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Space-Saving Sub-Irrigated Planters (SIPS)

Last Spring a friend of mine suggested I try out Sub-Irrigated Planters, also known as “SIPS” or sometimes “Self-Irrigating Planters.”  These types of planters can be purchased or improvised, and employ a reservoir of water that allows the plants to wick the proper amount as they grow.  My SIPS are mostly constructed from materials I had around the house or purchased from The Dollar Store, while many other effective designs can be found online.  I am amazed at how the plants thrive in these planters, and at how little space they require.

This Plant Spa was purchased at The Dollar Store for less than $5 as part of my experiment.  Please note the reservoir opening at the bottom.

Plant Spa

I improvised two large SIPS by using standard hole-in-the-bottom planters.  The reservoir is made from a plastic colander and an inexpensive plastic dish tub (see below.)  The colander and tub prevent over-watering and root-rot by allowing excess water to overflow out of the planter.  The colander also allows for aeration as the plants “wick” the required moisture.

Large Improvised SIP

Finished Large SIP

Lastly, I improvised a “colander” out of a juice bottle so that I could turn an ordinary clay planter in to a small SIP.  A hack saw was used to saw the bottle in half.


Next I used the awl of my Swiss Army knife to punch holes in the plastic, giving it the look of a colander.


The clay SIP ended up looking like this:

1st Clay Sip

Final Clay SIP

I stirred a dash of lime into my fertilized potting mix, then added tomato and pepper plants.  During the first week, I watered the plants from the top, ensuring that the reservoir below was always full.  Since then I only add water to the reservoir as the plants are clearly wicking the perfect amount.

6 weeks ago

After six weeks of growth, I am thrilled with the size of my plants!

6 weeks later

My design was inspired by Jim Annerton’s detailed PDF, which can be downloaded here.  I am so thrilled with the results that I cannot wait to try more SIP designs next year!

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