Make a Self-Watering Planter Out of a Plastic Water Bottle

In this blog post I'm going to go through step-by-step instructions on how to make a self-watering planter out of a plastic water bottle. This is a great way to reuse plastics, and it's an easy project for anyone interested in learning how to upcycling disposable materials.

For this craft, you will need the following materials:

  • A disposable plastic bottle (for this tutorial I used a miniature plastic water bottle, but almost any size will work)
  • Thread, string, or yarn
  • Scissors or a box cutter
  • A sharpie 
  • A nail or pushpin
  • Planting soil
  • A seed or seedling
  • A needle
  • Any materials you would like to use to decorate your planter (optional)

Step #1

Thoroughly clean your plastic water/soda/juice bottle and remove any plastic or paper labels. Make sure there's no soap or soda/juice left in the bottle.

Image of an empty plastic water bottle


Step #2

Take a sharpie and draw a two circles around the circumference of your bottle. One circle should be near the top (but far enough down that you're not cutting the sloped neck of the bottle) and the other should be 1/3 - 1/2 of the way up from the bottom of the bottle. If your bottle has an indented hand grip like mine, draw your bottom circle almost, but not quite, at the top of the indent. 

Cleaned water bottle with two circles drawn around the circumference


Step #3

Take your scissors or box cutters and carefully cut along the lines you've drawn on your bottle. This will give you three pieces. 

An image of a water bottle cut into three sections


Step #4

Go ahead and set the middle piece aside or dispose of it. You will not need it for this project. Next, use a nail or pushpin to pierce a hole in the center of your bottle cap. The hole has to be big enough to fit a piece of thread or string through, so you may have to pierce it a few times to widen the hole if you are using a push pin or a small nail.

An image of a bottle cap with a hole in the middle next to a pushpin


Step #5

Set the bottle cap aside for now.

If you'd like, go ahead and decorate the outside of your bottle pieces. For my example bottle, I chose to paint the top half green and put green and blue glitter on the bottom half. Feel free to go wild, or to leave them plain if you prefer a more utilitarian look. The choice is yours. Make sure, however, that no potentially toxic materials (like paint) end up inside the bottle pieces. Keep all the decorations on the outside so when you add water later it stays clean. 

An image of decorated plastic water bottle pieces


Step #6

While your bottle pieces dry (if they need to) cut a piece of string, thread, or yarn about twice the length of the bottom piece of your bottle. The length doesn't have to be exact so it's fine to eyeball it. Thread your string through the hole in your bottle cap and pull the cap down until it's at about the halfway point of the string. You may have to use a needle if the thread won't go through on its own.

An image of a piece of yarn threaded through a hole in the center of a bottle cap


Step #7

Screw the top back onto your top bottle piece, making sure that the thread goes through the bottle.

An image of a piece of yarn threaded through the top half of a painted plastic water bottle


Step #8

Fill the bottom piece of your bottle about 1/3 - 1/2 full of water. Make sure not to overfill. When you recombine the top and the bottom pieces you don't want the water level to be so high that the bottle cap is submerged.

An image of the bottom half of a glitter covered water bottle filled about half full with water


Step #9

Place the top half of your bottle on top of the bottom half so the thread hangs down into the water. 

An image of the top half of the planter being placed on the bottom half of the planter
The image of an empty planter created out of a plastic water bottle


Step #10

Fill the top half of your water bottle planter with planting soil. Make sure the thread is buried, but not crumpled in a ball inside the bottle cap. Then, place your seed or seedling in the soil. For my example planter I used tarragon seeds.

A plastic water bottle planter filled with soil


Step #11

Place your self-watering platner in the sun and then you are done! Ta da! While you're waiting for your seed or seedling to grow, go ahead and create as many planters as you'd like. Just be sure to check the water level in the bottom of your planter once a week or so and refill it once it's empty.

An image of five planters on a tray. Four are made of plastic bottles and one is a ceramic boot

(The heart boot planter is ceramic and included for decorative purposes only)


Are you creating a bunch of planters you need to keep organized? If so, check out SarahG's blog on How to Make Plant Markers out of a yogurt container. 


Interested in more upcycle projects? Take a look at what's available on our eSource Creativebug, or check out the awesome books listed below. 

Cover art for Playing With Books
Cover art for Wear, Repair, Repurpose


Cover art for Trash Origami
Cover art for Ideas for Creative Reuse


Upcycling Celebrations by Danny Seo

Playing with Books by Jason Thompson

Wear, Repair, Repurpose by Lily Fulop

The Repurposed Library by Lisa Occhipinti

Trash Origami by Michael G. Lafosse & Richard L. Alexander

1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse by Garth Johnson

By RachaelR on February 16, 2021