What is the best system for automatic watering for pots??

I have experimented with various systems, but have not found one that works reliably well. I have been using the plastic sticks that that push into the soil to distribute water to the pots from a distribution line via spaghetti tubing. There are always dry spots in the pots and when a line gets plugged, it means DEATH to the rose in our heat.

Anyone know of a better system? Thanks for any input!

Jim Sproul

Some growers use two emitters per container on opposite side of the root ball. This helps even out moisture distribution and keeps the media from pulling away from sides of the container. Having two emitters also helps insure survival should one emitter malfunction.

I’ve also done what Robert suggested, but it was still not ideal, and so now all the greenhouse contents are watered by hand.

I’ve been thinking about this… as putting things in pots for me is almost as effective as cutting them off at the trunk with secateurs… I’ve decided I’m going to build long troughs out of timber and then line it with pond liner so I can sit them in and do a flood and drain exercise… if you backed this up with water tanks you could recycle the water too if you were on water restrictions. You can add a liquid fertiliser if needed and avoid that build-up of salts that one often gets with pots. I think I’ll add small pebbles to the top of the pots to keep the potting mix in when it is flooded and slow down drying out.

Great ideas - thanks!

I have been using one emitter and supplementing with watering by hand once a week, but lost 2 or 3 last summer during our heat, and they certainly don’t thrive that way.

I am moving better roses to larger 15 gallon pots and will put them on 2 emitters.

Simon, I like your trough idea, but don’t know how I would manage it with large 7 gallon pots on the ground.

Jim Sproul


Have you looked into “flood tables”? Those might be an option.

If you already have a timer and the “sticks”, and the spagetti tubing in place, then I would recommend Rainbird’s Xeri-spray™360 degree True Spray. You can easily adjust the flow and radius by turning the top of the cap, and it is pretty easily cleaned by removing the cap and flushing. This is something I have used a lot in hanging baskets, and in large pilaster plantings-I still hand water my seedlings, but it doesn’t take me very long with my limited operation, so I haven’t used it for mine. This is what I will be installing in my established roses, using two or three per rose. They work pretty well for keeping the water at the base of the plant, and not spraying the whole plant. It also is low flow enough to get a good soaking without a lot of run off. This could only be used for plants that have a good start on a root system, not on tiny, tiny seedlings. If you have a Rainbird dealer/distributor, have him/her demonstrate them or show you a set-up. Jackie

Do they have to be on the ground Jim? I’m planning on putting mine up one benches. We also have this product here called ‘Gripset’:

It’s basically a paint-on rubber that might be better than pond liner as it will allow me to waterproof whatever shape I decide to make it, reduce the risk of tears and making it easy to repair/rejuvenate (just repaint). I’ll just make it out of timber (ply)… and paint the rubber sealer on and put an auto-siphon at one end and plumb it to a low water tank (low enough to sit lower than the bench height) with a submersible pump on a timer in it. That way the flooding and draining is automated and I can hook several troughs up to the same system.

The 15 gallon containers work great for me here. They are very easy to change out.

Sometimes I sink the bottoms a few inches into the ground to stabilize, prevent run off, and allow cultivars to root in more easily.

I reserve the 15’s for my larger and most promising seedlings, as Jim suggests.

Those emitters Jackie suggests are very good. They help with distribution, though to be honest having two of the regular emitters works pretty good.

One problem I experience is subsidence/loss of the soil media as it decomposes. This can allow water to run down the side of the rootball without penetration and out the drainage holes.

Burying the bottom of the container prevents this. I still have to go back occasionally and add soil as the organic portion decomposes.

The roses love new soil. I apply it as a mulch with a dry fertilizer and water it in.

Thanks again - these ideas will give me food for thought!

Jim Sproul

Another thought. Investing in shade cloth and some way to erect it for the worst of the summer (here it’s June 15 to about early September) will go a long way toward protecting roses in pots. I have a picnic table under a gazebo covered with shade cloth. I nurse small pots in the heat of the summer under the shade cloth, and the roses really appreciate shade from 11 to 3. I’ve tried watering twice a day, I’ve tried hand-watering, and there’s nothing that beats shade. I think it’s the heat on the roots that’s the real problem. I use black nursery pots. They get pretty hot mid-summer.