Best self-watering systems: 6 ways to keep your plants thriving hands free

We've gathered the best self-watering systems and planters to help you keep your plants thriving while you're away from home

best self-watering gadgets and accessories garden path with flower beds filled with wild flowers and red poppies
(Image credit: Future/Peter F. Chatterton)

A quick search online will reveal that there are oh-so-many of different types of the self-watering systems to choose from, but which ones are guaranteed to work? The last thing you want is to fork out on an expensive gadget, only to come home to a shrivelled up garden. Nor do you want to buy something that isn't suitable for your planting, either watering it too much (or too little).

So where to start? When shopping for the best self-watering planters and systems, the first place to start is by looking at your plants. Are you an indoor gardener? Do you just have a balcony or a large container garden? Do you have an average-sized garden or needs something that will water a larger area? There are tailored options for each of the above so once you can narrow down your selection, you should be able to find the best self-watering system, gadget or gizmo to suit your needs. 

To make life a little easier for you – and we're all about having an easy life – we've collated our favourite self-watering accessories below to help you in your search. Some will need using in conjunction with the best garden hose, while others are the whole package. 

The best self-watering systems and planters for 2024

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Indoor, windowsill, balcony or garden, these ingenious devices will keep your plants watered when you can't do the job yourself...

1. The self-hydrating window box

best self watering gadgets and accessories, an all-weather rattan-style planter sitting on a windowsill full of flowers, chillis and herbs

(Image credit: Lechuza)

Balconera Cottage Planter 50 | £37.99 at Lechuza
This smart, trough-style planter may look like a simple, all-weather rattan country-style window box, but it's far more than just a pretty face. Inside, it features a removable liner, a water level indicator and plant substrate which all combine to ensure your plants are given all the water they need for at least a fortnight or more.

While this is planter is 50cm wide – hence the name – there's a wider 80cm size available, too, and you can even buy special brackets to attach the planter to a balcony or railing. 

2. The super smart Gardena watering system

best self watering gadgets and accessories, garden and greenery with a smart irrigation system connected to an outdoor water tap and a woman sitting in the background

(Image credit: Gardena)

Gardena Smart Water Control Set | £261.95 at Amazon
Whether you're home or away, connect this handy device to your best garden sprinkler or garden irrigation system via the outdoor tap and it will take on the job of watering your garden for you. Linked to your smartphone via Bluetooth and operated using an app, you can set up to three different watering schedules of your choice and adjust them whenever you need to. 

And in winter months, there's a handy frost alarm which will alert you when it's too cold to work.

3. The no-fuss self-watering spike

best self watering gadgets and accessories, close up of a self-watering dispenser in a plant pot

(Image credit: Elho)

Elho Aqua Care watering system | £11.65 for two at Amazon
Available in transparent, aubergine and lime colourways, the Elho Aqua Care gadget couldn't be simpler. Made from recycled plastic bottles, you fill it with water, insert the spike into the soil and the roots of your plant will suck up water from the earth when it needs it. 

4. The indoor/outdoor plant pot on wheels

best self watering gadgets and accessories, indoor plant pot on wheels with a healthy plant growing inside it, beside a sofa

(Image credit: Ikea)

Ikea PS Fejö self-watering plant pot | £22 at Ikea
This simple, sturdy planter for your plants features a tube insert leading into a separate water container in the base, so you can water your plants from the bottom up. Perfect for use indoors or out, your plant will drink what it needs – no more, no less – and the wheels on the base make it super easy to move around too. Genius.

5. The smart, stackable self-watering planter

best self watering gadgets and accessories, balcony with a white metal table and chairs and colourful plant pots in the background, the table is set for breakfast with fruit and pastries

(Image credit: Lechuza)

Pila color stick planter | £37.99 at Lechuza
The new Pil range from Lechuza features two sized planters in six colours made from UV-resistant, frostproof, durable resin. The integrated auto-watering system will ensure your plant gets the right amount of water it needs to thrive for up to three months. Ideal for patios and balcony gardens, you can stack them on top of handy storage units (as shown here) or buy a separate coaster base so you can move the planter around on wheels.

6. The container garden's self-watering saviour

best self watering gadgets and accessories, self watering system for planters and pots with hose feeding water to each pot full of flowers

(Image credit: Hozelock)

Hozelock Classic Micro Irrigation | £77.97 at Amazon
If most of your plants are in containers, you need this best self-watering system in your life. Suitable for use in up to 25 pots, this kit features includes a supply tube that features special mini drippers that will automatically deliver water directly to the roots of each plant. This reduces water wastage and ensures your plants stay healthy when you're away from home (or just lazing on a lounger in the sunshine).

How to choose the right self watering system

Choosing the right irrigation system is dependent on what you are watering and how hands off you need to be. You also need to consider how long you are likely to be away on holiday as some will hold enough water to cover a long weekend or a few days, while smart irrigation systems are designed to work for as long you need.

It all depends on whether your choice of best self-watering system is connected to a water source, such as an outdoor tap. If not, you will be limited by their tank capacity. Be mindful that you will need to avoid overwatering too, so before you pick what type you need, learn a bit about watering plants.

Self-watering planters
These are best suited to container gardening ideas and houseplants, or kitchen herb gardens. They hold enough water to keep your plant fresh for a number of days, or a couple of weeks. There are some that can manage months of watering too, but this will despond on climate and exposure.

Look for a self-watering planter that regulates how much water the plant drinks so that the soil doesn't become waterlogged. We also like options like those from Lechuza that have water indicators so you never forget to top it up.

Watering spikes
The most basic of self-watering systems are spikes. Some are ornate like the option we have shown above, but if you need something utilitarian for a greenhouse or your best indoor plants while you are away, check out the large range of self watering spikes on Amazon. They aren't pretty but they are very affordable and make use of any old plastic bottles you have, meaning you can choose how many litres of water you hook up.

Smart watering systems
The most expensive – but most flexible – best self-watering systems are smart watering systems. These are connected to the mains and programmed via your smart phone. There are a few choices out there with Hozelock and Gardena offering some of the most advanced systems, but most will offer scheduling options. These are not just great for watering plants while away on holiday, but can take the daily effort out of keeping your garden thriving.

Ginevra Benedetti

Ginevra is the Deputy Editor of Ideal Home magazine but also writes for Gardeningetc whenever possible, as she loves everything about the outdoors. Over the years, she's worked for the majority of Britain’s monthly interiors magazines and their websites, including Homes & Gardens, Livingetc and Country Homes & Interiors. She's written about every area of the home, indoors and out, from shopping and decorating, appliances and home tech, wallpaper and fabric, kitchens and bathrooms, even extensions and conversions.