first container wicking experience

greentoe357June 3, 2013

I gotta say, Al, you the man! (Well, I learned this from you, but not sure if the idea is originally yours, does not matter to me).

I figured out to lean pots 45 degrees to get more water out on my own after watering, but I just tried inserting wicks into a couple of my particularly soggy pots where I had to perform "emergency replantectomy", and it's amazing how much more water drip-drip-drips out of there! I expected it'd be 15-30, maybe 45 minutes at most, that the perched water will slowly be dripping out along that rayon wick, but it's been more than 2 hours now, and dripping shows no signs of stopping - even though I squeezed the wicks a couple of times trying to get the flow of water to stop.

I got so impressed that even where I did not replant now, I pushed some wicks from under with a chopstick (tried not to poke the roots too much), and even without watering, the wick is damp now that water can be squeezed. This is in a pot that was last watered 5 days ago!

Why the idea to insert a wick when (re)potting is not mentioned everywhere on container gardening articles is beyond me.

Only thing is, the ugly soggy white wicks (very soon to be even uglier grey wicks) hanging all over the place is not a pretty sight at all to see. I grow decorative plants in good-looking pots to match and compliment my decor largely for aesthetic reasons - any idea from anybody how to "put a lipstick on that pig" and make wicks less noticeable? I understand the lower the wick hangs, the more efficient the draining. Would it still be efficient if I let the wick encircle the pot and lie in the saucer underneath where it cannot be seen quite as prominently?

Thanks again to Al and everybody else with great working ideas on this forum!

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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)


I too was amazed to try the drip test while holding the pots angled as described.

I keep wicks under many of my Hoyas, just to be able to see & assure myself they've got good drainage. I have small pebble trays underneath each pot, into which I leave the wick's end curled up among the pebbles (out of sight).

It happens I use green synthetic yarn, which I often crochet into a chain & then thread a length of that as a wick. I've been using these w/ wicks into containers of water for growing AVs, have kept them alive much better than w/out the wicks.

Try green yarn (disappears in the foliage) or brown yarn for brown mix, personally, I'd use knitting yarns (not sure about using Rayon for this, Rayon can rot over time as it's made from processed cellulose (paper &/or wood pulp)).

Knitting yarns (made for knitting washable baby clothes) used to be called Acrylic &/or Orlon, don't know what the content is called now, but those are completely synthetic (petroleum based) & therefore not prone to rot (preferable for our purposes).

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 10:21PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Saw 'wicking' in the thread title & had to look. Thanks for the kind words. I'm not sure why you never see hints like tipping the pot, wicking, moving a pot up and down reversing directions sharply while holding the pot over the sink, to help remove excess water. I think the main reason is because almost everyone (except most of the better informed growers like you'll find here at GW) builds their growing strategies around the assumption that you have to endure the limitations inherent in most commercially prepared soils targeted at the houseplant/container-growing market.

In order to be effective, the wick either needs to hang below the pot, or be in contact with another absorbent substrate - the earth, potting soil in a second pot (which then becomes the wick), a sponge ..... The ugly wick is another example of how much growing involves compromise. It's effective, but it's ugly, so what to do? I guess the good news is that the wick only needs to be in play until the water stops dripping.

The woven nylon strings that keep some citrus/onion mesh bag tied shut work well as wicks. I have some in pots more than 10 years old! If at first they don't want to work, mix a drop of dish soap with some water on your hand & rub it into the wick. That will reduce surface tension & get the water moving.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 1:51PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I love how excited you are about this, Greentoe. Love your name too, BTW.

If you can siphon that much water out of a pot with holes that are at the actual bottom of the pot, it's mind blowing how much damage those hanging basket pots are causing, that 1/2" of standing water (between the bottom surface of the pot and the recessed central drain hole.) No wonder baskets of Petunias, Tahitian bridal veil, Tradescantias, Fuchsias, and so many others can be killed so quickly. I always add holes to the real bottoms.

A wick wouldn't need to be absorbent, but an absorbent wick would work more thoroughly. A knife or stick at around a 45ð angle should do the lion's share of the work. I can't see myself following through on a wick of softer materials because it would never dry out, the way I water several plants per day when they're inside. Before long, I'd have a moldy, mildewy wick, and that doesn't sound good for one's kitchen, or for the plants. Periodically bleaching it could prevent that, or using multiples to allow them to dry between uses. Whatever it is, it's going to need space in the kitchen, that doesn't exist here. And I know how I am (la-ZEE,) and a knife I can wash in seconds with the rest of the dishes is a plan that will do something worth doing without creating more work.

On pots that just have 1 central hole, tilting can't help, quite the opposite. Even if I end up not thinking it totally necessary for those I can tilt, this could especially benefit those I can't.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 2:48PM
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Thanks to everyone for the replies. After a few days, I've decided I really do hate the way the wicks look - although I do want their effectiveness. The compromise I can personally live with is after the water stops dripping in the sink to tuck the wick under the pot into the saucer. They do not hang low that way, so the effectiveness is reduced somewhat, but they still continue wicking the water - I've seen a bit of water accumulate in the saucers (not enough to level with the soil - it'll just evaporate).

I will also consider not inserting wicks for more tolerant plants and more importantly I'll tinker with my (Al's) potting mix recipe depending on the specifics of my ingredients so that maybe I do not need wicks at all for most plants.

I still welcome thoughts and ideas on this topic if anyone has some.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 7:49PM
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