I Tried It! This Viral "Self-Watering" Pot Hack is a Genius Way to Keep Your Plants Watered While on Vacation

If you're going to be away for a while, then this super easy plant hack may just your saving grace. Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can do it — according to an expert

Photo of stylish minimal room interior with different home plants. Botanic style in living room with a table and chair. Green spring theme concept
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I know i'm probably pretty late to this hack, but better late than never right? A few weeks ago, I came across a video of plant expert and author Hilton Carter on the Rachel Ray show, where he demonstrated the infamous 'self-watering plant hack' and well, I was amazed — I still am!

For those who may not know, 'this hydropic method, commonly referred to as a wick system, involves using a rope or string to transfer water from a reservoir to the roots of a plant,' Hilton explains to me. 'The idea behind this method is that the string acts as the conductor of water which slowly transfers water over a long period of time'.

If you want to water houseplants while on vacation or you simply want to avoid root rot due to overwatering your plants — here's how you can successfully use the plant pot self-watering hack to do just that.

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Does this DIY self-watering planter really work?

The garden pot watering hack using a cotton rope

(Image credit: Future)

I asked plant expert, interior stylist and the author of The Propagation Handbook, Hilton Carter if this method really works. He tells me: 'Although it's not as efficient and precise as watering by hand with a watering can, it does indeed work!'

Victoria Cummins, a gardening expert and Senior Editor at PlantWhisperer says: 'In my experience, this hack tends to be effective for smaller to medium-sized houseplants. As long as you position the water source below the pot and make sure the rope is well saturated down in the soil, it does a nice job of maintaining consistent moisture levels. That consistency is important for many plants to thrive'.

Want to get your hands deep into the soil and start using the self-watering rope hack? Well, with a little expert guidance, I put the idea to the test.

How to Create a Self-Watering Planter Using Rope

A Chamaedorea elegans (Parlor Palm) on the left, with a glass of water (Middle) and a cotton rope on the right

(Image credit: Future/Faiza Saqib)

Gardening expert Tony O'Neill from Simplify Gardening says, 'I’ve used this rope watering method for my indoor plants while away on vacation, and it has worked wonders in keeping them hydrated and healthy. It’s a fantastic low-maintenance solution that ensures my plants thrive even when I’m not around'.

So without further ado, here is a step-by-step guide on how to successfully use the self-watering plant hack.

What you'll need:
• Cotton rope or a similar absorbent rope
• Water source
• Potted plant

Step 1 - Preparation

A pair of scissors and a cotton rope

(Image credit: Future)

A great low maintenance plant hack for indoor gardening — if you want to try this at home, Gardening expert Tony says you first need to, 'cut the rope to a length that reaches from the water source to the bottom of the pot with the plant'.

He says for the best outcome, you need to ensure the rope is absorbent — 'cotton works best as it will wick water efficiently'.

Step 2 - Insert the rope

A cotton rope placed inside Parlor Palm soil

(Image credit: Future)

Next up, Tony says you need to 'Insert one end of the rope into the pot's soil, ensuring it reaches down to the roots'. For this step, I made a small hole into my soil with a chopstick — which was around the same width of the rope — to make sure the rope comfortably fit inside the soil.

Following Tony's instructions, I then buried the rope about 2-3 inches deep in the soil to ensure it stays in place and effectively delivers water to the roots of my houseplant.

Step 3 - Set Up the Water Source

A glass of water with a cotton rope placed inside

(Image credit: Future)

Now for the main event. 'Place the other end of the rope into the water source. Ensure the water level is maintained so the rope remains submerged,' Tony explains.

For this step, I used a water glass and filled it up as much as I could. I then soaked a good amount of the rope into the water.

Step 4 - Position the Pots and Monitor

A water glass (R) acting as a water source for a Parlor Palm (L)

(Image credit: Future)

Tony tells me for this step it is important to make sure the pot with the plant is at a 'higher level than the water source' as he says 'this height difference helps with the capillary action that draws the water up the rope'.

And last but not least, the expert says once you've established your indoor garden and finalised the self-watering hack, you need to, 'check the water source regularly and refill it as needed to ensure a continuous water supply, and monitor the soil moisture to adjust the setup if necessary'.

With those simple steps, you can create your very own minimalist indoor garden. For me, the garden pot watering hack using rope was fairly low maintenance and easy to follow.

After trying it myself — I would highly recommend you give this a go as it's a great way to give your plants some tender love and care, even if you're far away on vacation!

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Advice & Gardens Editor

Faiza is the Advice & Gardens Editor at Livingetc. She previously worked for The Independent as a News Feature Writer, where she wrote articles on lifestyle, entertainment, news and more. She also worked as an Audience Editor for the newspaper for over two years. Spending a few years in the newsroom, Faiza also previously worked for Sky News as an SEO reporter, where she produced stories based on trending topics. Lifestyle and Interior design is a space Faiza has been interested in for quite some time and as she continues to grow in the field, she will be diving into an interior design course to further her skills. Faiza has a background in SEO, social media and reporting. Her passion for writing goes beyond her work as she loves all things poetry and creative writing.