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How To Install A DIY Drip Irrigation System For Potted Plants

An automatic watering system for outdoor plants makes life easier, and saves you tons of time. It’s also very easy to install your own, and doesn’t take much time (it’s totally worth every second!). Follow these easy step-by-step instructions to install a DIY drip irrigation system for potted plants.

We have an area behind our house that gets full sun that I always thought would be perfect for growing, but it’s under the eaves of the house so it doesn’t get much rain.

My husband put a few pots of peppers there last year, but hand-watering all of those pots became a major chore in the heat of the summer. We were in a drought last year, so we had to manually water these pots a few times a day. Not fun!

My husband told me he wanted to line the area with pots of peppers this year, so we decided to add a drip irrigation system to make watering our container plants easy.

It turns out, putting in a DIY drip system for potted plants is just as simple as it was to add overhead sprinklers to our greenhouse.

Plus we had some of the poly tubing left over from that project, so we were able to use that for this project – bonus!

Installing drip irrigation system for potted plants

Table of Contents

What Is A Drip Irrigation System?

Think of a drip irrigation system as an automatic watering system for pots and containers. It hooks right into your garden hose or spigot so when it turns on, all of your pots will get watered at the same time.

You could turn the water on manually, or set it up on an automatic timer to create a self-watering system for potted plants (trust me, a timer is totally worth it, and it’s not very expensive to buy yourself one!).

Benefits Of Installing DIY Drip Irrigation For Containers

Installing a drip water system for potted plants has lots of benefits to you, and to your plants. The main benefit is convenience, and let me tell you, an automatic drip irrigation system makes container gardening SO MUCH easier!

Not only do self-watering pots make your life easier, but it’s better for your plants too, and ensures they’re getting exactly the right amount of moisture.

Consistent watering not only keeps your potted plants happy and healthy, it also helps to prevent problems like blossom end rot.

Healthy plants have less problems with pests and diseases, and produce TONS more yummy food for us? What’s not to love?

Drip Irrigation Kit For Potted Plants

Depending on how many potted plants you have, a drip irrigation kit might be all you’ll need in order to install your entire system.

You can buy a smaller kit if you have 8 pots or less, or you can get a larger kit like this one that will work to automatically water up to 20 containers.

Drip irrigation kits are a great way to get started, and will include full instructions for setting everything up. Some kits even come with a timer.

But keep in mind that even when you start with a drip irrigation kit, you might still need to buy a few additional parts (for example, most don’t come with a pressure regulator). So be sure to read the details of what’s included in the kit.

Some contents of a drip irrigation kit for potted plants

Of course, you can also make your own custom drip irrigation system design, which is what we did for our setup since we already had the mainline tubing and a few other parts to get us started.

DIY Drip Irrigation Supplies Needed

  • Drip irrigation kit (optional – but if you want to use it to get you started)
  • Mainline drip irrigation hose (1/2″ poly drip irrigation tubing)
  • Drip irrigation backflow preventer
  • Garden hose connector (1/2″ faucet fitting)
  • Pressure regulator
  • Poly tubing end cap
  • Irrigation micro tubing (1/4″ vinyl)
  • Irrigation drippers with spikes, one for each pot (we used these 360 degree adjustable drippers)
  • Drip irrigation hole punch
  • Drip line connectors
  • Drip irrigation spikes (1/2″ tubing stakes)
  • Drip hose goof plugs (just in case)
  • Garden watering timer for drip irrigation
  • Garden hose splitter (optional, comes in handy if you want to hook up another hose to the same spigot)
  • PVC pipe cutting saw or a PVC cutting tool (for cutting the thicker tubing)
  • Tape measure

How To Install Drip Irrigation For Potted Plants

Step 1: Attach connectors to faucet, hose or spigot – It’s easier to hook everything in if you attach the connectors to your hose or spigot first. So grab the backflow preventer, the pressure regulator, and the faucet hose fitting for this step.

Start by attaching the backflow preventer onto your hose or outdoor spigot (it simply screws on). Next, you’ll attach the pressure regulator, and last the faucet fitting (this just screws on too – no tools needed!).

Basically, you’ll end up chaining the garden hose attachments together in this exact order (backflow preventer, pressure regulator, faucet fitting).

Drip irrigation hose connectors attached to faucet

Step 2: Attach the 1/2″ poly tubing to the hose fitting – Take one end of your 1/2″ poly mainline tubing, and push it into the open end of the faucet hose fitting. Once you’ve pushed it in, pull down the collar on the hose fitting piece, and tighten it to secure the tubing.

You might want to kink the tubing and turn on the water to make sure there’s no leaking at this point, otherwise you can wait to test everything later on in step 7.

Attaching poly tubing to faucet hose fitting

Step 3: Figure out your drip irrigation system design – The next drip system installation step is to determine how far apart the drip heads will be, so you know exactly where to install the micro tubing.

Figuring out the drip irrigation design sounds hard, but it was actually really easy.

We simply spaced out the pots where we wanted them to be, and then laid down the poly tubing hose in front of them (Tip: let the tubing sit in the sun for a while to warm up first, it’s easier to lay it flat when it’s warm).

Measure spacing between irrigation drippers

Then we measured where each pot was, and marked the poly tubing where we needed to add the drip tube lines for each of the drippers.

Once we measured it all out, we cut the tubing at the very end using using our PVC cutting tool (you could use a PVC pipe saw to cut the tubing instead), and caped the tube with the end cap.

Hose end cap closes off mainline tubing

Step 4: Figure out how long the drip lines will be – Next we measured how long each piece of the micro tubing needed to be for the drip lines.

That’s simply the length from the spot you marked on the mainline tubing, up to the spot where the drip head will be inside the pot.

We added several extra inches to the length of each piece of the micro tubing so it would be loose enough to allow room for us to move the pots around a bit if we wanted to (which we have done, and it works out really well).

Measuring micro tubing for drip lines

Step 5: Install the micro tubing – It’s easy to add the drip lines and the micro sprinkler heads.

For drip line installation, you simply punch a hole in the mainline poly tubing (using the drip irrigation hole punch) where you want to add the drip lines (these are the spots you marked on the tubing in step 3).

Poke holes in drip irrigation tubing to install drippers

Don’t panic if you punch a hole in the wrong spot. I know that making a mistake isn’t ideal, but if you do end up punching a hole in the wrong spot… well, that’s why they make goof plugs! It’s good to have them on hand just in case.

Next you’ll attach the drip line connector first to the mainline tube, then attach the micro tubing drip hose onto the other end of the connector.

Drip irrigation micro tubing connected to mainline hose

Step 6: Install the irrigation drippers – Installing the dripper heads is super easy too. You basically just plug them into the open end of the micro tubing, and then put them into your container.

Our dripper micro heads came with spikes to hold them in place, so they stay where we put them.

We centered the micro heads in each of our pots, just to one side of the base of the plant(s). Be careful not to damage any tender roots or seedlings when you’re pushing the irrigation spikes into the soil though.

Installing the irrigation drippers

Step 7: Test out your irrigation setup – Before burying the mainline, test everything out to make sure it’s all working with no leaks. You definitely don’t want anything leaking.

At this point it’s also a good idea to adjust the drip heads. The tops of the heads twist so you can control the amount of water that comes out.

We adjusted each one to make sure they weren’t spraying outside the pots, and that they were all working correctly.

Micro heads for drip irrigation

Step 8: Secure the poly tubing – Once everything was installed and tested, we secured the mainline tubing into the ground with some 1/2″ drip irrigation tubing stakes.

The stakes clip onto the mainline tube, which makes securing it easy. Then we simply buried the tubing in the mulch to give it a cleaner look.

Drip irrigation spikes hold poly tubing in place

Note, you can install your poly tubing behind your pots rather than in front of them like we did here. That way, the micro tubing will run up the backs of the pots, and won’t be so obvious.

But it’ll work just fine either way. (We just installed ours in front to make it easier to take photos for you)

Buried the main irrigation tubing

Step 9: Set the timer for automatic irrigation – Last, we set our hose timer to run on a schedule so we never have to worry about watering these pots again (which is especially nice while we’re on vacation!).

Once your automated drip irrigation system is running, I recommend checking on your pots regularly to make sure they are getting the right amount of water. Then you can adjust your timer accordingly to get it just right.

We’ll turn the drip irrigation timer off when we get a lot of rain, and increase the length, or how often the drippers run during dry periods or hot spells.

Garden hose timer for drip irrigation system

Not only is this DIY drip irrigations system great so we don’t have to water these pots, but it makes it much easier to ensure our peppers and tomatoes are getting a consistent amount of water.

Hopefully this will help prevent blossom end rot, which was a problem for our container grown peppers last year. Drip irrigation systems are great for potted plants, as well as the garden.

Self-watering container garden

Installing drip irrigation for potted plants is simple, and doesn’t take much time. (It will actually end up saving you a ton of time and effort!) I know it seems like there are a lot of steps involved with drip irrigation installation, but trust me it really is very easy to do! Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can!

Products I Recommend

More Container Gardening Posts

  • How To Make Potting Soil For Containers (with recipe!)
  • 15 Best Container Vegetables For Pots & Planters
  • Container Flower Gardening Design Tips & Ideas
  • How To Fertilize Outdoor Potted Plants & Containers
  • Choosing The Best Potting Soil Mix For Container Gardening

Share your tips and experiences for installing a DIY drip irrigation system in the comments section below.

About Amy Andrychowicz

I live and garden in Minneapolis, MN (zone 4b). My green thumb comes from my parents, and I’ve been gardening most of my life. I’m a passionate gardener who loves growing everything from vegetables, herbs, and flowers to succulents, tropicals, and houseplants – you name, I’ve grown it! Read More.

Comments

Is there a maximum length for doing this? I have pots that are quite far away.

Amy Andrychowicz says

As far as I know, there’s no maximum length for adding a drip irrigation system to potted plants. I ran a hose out to my garden, and that’s at least 50′ away from the spigot. I also have a 15 pot drip system set up along the back of my house, which is probably 60′ or more long, and there’s no problems with water pressure there either.

Julie Traxler says

How can one hide the hose attachments? Mine are out in the open where it will detract from my garden.

Amy Andrychowicz says

I burying the mainline under the mulch, and that works great. That way, you’ll only see the hose where it comes up to attach to the spigot. Then I run the drip lines up the back of the pots (I have them in the front of the pots in these photos for demonstration purposes). They are hardly noticeable, especially once the plants fill in.

Thank you so much for this! It really makes watering my pots so much easier. I have installed one with different zones because of various plant needs. I think I’m overwatering my plants and I have no idea how long to run the system. Do you have like a rule of thumb to share? Thanks!

Amy Andrychowicz says

You’re welcome, so glad you were able to set up your own drip irrigation system for your pots. That’s awesome! There’s not really a rule of thumb to follow for how long to run them. I only run mine for about 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night. I will run the drippers longer during periods of drought, and turn the system off when we get a lot of rain. The best thing to do is to check your pots daily to see how damp the soil is. If it seems really dry, then run them a little longer. If it seems too wet, then run them for less time. It doesn’t take long to find that sweet spot.

An automatic plant watering system makes life easier. Follow these easy step-by-step instructions to install a DIY drip irrigation system for potted plants.

Drip Irrigation System for Garden Pots and Planters

Drip system for potted plants is the best choice if you are looking for an irrigation system for your planter garden. They are more efficient, do not waste water, and keep moisture levels at ideal values for plants. This article teaches you all about them and how to get set up irrigating your planter garden with drip irrigation.

Advantages of Drip System for Potted Plants

A drip irrigation system for planters basically consist of hoses with small holes drilled into them, through which water is poured slowly so that plants can receive just the right amount of precious liquid. Unlike other watering systems, drip irrigation systems are a green choice, great water savers, as well as time and effort savers. They are now favored by many gardeners because they can turn any garden into a beautiful one, with minimal effort, time spent and water consumption.

Conserving Supplies of Clean Water

Clean, healthy water is a precious resource in the world we are living in today. Water shortages become more frequent as the world population grows. Under the circumstances, the wise choice is to use systems that are not wasteful of this natural resource.

The main advantage offered by drip irrigation for planters is the ability to water each potted plant with just the right amount of water, without overflowing the pot or starving the plant. The best part is that each drop of water goes directly in the soil, and it is not lost through evaporation or surface runoff. This means that you can offer your plants ideal watering conditions, without wasting water.

Combat Fungal Diseases

There are many fungal diseases that affect plant leaves, when water stays for too long on the foliage, without drying. This is the main disadvantage of sprinkling systems. As they spread water over a large surface, it is inevitable that some of it will end up on the leaves of all the plants in that area.

This does not happen when using a drip irrigation system. Because the water ends up slowly infiltrating the soil, and feeding the roots, but without being sprinkled from above, it is obvious why drip irrigation system is preferred, especially when you want to combat fungal diseases in your plants.

Convenience

Drip irrigation system for planters has a major advantage over other types of systems: convenience. By setting a timer, you can automate the system to water each of your potted plants regularly, without having to lift as much as a finger, something that cannot be said about other watering systems.

An Ideal Solution for Gardens and Potted Plants

At first glance, it would look like drip irrigation system must be conducted over a large patch of land, but this is not always the case. These systems can be adapted for small gardens and especially for potted plants.

As long as the system is designed so that the dripping holes are positioned next to each plant, ideal conditions for watering can be achieved. Potted plants can benefit greatly from this type of watering system as it also greatly reduces the appearance of weeds in each garden pot. Weeds can be an issue when growing plants in large planters, since it can become very difficult to pluck all the weeds regularly from the pots.

Water Slowly Seeps Into the Soil

When plants are grown in containers or well delimited gardens, watering cannot be left to the care of weather, even if the pots they grow in are left outside. Sprinkling systems and drip trays represent a waste of water, and they are not very efficient either.

A drip irrigation system allows the water to slowly seep into the soil. This way, plants receive just the right amount of moisture, and they are never suffocated by too much water, as it can happen when other types of watering systems are used.

What is equally important, the soil gets to maintain all the nutrients, as they are not washed away by water pouring quickly through it. This way, plants get the best care they can possibly have access to, while gardeners do not have to waste time and effort.

They Do Not Encourage Weed Growth

Weeds represent an important problem for many gardeners, as they are unsightly, and they tend to suffocate other plants inside the pots. When using drip trays, for instance, the first to benefit from the excess of water in the pots are these unwanted guests. They begin sprouting and before you even notice it, they have already started taking over your garden. Removing them is hard work, and it may never really end.

With drip irrigation systems, these enemies are kept at bay. Since the system only feeds water to the roots of the plants you grow, there is not much left for other sprouts waiting to hatch in the soil. In dry soil, they cannot live for too long, and your potted garden is easily maintained weed free.

They Combat Wet Foliage Diseases

Sprinkling may be considered, by many, a convenient solution to any watering needs for a garden. However, there is one big disadvantage that must be taken into consideration. Water sprinkled through the garden partially remains on leaves, promoting the appearance of various wet foliage diseases.

As drip irrigation systems only pour water at the root of the plants, they actually combat such diseases.

How to Purchase the Best Drip Irrigation System for Planters

Drip irrigation system for planters designs are considered the best option for watering a potted garden without wasting precious water. Because of the many benefits of these systems, many gardeners prefer to use them as they are efficient, non-intrusive, and the best choice for many plants. Putting together the best drip irrigation system for planters is fairly easy, but you will need to purchase the best components if you want it to function flawlessly. Here are some pointers on the main components that will help you with your shopping.

The Qualities of a Backflow Preventer

Since the drip irrigation will be connected to the source of water, in case of overflowing, your plumbing can get damaged. What you need is a backflow preventer, a component that will ensure your plumbing will be kept in good shape. When you design the layout for the best drip irrigation system for your planters, establish the areas where you will need to install backflow preventers.

Buying a Pressure Regulator

A drip irrigation system is called this way, because the water slowly drips on the soil, nurturing the roots of the potted plants. The water that is normally running through the pipelines has quite a high pressure, compared to what is needed for these systems. Therefore, you will need what is called a pressure regulator to go with your device.

Different Tubing Sizes

Tubing is the most visible part of your drip irrigation system for planters. This comes in various sizes, and you need to decide which ones you will use for your garden or potted plants. Black polyethylene is the common material used for making these tubes and even microtubes are available, if you need to insert them in particularly cramped places.

What to Look for in Emitters

Now that you have all the major components of the best drip irrigation system for planters, you will need to purchase some emitters, as well. The great part about these components is that they come with different flow rates, so you can adjust the system based on what your plants need. Since not all the plants have the same watering requirements, emitters come very handy, as you will be basically micro-managing your garden. There are three types of emitters that are more common: bubblers, which are used mainly for trees and shrubs, and they deliver a higher amount of water; drippers are ideal for nurturing roots with the exact amount of water needed; and misters which are made for maintaining moisture.

Do Not Forget About Fittings

You cannot simply create your drip irrigation system for planters by using tubing alone. You will also need a wide variety of fittings, depending on your garden layout. Straight fittings serve for connecting one tube to another, while elbow fittings allow the system to take right angle turns. Do not forget about tee splitters and figure eight fittings, needed for the end of the line.

Other Components

To put the entire system together, you will also need other components, such as a timer (for automating the system), stakes and risers, a hole punch and a barbed adapter for connecting the emitters to the tubing.

Drip Irrigation System Installation in Your Garden Planters

Drip irrigation system designs represent, at the moment, the best option for watering garden planters, even one of larger dimensions. These systems are water-efficient, time-efficient and, if they are automated, they take much of the work off the shoulders of any gardener. The single issue with drip irrigation is that you need to install it in the beginning, so that all your plants receive the much needed water. Here are the steps to follow for a drip irrigation system installation project.

Draw Boundaries

It is important to keep in mind that you need to measure the area that is going to be watered in this manner, so you can calculate all the needed materials for the drip irrigation system installation for your planters. Any type of garden can be watered like this, even one that is composed of large planters, without plants growing from the ground.

Establish a Water Source

The drip irrigation system installation must have access to a water source. Install a hose-pipe connector in shape of the letter Y, to ensure that water is distributed evenly to your garden and other watering needs. Attach the connector to a nozzle (for the water source) at one side and the system of hoses for irrigation on the other.

First Design the Layout

The best thing about drip irrigation system for planters is that they can water only the roots of your plants, without wasting one drop. However, you need to design a layout first, so that the dripping holes do not end up pouring water over areas where there are no plants whatsoever. Even if this stage requires some time and effort, it is very important for obtaining the best results later on.

Additional Materials

Besides the hoses that will be installed throughout your container garden , you will also need some additional materials. First of all, you will need a timer, so you can automate watering. You will also need a back-flow valve, to avoid accidents that can lead to damage to your plumbing pipes. Install filters, as well, to prevent rust and dirt from accumulating in the drip lines.

Connecting the System

Use drip lines and connectors to put together the entire ensemble. If the layout you have designed earlier is accurate, you will do this with very little effort. After the ensemble of drip lines is ready, connect it to the Y shape connector, so that it can start receiving water.

Last Checks

Once your drip irrigation system is ready, it is time to put it to the test. Let the water run more powerfully at first, to see if it comes out through all the dripping holes. Use the nozzle from the water source to adjust the flow, so that your plants do not get too much water.

At this point, it is very important to check for possible leaks. In case you discover problems, you can apply some tape to correct them.

Set the timer to automate your garden watering system. Now, you can sit back and enjoy watching your garden grow!

A drip system for potted plants is ideal to make sure that the soil has just the right amount of moisture. It also saves water and electricity. Still not convinced? Check out the benefits of drip irrigation system and learn how to install your very own drip irrigation system in your garden.