Last Updated: May 14, 2021

Garden Hack: DIY Water Bottle Drip Watering System

By Published On: February 12th, 20214.6 min readCategories: Garden, Home, Projects

Last Updated: May 14, 2021

Water potted plants perfectly every time with a simple slow drip system made from a water bottle

If you have a lot of potted plants, no doubt some of them are harder to water properly than others.

This can be for lots of reasons. A pot full to the rim with soil, very dry or sandy soil that doesn’t absorb water quickly, foliage that spills over the side and channels water away, dense roots that prevent water from percolating down, or just a pot that’s hard or awkward to reach with your watering can.

Whatever the reason, the result is usually the same – water that spills out of the planter instead of going into the pot, leaving the plant itself dry.

There are, of course, ways around this. You can bottom soak, change the soil, replant in a larger pot, move it to somewhere easier to water, etc., but they’re all inconvenient to one degree or another (especially for a lazy plantsman like myself).

Fortunately, I figured out a little hack that will slow-drip water the plant perfectly every time with just about zero effort.

Best of all, it super-easy to make, and costs next to nothing. All you need is an old plastic water bottle. Here’s how to do it.

Supplies:
  • One empty half-liter plastic water bottle with a cap
  • A small nail such as a finish nail
  • Hammer
  • Wire coat hanger (optional)

Supplies for the drip watering system

Instructions:
    1. Remove the cap from the water bottle. Flip the cap over and place it on a bench or piece of wood.

Use a hammer and small nail to make two holes in the bottle cap

    1. Using your nail and hammer, punch two small holes on either side of the cap’s interior. Push the nail through and wiggle it a bit to make sure the holes are clear of any plastic bits, but don’t make the holes too big or the water will pour out too fast.

Water bottle cap with holes

  1. Fill your water bottle with water and screw the cap on to it. If you’re watering a smaller pot, you don’t need to fill the bottle all the way; just enough to give your plant a good drink without flooding it.

That’s it! You’re now ready to drip water (I told you it was easy).

To drip water plants:

Simply flip filled the water bottle upside down in your pot so the cap is touching the soil, but not covered by it (you don’t want the soil to block the holes).

If your plant is large enough to support the bottle or you have something nearby to lean the bottle against (a wall, another pot, etc.), just balance the bottle and leave it to drain into the pot.

DIY drip system watering a planter up in a tree

If the plant is too small or there’s no support for the inverted bottle, make a support for it from a wire coat hanger.

Water bottle support made from a wire coat hanger

Clip your coat hanger and make a loop for the bottle at one end. Then bend the hanger at the end of the loop to make a straight piece several inches longer than the bottle itself. When you’re ready to drip water, push the long end of the hanger into the pot, flip the filled water bottle over, and slide it into the loop. Viola! A free standing drip system support.

DIY drip system using a wire hanger for support

If everything is working right, you will see air bubbles slowly rising in the bottle from one hole while the other releases water into the soil drip-by-drip. Don’t worry if the bottle draws a little soil into it. As long as it doesn’t block the hole, it’s just fine.

DIY drip watering system doing its thing

If you don’t see air bubbles rising in the bottle, it’s probably because the soil is fine or compacted and blocking the holes in the cap. ).

You can fix that by putting a little stick under the cap, or adjusting the coat hanger holder, to give it a small amount of airspace between the soil and the bottle cap.

A half-liter drip bottle will drain completely in 20-30 minutes, soaking the soil thoroughly without splashing or knocking out soil.

I use this method for watering succulents with really dry, sandy soil as well as house plants like spider plants that like crowed roots and make it difficult for water to soak in. I also use it on hanging pots that are hard to reach with a watering can or hose.

This drip water system also works great with seedlings and small plants in pots or in the ground where you want to target water delivery without washing away soil or mulch.

If you’re a visual learner, I put together this short video below on how to do make the drip water hack as well. Enjoy!

>> YouTube Video – Drip Water Hack

3 Comments

  1. Bob sackett July 17, 2023 at 2:08 am - Reply

    Very neat idea for the garden. I actually came across this by looking for way to make an oil. Dripper for homemade mayonnaise as I don’t have the patience to manually drip oil. I guess I’ll go make one now.

  2. Tina July 4, 2024 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    How often should I be refilling the bottles? Live in Texas and the heat is brutal this time
    Of year. Set up the bottles today and most of them were empty within 30 minutes is that normal?

    • Sage Osterfeld July 6, 2024 at 7:58 am - Reply

      When the soil is dry to the touch. Here, where it’s in the high 80s – low 90s in summer and there’s zero rain, it takes a couple of days.

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About the Author

author avatar
Sage Osterfeld
I’m just a guy with nearly an acre of dirt, a nice little mid-century ranch house and a near-perfect climate. But in my mind I’m a landscaper survivalist craftsman chef naturalist with a barbeque the size of a VW and my own cable TV show. I like to write about the stuff I build, grow and see here at Sage's Acre.

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