What is Wick Watering? What Kind of Material Should You Use?

by | Nov 2, 2022 | 5 comments

What is wick watering? What kind of material should you use? 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. 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. if you have a lot of plants the most cost-effective way to buy acrylic string is to buy a skein of acrylic yarn.

It is easy to find at your local craft store. If you buy 4-ply yarn, it is best for African violets 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?

Insert the wick into the root area of the plant. Wind it around the inside bottom of the pot or bring it up the side. Then the plant the violet in the pot with the string/wick. The end hanging out of the pot goes into a reservoir of water.

Below, a simple deli container is a reservoir for the water. It has two holes 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 your plant container. 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 Watering 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. 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, at least not for a long time. I have acrylic afghans my mom made me that are at least 40 years old. You may have one, too.

Acrylic lasts forever, is cheap, and is easy to find. 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 Wick Watering 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 for plants that already have established root systems. This wick wouldn’t work for propagated plants. It would keep the soil too moist without roots absorbing the water.

This way of watering ensures the plants stay moist at the stores. This method is time-saving. You may have seen this watering system at your local big box resulting in fewer dried-out dead plants.

Optimara Plants

Optimara grows African violets and they use the Qwick Covers below for their plants. The patented concept is unique to Optimara. 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 below the top of the cone. A triangle of wicking material attaches to the bottom of the pot with the tips extending into the water.

The material draws the water up into the plant, keeping it moist. I find it works well and have had this plant for over a year. 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 a pot, a 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 with the wick is potted in the container and watered through the hole in the reservoir. Though used here for an African violet, any plant would work. 

Homemade Wick Watering Systems

You don’t have to invest in a commercial wick watering system. The pictures below show two different ways of wick watering with things you may have in the house. The Oui yogurt container works well for an African violet in a 2″ pot using the two-ply acrylic yarn as the wick. The deli containers are perfect for wick-watering after the salad is gone. These systems are inexpensive and would have been trash otherwise.

Your Choice

Whether you choose a commercial wick watering system, or dig something out of the recycling bin, wick watering will simplify your life. And you’re keeping your plant well watered. This is great if you travel or are a forgetful plant parent.

Do you wick water your plants? Tell me which plants and what you use in the comments below.

Have a great week, plant friends!

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5 Comments

  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.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

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

      Reply
  2. Kay

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

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Thanks Chauncey!

      Reply

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