LCD Automatic Drip Irrigation Kit for 15 Plants ($46.99)
Between long out-of-town work assignments and bike travel trips, I often find myself away from home for months at a time. I hate asking people for help (yes, this can sometimes be a problem) so rather than have someone come by to water my plant family, I use an automatic watering system.
Most indoor automatic watering systems have the capability to supply water to up to ten or so containers via tubing that extends from a small, central water pump. The pump, which is attached to a programmable timer, hooks onto the edge of a bucket. I’ve always set these up so that the water source (5-gallon bucket) is at a higher level than all the containers I want to water. It’s also important to position the pump mechanism above the water source it's drawing from to prevent siphoning (water flowing into the reservoir instead of out).
None of the following watering systems are especially high tech but they (mostly) do what they’re intended to do – which is provide water to your plant babies when you’re not around. None are very expensive either which sort of lends itself to the fact that they’ll probably not last for more than four or five years.
Here are the best, low-cost, automatic watering systems for indoor plants that I’ve found.
I purchased this automatic watering system six years ago and it worked beautifully until my most recent out-of-town stint in April of 2022. The Continental AWS-10 takes four AA batteries to run and, while I had replaced those, the system still failed to function. I’m not sure exactly what went wrong but considering it only cost me $41.78 (with tax) I still feel as if it was worth the money.
Of course, it is no longer manufactured so I wasn’t able to purchase a new one. I did find this one, though, from a company called Inshow which looks identical to my original one.
The pump on this system is one of the most effective and strongest ones I’ve tried. Even when the watering duration is set for a low amount of time (10 seconds) enough water is drawn and distributed to the end of each tube through 10 separate output holes at the pump. I use mine with a 5-gallon bucket filled almost completely with water. I set the watering duration for 20 seconds every third day and use all ten possible water holes. I have never come home to find sad, dying plants (yay!).
The downside of this automatic watering system is that the batteries could run out at any time leaving your plants without water – which could have devastating results if you’re on an extended trip away from home. I also found the actual changing of the batteries to be a bit difficult only because opening the back access panel requires a tiny screwdriver and some creative prying. It doesn’t just snap or slide open easily. Overall, I was very happy with this system.
I bought this Kollea watering system when the battery-operated one I’d been using for years stopped working. I especially like that it’s powered by a USB cable.
Initially, I wasn’t very impressed as the pump wasn’t powerful enough to push water all the way through the length of the tubes extending to my plants. Unlike the Continental and Inshow watering systems described above, this pump has just one output hole, meaning you have to set up little t-joints to distribute water to multiple pots.
After some experimentation – cutting the tubes shorter and moving the pump higher than even the edge of the bucket, it worked better. I think if you only have two to four plants to water, this watering system would be sufficient.
I bought the sPlant Automatic drip irrigation system because it is equipped with what the company calls an “upgraded” pump that could efficiently water up to 15 plants.
As of this writing, I’ve only used this particular system one time for three weeks but can definitely attest that the pump is more powerful than other systems I’ve tried (and definitely more so than the smaller Kollea one mentioned above). Both the Kollea and sPlant cost around $45.00.
The sPlant version comes with a longer USB cord and slightly wider tubing. It was easily programmable without reading the instructions. So far, I’m quite happy with its performance.
These self-watering probes are the “no-tech” version of automatic watering systems. They do not come with instructions but work the same way as you would siphon gas from a vehicle’s tank.
The ceramic probes attach to small lengths of hose. Soak the probe in water for about thirty minutes then attach the hose to the ceramic probe (while still in a bucket of water) so that the hose itself also fills with water. The idea is to allow as little air as possible into the hose and the probe.
Next, insert the watering probes into the soil of the potted plant, making sure the hose part remains filled with water. You can do this by capping the open end with your finger. This review on Amazon explains a slightly different version of the process. The main things to keep in mind are to have as little air as possible in the hoses and to place the water source at the same level as the plants – because of gravity.
Automatic plant watering systems alleviate having to ask a neighbor or friend to water your plants while you’re gone, which frees up the barter favor-asking system for possibly more dire situations like a ride to the airport for one of those out-of-town trips you keep going on.