This WaterWell pot goes indoors or out, holding twice as much water as soil!

This WaterWell pot goes indoors or out, holding twice as much water as soil!

If it’s been a while since you looked at self-watering containers, you are in for a pleasant surprise. These clever planters have improved since the days of those tiny reservoirs in the base of the pot! Today’s containers tend to be heavier on water and lighter on soil, and can include features that make them much more adaptable to use on the patio and even in the home.

The principle behind the self-watering container is that a reservoir within the pot itself stores water for plant roots to use during dry spells. For many gardeners, summer is a challenge: a hanging basket bursting with petunias, for instance, may dry out so quickly in the hot sun that even if it is watered in the morning, by mid-afternoon it is dry. Other gardeners rely on self-watering plants year-round to help them during vacations, weekend trips, and periods of plain old forgetfulness.

For today's container vegetables, self-watering planters are nothing short of a godsend!

For today’s container vegetables, self-watering planters like this Tomato and Pepper Tree are nothing short of a godsend!

Self-watering containers can hold more than water, too. Liquid fertilizer mixed with the water in the reservoir keeps plants growing their best and eliminates the need for gardeners to schedule weekly or monthly feeds.

The WaterWell system

The WaterWell system

So what’s new in self-watering containers? Well, the newer ones tend to have less of a soil compartment and more of a water reservoir. Just look at the beautiful WaterWell planters, where fully 2/3 of the available space is reserved for water! In these planters, the soil compartment is removable, so you don’t have to dump the reservoir to change out your plants. WaterWell uses hydrating wicks to draw water upwards, and a filter fabric to keep soil from seeping into the reservoir. These planters have no drainage holes (except the overflow hole in the reservoir), so they are great for the patio and home — no rings on the floor, no puddles from overwatering!

Some of the new planters include a removable drain plug, so that they can function indoors or out. This is especially handy for wall-mounted planters, which indoors can function as sconces!

The removable drainage plug and reservoir at the base of this wall planter make it ideal for indoor use on a wall.

This Ella wall planter goes indoors or out, thanks to a removable drainage plug.

The Water-Minder reservoir founded in Ella and Napa containers is smaller than the WaterWell, making these self-watering planters better for larger plants with more extensive root systems.

A replaceable plant liner lets you swap out your flowering annuals instantly, while the reservoir waters them for up to 3 months!

A replaceable plant liner lets you swap out your flowering annuals instantly, while the reservoir waters them for up to 3 months!

Internal irrigation systems are also better disguised now than they used to be. Look at this lovely hanging basket, for instance — you might never guess that it has a sizable reservoir in the base, not to mention an inner liner that enables you to remove the plant quickly and easily for midseason substitutions.

And then there is perhaps the ultimate self-watering container — the rain barrel! The new look in rain barrels is to have a planter sitting on top, its plant roots luxuriating in the water feeding through it en route to the barrel! Not only is this a very effective way to keep plants hydrated, it really upgrades the look of the utilitarian rain barrel in your garden!

Whether you live in a hot or arid climate,

Rain barrels have come a long way from the old industrial-look tubs! This one keeps a potted plant perfectly watered above its storage tank.

Rain barrels have come a long way from the old industrial-look tubs! This one keeps a potted plant perfectly watered above its storage tank.

stay too busy to keep up with frequent watering, or simply love the idea of plants that can largely look after themselves, self-watering containers are a terrific time-saver. Next time you’re shopping for a few new flowerpots, hanging baskets, or even a rain barrel, look for those that have a reservoir and other features that make them versatile and useful.

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