En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - August 12, 2008

From: Washington, DC
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Watering
Title: Self-watering planters
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I'm a big proponent of the EarthBox (tm) phenomenon - that is, so-called "self-watering" or sub-irrigation planters where a separate but connected reservoir underneath the soil in the planter is filled and the plant draws its moisture upward from there. You don't water the plant, you water the reservoir. My question is this - many websites seem to suggest that a plant cannot be overwatered through this method because the plant "takes what it needs and that's it." It seems more realistic to me that, unless the planter is in full sun for the majority of the day, the plant will not use that much water, the soil will become overly wet, and the roots will rot. Shouldn't an indoor sub-irrigated planter be allowed to dry out somewhat before being replenished? Thanks in advance!

ANSWER:

Since we had never even heard of this product, we went to some of the websites on it. We couldn't pass any kind of judgment on something we had never personally used. However, just from the instructions, it seems to be an awfully complicated way to grow a plant. Our impression was that it was mostly being utilized as a means to produce vegetables. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the use of plants native to North America and to the area in which they are being grown. Very few vegetables are native to North America and those that are have been so extensively hybridized that they really don't fall into our area of expertise. It seems a number of the users are from the U.K., where perhaps they don't have enough sunlight or warm weather to grow things in the dirt.

To attempt to answer your question about whether the roots are safe from drowning in the planter, we would imagine they are. Probably the system works just fine; the company would have difficulty continuing to sell them if the plants in them croaked. Really, our own problem with the concept is that it kind of takes the fun out of gardening. To many gardeners, present company included, gardening is something you DO, not something you get produce from. It seems like a lot of trouble and expense to grow things that can be purchased at the grocery store. Pottering around among the plants, deadheading, sprinkling, pulling up the odd weed, and having a chat with the recalcitrant members of your plant family would all be replaced by plastic, fertilizer strips, netting and screens. It is not the policy of Mr. Smarty Plants to weigh in for or against commercial products; decisions on this should be left to the individual.

We did find some websites on the product that you may want to look at; mostly they are from the company itself, but one, Dave's Garden forum on The Scoop on Earth Box, has some comments from people who have used them. One from the company is Welcome to Earth Box.

 

More Watering Questions

Problems with Habiturf in Austin
May 10, 2014 - I have been trying to establish a Habiturf lawn in my back yard. It is approximately a 1,000 square foot area and this last seeding was the third over about one and a half years. I just recently over ...
view the full question and answer

Watering Native Trees in Georgetown, TX
July 19, 2012 - I installed a native/adapted plantscape in early March including several small trees. They were planted in the rocky soil west of I-35 in Georgetown with plenty of added compost and mulch. Other than ...
view the full question and answer

Replacing Drought-Stricken Cedars
January 16, 2012 - Hello, I live in Williamson County on a couple acres. We have several dead cedars as a result of drought; we're reluctant to cut them down because many of them provide a friendly barrier between us...
view the full question and answer

Limp leaves on Texas purple sage in Magnolia TX
July 22, 2010 - Recently planted Texas purple sage, some of it looks healthy and has new blooms, but a few of the plants have limp leaves and are thin at the bottom. I read the article on cotton root rot, but am not ...
view the full question and answer

Poor drainage in wildflower bed
November 10, 2004 - I have a flower bed that has given me difficulty because it has poor drainage but typically receives sun for most of the day. Salvia gregii was the only survivors for the initial landscaping attempt. ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center