6 Problems With Self Watering Pots – Must-Know for Cacti Owners

Self-watering pots sound like a great deal for people who travel frequently or who have extremely busy schedules to the point of forgetting to water their plants regularly. As the name suggests, these are pots designed to water plants whether the plant owner is around or not.

Before you know how self-watering pots work, don’t be in a rush to purchase one. Most self-watering planters have a reservoir at their bottom where water is drawn into the soil slowly by slowly through capillary action. This provides a constant supply of water to the plant roots.

As good as it sounds, self watering planters present several problems that everyone intending to use must know. 

Self watering pot

Problems with self-watering pots

The following are the main problems with self watering planters:

1. Not ideal for cacti and succulents

Sef-watering pots can constantly supply water to the soil keeping it moist throughout. This is a big problem for cacti, succulents, and other plants that don’t like excess water around their roots. Cacti in particular are desert plants adapted to dry conditions and they need to be watered infrequently.

It is easy to overwater cacti and succulent plants when using a self-watering system. This can cause root rot and other fungal problems. Root rot is a serious condition that occurs when the plant is overwatered. Fungi that cause root rot thrive in damp conditions.

Root rot can easily kill the plants in a matter of weeks and it’s neither easy to treat. To save the pant, it may be necessary to remove it from the soil and repot it in well-draining fresh soil. 

Cacti prefers well-drained soil and should be watered manual when the soil is dry to the touch. The secrete is to allow the soil to dry completely between the waterings. Terracotta pots are a great alternative since they are porous, which allows air to flow around the plant roots.

2. Can promote the growth of algae

Algae are photosynthetic organisms related to plants. They are common in aquatic environments and don’t be shocked to also find them in the self-watering pot reservoirs. Algae can grow and spread rapidly, this can discolor the water and make it look unsightly.

To prevent the growth of algae, clean the pot and change the water regularly. If there is algae already growing in the water, remove the plant from the pot and clean the reservoir. Wash with a mild soap solution and a scrub brush and make sure to clean all the sides of the pot both inside and outside.

3. Can cause the growth of mold

Mold is a type of fungi that thrives in damp conditions. The growth of mold in houseplant soil can result from overwatering, poor drainage, and decomposing plant materials. Since self-watering pots constantly keep the soil moist, the soggy soil condition combined with old soil can cause the growth of mold.

Mold in the potting soil can be a threat to plants and the family members in your home. It can clog the roots preventing proper absorption of water and nutrients. Mold also produces spores which can cause respiratory problems in allergic individuals.

4. Not suitable for large plants

Using self watering pots may result in poor root growth, particularly in large plants. Most plants thrive when the roots are deeply grown into the soil. Well-spread roots also promote support to the plants. This won’t be a privilege anymore for the plants when you are using a self-watering planter.

Their design and size limit the free-growth of the roots. In some cases, you’ll likely find the roots heavily entangled, which makes them unable to absorb air and nutrients as needed. You can fix this by repotting the plant in a spacious planter.

5. Self watering pots are expensive

Self watering pots with special features such as water level indicators, built-in aerators, and drainage systems tend to be more expensive. Pots made from ceramic and metal are also expensive, but they are also more durable. 

If you are looking for a budget-friendly option then plastic self watering pots are the most common and typically the most affordable on the market. However, some popular brands also tend to price their commodities higher than less-known brands.

6. Can be difficult to set up or clean

Some types of self-watering pots can be difficult to set up and this can limit the ability to disassemble and clean them. Cleaning and changing water regularly is important in maintaining the watering system as it also prevents the growth of mold and algae.

Most self watering pots have a wick that helps to transport water from the reservoir to the soil. If you don’t adjust the wick so that it is in contact with the water in the reservoir your plants may go for days without water before you realize it.

Important tips for using self watering plant pots

Self-watering pots can be great for plants that thrive in moist conditions. If you decide to use one, here are important tips.

  • Choose the right pot size for your plant. The pot should be spacious enough to accommodate the plant’s roots, but not so large to cause overwatering.
  • Use the right type of soil. Self-watering pots work best with a well-draining potting mix.
  • Fertilize your plants regularly. Fertilizing your plants will help them to grow healthy and strong.
  • Check the water level regularly to make sure that the reservoir is always filled with water.
  • Inspect your plants regularly. Look for signs of problems such as wilting, leaf drop, or root rot, and treat them as needed.

Final Thoughts

Self-watering plant pots are a great way to keep your plants regularly watered even if you are away from your home. They can be used for growing specific plants as long as you know how to set them up and maintain.

However, these plant watering and potting systems are not suitable for plants that don’t like excess water around their roots as they can cause root rot due to overwatering. Mold and algae can also be a big problem in self-watering pots if you don’t clean and replace the water as needed. 

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