount of water and the roots absorb the required quantity.
If you try to put too little water, you will notice it in the indicator on the container. If you try to put too much water, it will drain out from the outlet on the container.
Lower risk of fungal diseases
The biggest risk of the herb plant getting infected by a fungal disease comes because you are spraying water on the foliage or splashing potting soil on it. The moist conditions make it favorable for fungal diseases to attack the plant.
You won’t have this problem with a self-watering pot because you just add water to the reservoir. There is no splashing of water on the leaves or the soil.
Add fertilizer for the herbs
One benefit of using a self-watering pot is that you can add liquid fertilizer along with the water in the reservoir. This helps your herb plants get a constant supply of nutrients from the water in the reservoir.
You can add such liquid fertilizer along with the water and it should last the herb plant for a couple of weeks.
What are the drawbacks of a self-watering pot?
There are some situations where you should not use a self-watering container as it can harm plant growth.
Heating of the water
You want to avoid using a self-watering pot if it’s going to remain outside in very hot weather. The heat will cause the water to heat up and that would be harmful to the growth of the plant.
The hot water will also impact the growth of the beneficial microorganisms in the potting soil and stunt the growth of the plant.
So you either need to move the container to a location having shade or avoid using the self-watering pot for places that get hot.
Some herb plants like basil, thyme, oregano, and rosemary would prefer the soil to dry out before you add water. This helps them grow better and becomes more flavorful.
If you use a self-watering pot, they will get a constant supply of water which is not suitable for their growth.