Water Wicking Potted Plants

Watering seems like such a simple task, however if it is not done correctly the plant will suffer.  Wick watering reduces the number of times a pot will need to be attended to each week and it provides vacationers with ease of mind when gone for a period of time.

Wick watering is done by simply running a length of rope from the soil down through a drainage hole and into a reservoir of water. As the soil in the pot dries, the wick draws water from the reservoir and rehydrates the plant.

The best time to insert a water wick is when you are potting your plant.  Make sure you are using the correct type of pot and potting mix, or you may end up with rotted plants that were too wet.  Plastic or ceramic pots are recommended as they will slow the rate of evaporation from the soil.  The potting mix needs to be very porous so that there is plenty of oxygen around the roots even when the mix is wet.  A recommended mix is 1 part sphagnum peat moss, 1 part perlite and 1 part vermiculite.   The mix should be pre-moistened before potting your plant or the wicking process may not function properly. The wick should also be pre-moistened before pulling it through the soil.

After the pot has been filled with damp potting soil, pull the wick up through a drain hole and into the soil with a section of coat hanger that has one end bent into a hook shape.  This coat hanger method would also work for an already established potted plant.  The wick should dangle out the bottom of the pot and rest in the reservoir of water below.

How many wicks your pot may need partly depends on how much moisture your soil mix will hold and how thirsty your plant is.  A small 3 inch pot will only need one wick, a 6 inch pot may need two.  The wick should be a man-made fiber such as acrylic, rayon or nylon yarn or cording.  African violet growers use small strings as wicks, larger plants and pots will require larger wicks.  You will need enough wick length to keep about 2 inches in the soil and enough left over to reach the bottom of the reservoir.

You will need a “riser” to keep the pot sitting above the water in the tray.  The rim of a discarded plastic container can work quite well for a diy riser.  They are easily cut with scissors, but be sure that the pot will sit an inch or two above the bottom of the tray and not above the rim of the tray.  When cutting the edge of your riser, check that there is enough variation in the edge so that water can easily flow through.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects can be found online. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can

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