See if you relate to this scenario. You go to your local nursery and excitedly select a houseplant to be your new companion. After you bring it home, you fuss over its placement on the windowsill, worrying if the sunlight might be a bit too harsh for its delicate leaves. You water it faithfully like clockwork every Sunday morning, lovingly rotating the pot each time so it doesn’t become leggy. Fast forward a few months: the waterings become a bit less regular, the pot rotating less frequent, until eventually its once bushy green foliage is spotted with yellow from dehydration and the stems are leaning severely towards the light source. You have reached that point in your relationship where you’ve come to take your plant pal for granted.
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Sometimes life gets in the way, and, unlike your kid or your pet, your houseplant won’t pester you for attention. Luckily, there’s a simple solution for those of use who have trouble committing to a regular watering schedule, or for those who travel away from home quite a bit: terracotta self-watering spikes.
You can snag a pack of four on Amazon for less than $15 and, paired with a few empty wine bottles, they provide a slow drip of water straight to the plant’s roots. The spike keeps the soil constantly moist, letting you off the hook if you forget about watering, or go out of town, for a few weeks.
How Plant Stakes Work
Fill your empty wine bottle with water and place the terracotta spike on top like a cap. Holding the spike and the neck of the bottle together, swiftly flip everything upside down and push the spike into the soil so that there is only an inch or two left exposed. It can be helpful to create a hole in the soil ahead of time to make it easier.
The water in the wine bottle acts as a reservoir that seeps slowly through the porous clay of the spike, providing water beneath the soil where the roots need it most.
Tip: Soak the spikes in water for 30 minutes or so to open up the pores in the clay so that the water flows more freely from the reservoir.
Of course, some plants will require more water than your terracotta spikes can supply. The potted cherry tomato plant on your balcony, for example, needs a big drink of water every day. The spikes also won’t work too well for houseplants in tiny or overly crowded pots, or for hanging baskets.
Why We Like Them
We already mentioned that terracotta spikes are a great solution if you’re forgetful about watering, but they’re also helpful if you tend to be an over-enthusiastic waterer. The spike provides a slow and steady drip of water right to the roots so you’ll be less likely to drown your plant by overwatering. This is particularly helpful for succulents and other plants that grow in desert-like conditions that don’t appreciate a sudden soaking. It’s easy to see when the reservoir needs to be refilled, taking the guesswork out of how much you need to water.
And yes, terracotta watering spikes are a cheap and easy way to keep your plant babies alive when you’re heading out of town for a week or two. You can use them indoors and outdoors in pots or directly in the ground. Your plants will stay hydrated and healthy so you won’t need to experience that neglectful plant parent guilt ever again.
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