Self-watering plastic bottle planter

sprouting rocket

Wanting to try something more DIY for my vertical gardening, I’ve opted for the very simple self-watering plastic bottle planter. It’s incredibly easy to make, but not without its issues. Reading other blog posts, it seems algae can grow in the water compartment, and roots can be sun-burnt.

I initially followed Spoonful’s instructions, however removing the lid means earth falls into the water. So on my third bottle, i’ve carved a few crosses in the lid to make slight holes. Another way around this is to add a wick, as mentioned in Make It and Mend It. To avoid the roots burning in the sun, the soil can be covered, it’s still fairly cold and low light here in Manchester so i’m not going to do this yet.

If you have access to a glass cutter, you can even make these out of wine bottles, see Instructables to find out how.

I’ve planted sprouting rocket, winter salad leaves, chives and mixed leaves.

Wick in a self-watering plastic bottle planter
Wick in a self-watering plastic bottle planter

What you will need

  • Marker pen
  • Sturdy 1-litre plastic bottles with caps
  • Utility knife / scalpel
  • Scissors
  • Potting soil
  • Herb seedlings


1. Mark a line 5 inches from the bottle’s base (or half way up the bottle). Use the utility knife to puncture the bottle at the mark, then use scissors to cut all the way around the bottle at the mark.

Cut the bottle in half and invert the top

2. With the cap in place, invert the bottle’s top portion and insert it into the base. Fill it two-thirds with soil. Transplant a seedling, adding soil and pressing it gently until the seedling is secured in the planter.

Fill earth 2/3s up

3. Lift out the soil-filled top portion and remove the cap, add wick to the cap or make holes in the cap (using a knife or drill). Add about an inch of water to the planter’s base, enough to cover the lip of the inverted bottle top when you replace it. Give the seedling some more water to help it get established, then place it in a sunny spot. Following the care instructions that came with the herb, add water as needed to the planter’s base.

First finished self-watering plastic bottle planter

Diagram from Artfuldodgers
Diagram from Artfuldodgers

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