People are curious creatures, and they also try to come up with the “next big thing”. When it comes to plant care, the self-watering pots were deemed as “the innovation of the century in the field”. And in a way it made sense, considering how busy almost everyone is nowadays. Preoccupied with work, family, and thousands of issues, we often forget to water our plants, or at least we do not stick to a regular schedule. Hence having self-watering pots at home means one struggle less. We can just enjoy he beauty of the plants, and the technology takes care of the rest. But will it work with succulents?
As it is almost always the case, the answer isn’t completely straightforward. As a rule of a thumb, you can use self-watering pots with succulents, and if you do it correctly, you will even reduce the chance of root rot or stem rot, which is the no. 1 cause of people losing their succulents. However, in some cases, for example when you use a bad size of a pot (too big for a succulent), or water soil from top to bottom in a self-watering pot (which is designed for watering from bottom), things may not end up as expected. Let’s dive into some important details.
Self-watering pots help with preventing root rot and stem rot
Succulents do not like to bathe in water, and they hate when the soil around their roots is constantly wet. This promotes root rot and will eventually kill the succulent. The soil can be constantly wet for a variety of reasons (you use bad soil mix, pot without a drainage hole, or water the plants way too often), but it is less likely to happen with a self-watering pot, if you use it correctly.
In a self-watering pot you should water the plants from the bottom. The idea is that you add enough water to the reservoir, and the succulent takes as much as it needs, whenever it needs it. In theory, and with mature plants, this works like a charm. I have used self-watering plants with aloes, jade plants, snake plants, and one Christmas cactus. I made sure to “fill the reservoir” from the bottom once in every two weeks. The plants grew, thrived, and I haven’t lost a single one to root rot.
Many people mistakenly think that the moisture will soak into the soil from the bottom and make it wet, which will result in root rot. But that’s not how laws of Physics work :). The water stays in a reservoir, and the smallest roots of the succulent will simply take it in, benefiting from the capillary effect. The plants will get water, but the soil will stay dry. And that’s exactly what you desire with succulents.
Cases when self-watering pots won’t work with succulents
In some cases though, these pots won’t do the trick. For example when you plant a succulent in a pot that’s too big for its root ball–we sometimes do this for decorative purposes. In such a case, the thin end roots of the plant may not reach the water reservoir. Hence the water will stay there (or slowly evaporate), without a succulent “drinking” any of it.
Another case is when we actually have to water the plant from top to bottom, for whatever reason (for example the location of the pot–it is difficult to reach the bottom, and a the same time it is too heavy to move it). What happens often is that we do pour too much water on the soil, the reservoir fills up and leaks, and it makes the room messy. Certain plants prefer top to bottom watering anyway, and for such succulents self-watering pots aren’t the best choice.
Final verdict on self-watering pots for succulents
In my opinion and experience, the self-watering pots have not put a dent to the world of succulent growing. You can no doubt use them with your plants, and, if you use them correctly (just as I described in previous sections of this post), your plants will thrive, and you will avoid root rot and stem rot.
Having said that, you can achieve the same results with any other pot with a drainage hole, should you water your succulents in a right way, and use the right soil mix. Hope this helps, and I wish you best of luck with your succulents, regardless of whether you give self-watering pots a shot or not…
May also interest you: Do succulents like coffee grounds?