Automatic watering globes, often called aqua globes or watering bulbs, are supposed to be an easy way to keep your houseplants watered. But do watering globes work to water your houseplants?
Using a self watering globe can be an easy and inexpensive way to water your plants when you’re away from home. But watering globes might not provide enough water if you’re taking a longer trip. They also aren’t a good choice for all types of plants!
Find out all the answers to your questions about plant watering globes so you can decide if using them is the right choice for your situation.
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What is a watering globe for plants?
Self watering globes are low-tech watering devices for plants, usually made of blown glass. Watering globes are often one piece, with a large hollow sphere on top and a thin, hollow stem on the bottom.
When you fill the globe with water and insert the stem into your plant’s soil, the water will slowly seep into the soil and provide water to your plant over time.
How do watering globes work?
Have you ever wondered how watering globes release water over a period of time? With no moving parts, it sure looks like a mysterious process!
Simply, watering globes can only release liquid when air is able to displace the water inside.
In your plant’s soil, a couple of factors slow down the release of water, preventing the globe from releasing all of its liquid at once. As water trickles out of the stem, it creates a weak vacuum inside the globe that slows down the rate of water escaping. The soil located at the stem’s opening also stops the globe from releasing too much water at once.
As your plant’s soil dries, air can again enter the globe, allowing a small amount of water to escape.
How to fill watering globes
Watering globes aren’t the easiest things to fill! I’ve found that using a measuring cup with a spout works best. Just pour the water slowly into the stem and your watering globe will be filled in no time.
Pour water into your watering globe until the bulb and about half the stem is full.
How to install a watering globe for your plant
When inserting your automatic watering globe, be aware that the slim glass stem of the globe is not only fragile, but it’s also prone to clogging if you don’t install it in your plant’s soil the right way.
To prevent breakage and soil clumping inside the stem, poke a pencil, large knitting needle, or a slim dowel into the spot where you want to install the watering globe.
I like to install my watering globes at a very slight angle, with the stem of the globe pointing toward the plant. You may want to play around with the angle that you install your globe—water will escape faster if you angle the globe more.
Invert your watering globe and insert it in the hole you just made. If the globe won’t remain upright in the hole, don’t push on it! Doing this will compact soil in the stem and clog the tube. Instead, remove the globe and make the hole deeper with your pencil.
How long will a watering globe water your plant?
Automatic watering globes, when installed properly, can provide your plants with a steady supply of water for a week or more.
The length of time that a watering globe will water a plant depends on a few factors. Humidity, temperature, and season can all impact how long a watering globe will provide water. Watering globes are available in many different sizes for small and large plants, so be sure to choose one that can provide adequate water for your specific plant.
When you’ll be away from home for vacation or a work trip, it’s a good idea to first give your plants a good soaking before filling and inserting a watering globe. The damp soil will prevent the globe from watering your plant right away.
If your house tends to be dry, the lack of humidity will dry out your plants’ soil faster. A low-tech DIY method to raise humidity near your plants is by using pebble trays (find out how to make them here).
Not sure if your watering globe will be able to water your plant adequately while you’re away? Do a trial run before your trip and monitor how long it takes for your watering globe to empty. Check the soil’s moisture and how your plant is doing with the automatic watering system in place.
What kinds of houseplants can you use watering globes for?
Not all plants are good candidates for using a watering globe. If your plant needs to dry out between waterings, a watering globe won’t allow this to happen—this could lead to root rot.
If you keep track of how often you water your plants, you might find that you don’t even need to worry about watering during a short vacation. (You can download my free printable plant care tracker to start keeping track of watering.)
But if you have some plants that prefer consistantly moist soil, using a watering globe can be the perfect solution.
Do watering globes work for succulents?
The majority of succulents, including cacti, need to dry out completely between waterings. Instead of using an automatic watering system when you’re away from home, most succulents will do just fine for several weeks if you give them a good soaking before your trip.
Read more: How to Water Succulents in Containers
Can you use a watering globe in place of regular watering?
If you’re a busy person looking for an easy solution to keep your houseplants watered, a watering globe probably isn’t a good choice! I find that watering my plants the regular way is far quicker and easier than filling, installing and cleaning the globes.
Although I have a collection of watering globes, I really only use them when I’m traveling and don’t have anyone able to pop in and care for my plants.
I do have one exception to the rule—I have a large majesty palm that likes consistently moist soil. I use a watering globe to supplement my normal watering schedule (or in case I’m busy and forget to check on him).
Can you use watering globes for outdoor plants?
Blown glass watering globes are pretty delicate, so I wouldn’t advise using them for most outdoor plants.
However, if you have a small outdoor potted plant in a fairly protected place like a porch or patio, a glass watering globe could work just fine.
To automatically water your outdoor plants, you can recycle wine or soda bottles and attach terracotta self-watering stakes. These work much like watering globes, but you won’t need to worry about a delicate glass stem breaking.
How to clean watering globes
If your watering globe’s stem becomes clogged with soil, use a pipe cleaner or a drinking straw cleaning brush to loosen the soil, then flush it with water.
After you use a watering globe for a while, you might notice mold or algae inside the globe or cloudiness on the inside of the glass. There are a few methods you can use to get your globe clean and shiny again.
- Pour a small amount of baking soda into the globe, followed by lemon juice or white vinegar. Swirl the mixture around the globe, then drain and rinse well.
- Pour a small amount of fine sand into the globe and add water until the globe is about 1/4 full. Cover the end of the stem with your thumb and shake the globe until clean. Drain and rinse well.
- Pour a small amount of bleach into the globe, then fill the globe with water. Prop the globe stem side up in a glass or mug, and let it sit for ten minutes. Drain and rinse well.
A word of caution: don’t place your watering globe in direct sun
Although it’s a rare occurrence, direct sunlight passing through a water-filled globe can create a lens effect that produces a hot spot. Don’t place your watering globes in direct sunlight to avoid heat damage to your plants and the surrounding area.
Have you tried an automatic watering globe on your plants? What do you think—do watering globes work? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
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