What are Acrylic Wicks and How Can You Use Them to Water Houseplants?

by | Nov 2, 2022 | 5 comments

You may have heard of wick watering, but do you know what it is? Did you know you should use acrylic wicks? Why? How can we use them to water our plants? I am a member of the African Society of America and I also am a member of a local group here in SE Michigan. Most of the members wick water their African violets. First, let’s talk about what wick watering is.

What is Wick Watering?

Wick watering is a way of watering a plant so it is consistently moist, and never dries out, and the wick is the key to this method. Acrylic is the best material to use as cotton will rot over time and acrylic stands the test of time. The easiest and most cost-effective way to buy acrylic string is to buy a skein of acrylic yarn, especially if you have a lot of plants. It is easy to find at your local yarn shop or if you don’t have one, Meijer, Walmart, Michael’s, Joann’s, and Hobby Lobby. If you buy 4-ply yarn, it is best, for African violets anyway, to split the yarn into two plies and it is easy to pull apart. The full four plies may draw up too much water into the potting mix, keeping the plant too wet.



What do You do With the Wick?

The wick is inserted into the root area of the plant. It can be wound around the inside bottom of the pot or brought up the side and then the plant is planted in the pot with the string/wick. The end  hanging out of the pot is placed into a reservoir of water. Below, a simple deli container is the reservoir for the water. Two holes have been drilled into the lid. One hole will have the wick hanging through it and will hang in the water. The other hole makes it simple to add more water when needed. The wick should not be evident at the top of the container, as if it protrudes from the top of the pot the water will wick up and right out the top and not supply water to the plant.

How Does the Wick Work?

The wick works by capillary action. The easiest visual example is the way a paper towel soaks up water. Even if you only put a corner of the paper towel into a water spill, you can see the water move up into the paper towel. The wick acts the same way. It draws water up from the reservoir and into the root zone of the plant. This works as long as you keep the reservoir filled with water. The plant container should never be standing in water; only the wick. I’ve found if the wick dries out, it is best to water the plant from the top to wet the wick again and allow the capillary action to work. 

Why acrylic?

Acrylic yarn does not rot. Maybe it will, but not for a long time. I have acrylic afghans my mom made me that are at least 40 years old. You probably have one, too. Acrylic lasts forever, is cheap, and easily obtained. If you use a natural material, such as cotton string, it will rot. It is not watering your plant if it has rotted in the container or water. 

Commercial Company Methods

Costa Farms

The container below had a plant from Costa Farms in it. The plastic peg holds the wicking material and pops into the drainage hole on the bottom of the pot. Inserted after the plant is in the pot makes it easier for the company to install them. These are used for plants that already have established root systems. This wick wouldn’t work for newly propagated plants, as it would keep the soil too moist without roots actively absorbing the water. This way of watering ensures the plants stay moist at the stores. The large reservoirs are filled instead of each pot being watered individually. You may have seen this watering system at your local big box. I see less dead, dried out plants when this method is used. 

Optimara Plants

Optimara is known for African violets and they use these Qwick Covers below for their plants. The concept is unique to Optimara and is patented. The cone you see in the picture on the top right is the inside bottom of the pot. The plant sits on the cone and the water is kept below the top of the cone. A triangle of their wicking material is attached to the bottom of the pot and the tips of the triangle extend down into the water. The material draws the water up into the plant, keeping it evenly moist. I find it works well and have had this plant for a year or more. It has been in continual bloom, as well. I love ‘My Sensation’ violet. 

Dandy Pots

The purple container below is a Dandy Pot. It is a wick watering system that comes with everything you need to wick water a plant. It has the pot which nestles into the reservoir and wicks. I bought this one at our local African violet show and sale. I like them because they come in many colors and make it easy to wick water a plant. The plant is potted in the container with the provided wick and watered through the hole on the reservoir below. Though it is used most often for Africna violets, it could be used for any plant. 

Homemade Wick Watering Systems

You don’t have to invest in a commercial wick watering system. The pictures below show you two different ways of wick watering with things you may already have in the house. I mentioned the deli container above, but the Oui yogurt container works well for a 2″ pot with a smaller African violet. With the two ply acrylic yarn as the wick, these systems are inexpensive and you are using something that may have been added to the trash. 

Your Choice

Whether you choose a purchased self-contained wick watering system, or dig something out of the recyle or trash bin, wick watering may simplify your life while keeping your plant well watered. Do you wick water your plants? Tell me which ones and what you use in the comments below.

Have a great week, plant friends!


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  1. Kathy Wright

    Would this method work for an established maidenhair fern? I almost lost this plant when I went away for a week’s vacation.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Kathy,
      I don’t see why it wouldn’t. I would give it a try.

  2. Kay

    Great information Lisa, and I’ll be trying this soon! Thank you!

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Thanks Chauncey!


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