Don’t spend hours hand-watering all your potted plants! Instead, read along and learn how to set up an automated drip irrigation system to water pots, wine barrels, grow bags or other containers. Drip irrigation will save you time, water, and energy. This is also the perfect solution for when you go out of town. Plus, containers have the tendency to dry out more quickly than raised garden beds or in-ground plots, making it even more helpful to have auto drip. Then your potted plants will get the consistent moisture they need to thrive!
This article will cover three different options to set up drip irrigation for containers or pots:
- SECTION 1: First I’ll show you how to easily connect drip irrigation emitters to pots, wine barrels or other containers from an existing drip system.
- SECTION 2: If you don’t have an existing drip line to connect to, we’ll also cover how to set up a brand new drip irrigation system for pots – right from an outdoor faucet or garden hose.
- SECTION 3: Finally, I’ll share how we set up a drip irrigation system for containers connected to existing PVC pipe.
Looking to set up drip irrigation for raised garden beds? See this tutorial. Or stop by this guide for more tips on gardening in wine barrels – including how to prep them for planting, soil, example plant spacing, and more.
Option 1: Connecting Drip Irrigation to Pots from an Existing Drip Line
If you already have an existing drip line nearby (you know, the ½” black irrigation tubing) then you’re in luck! That’s the easiest way to add drip irrigation to containers. If your ½” main line tubing is within 5 to 10 feet of your pots, you can simply add ¼” micro-tubing from the main line right into the containers. Follow the simple instructions below.
Or, if your existing drip ½” main line is a bit farther away, you can easily extend it to be closer to your pots. Simply cut the existing main line with sharp scissors, add a ½” coupler or tee, and then connect a new section of ½” irrigation tubing to extend the existing line where needed. Cap the open end of the new main line with a figure 8 clamp. Avoid distances much over 100 feet to maintain good pressure in the lines.
- ¼” microtubing
- ¼” barbed couplers or connectors
- Drip emitters of choice, such as 1 GPH or 2 GPH drippers, bubblers, or micro sprinklers.
- Irrigation hole punch tool
- To make a DIY drip emitter ring like ours (shown below), you’ll also need these 1/4″ barbed tees and this ¼” drip emitter tubing.
- Galvanized steel landscape staples to pin everything in place
- Optional: 1/4″ elbow connectors or 1/4″ shut off valves – explained and shown below
- Use an irrigation punch tool to add a hole to the ½” main line somewhere close to the pot or container you wish to water.
- Insert one end of a barbed coupler into ¼” microtubing, and the other end into the hole you made in the mainline.
- Run the micro-tubing over to the base of the pot and secure it there with a landscape staple. Then continue to run the tubing up the outside of the pot and into the top. Cut the microtubing where you wish to attach an emitter, such as at the base of a plant or in the center of the pot.
- For an even more clean appearance, you can add a barbed elbow connector to the microtubing at the top rim of the pot, enabling it to sit more flush against it. Simply make a cut in the tubing at the top and insert the connector to create a corner (shown below).
- Finally, attach a drip emitter of choice to the end of the microtubing. Emitter options explained more below.
- Pin everything in place with landscape staples.
Drip Emitter Options for Containers
It’s easy to customize a container drip irrigation system to meet the unique needs of your plants, climate, or pot size! However, it’s hard for me to say exactly how much you’ll need to water. There are just too many variables. In general, most plants prefer a consistent watering schedule that dampens the soil deeply, but is also allowed to dry out ever-so-lightly between watering. Plants breathe through their roots, so most do not enjoy constantly soggy soil. The emitters you choose and the duration you run your drip system will influence how much water each plant receives.
For larger containers or plants that enjoy ample moisture, use a bubbler or micro-spinkler (several if needed). Those offer a higher GPH flow and will water more surface area. For smaller pots or drought-tolerant plants, a single 1 GPH or 2 GPH drip emitter may be sufficient.
You can also find specialized drip emitter rings that are made for watering containers – like this 5 inch ring, or this 10 inch option. Or, see how we make our own drip rings below! They can be customized to any pot size, including wine barrels or extra large grow bags. Another optional step is to add a 1/4″ valve to the line feeding each container so you can shut off water to individual pots if needed.
Option 2: Creating a New Drip Irrigation System for Pots From a Faucet or Garden Hose
It’s easy to set up a new drip irrigation system for pots from an outdoor faucet, or even connected right to the end of a garden hose. Zero plumbing skills are required! Though you’ll need a few additional supplies (plus those already listed above in Option 1):
- ½” irrigation tubing (main line)
- This 4-in-1 adapter. It screws onto the faucet or garden hose on one end, and then has an adapter to connect the ½” irrigation tubing to the other. It also has a pressure reducer (required), filter, and backflow preventer. This is a very important piece. Drip irrigation systems must operate at 20 to 40 psi, and are also sensitive to debris. The pressure reducer and filter will prevent blowout and clogging respectively, and the backflow preventer will protect your household water supply from outdoor contaminants.
- Figure 8 clamp to end the ½” main line.
- Optional but highly recommended: a hose timer, which will automate your containers drip irrigation system! You can find hose timers with a single outlet, or those with two outlets: one for your drip line, and the second for your regular garden hose (or another drip line).
- Choose a faucet or spigot near the containers you wish to irrigate. To maintain adequate pressure, no more than 100 feet away is ideal. See the note below for further distances.
- Optional: Add a hose timer to the faucet. If not, you can simply turn the faucet on and off manually to water.
- Screw on the 4-in-1 adapter, and connect the ½” main line tubing to the end of the adapter.
- Run the mainline along the base of your pots. You can bury the mainline under a few inches of soil, gravel or mulch to hide it.
- Cut and end the mainline using a figure 8 clamp.
- Now, follow the instructions provided in Section 1 above to add microtubing and drip emitters to each container.
Note: If your faucet is more than 100 feet away from your containers, attach a durable garden hose to the faucet first. Run it out towards the containers, and then screw on the 4-in-1 drip adapter at the far end of the garden hose (opposite the faucet). This way, the garden hose will maintain good (higher) pressure before it’s reduced at the adapter/drip connection. Hopefully you can keep the hose tucked away (e.g. alongside the house, or under shrubs) so it’s not a tripping hazard or eyesore.
Option 3: Connecting Drip Irrigation for Containers to PVC
One final option to set up drip irrigation for pots is to connect a new drip line to PVC. We just recently did this in our new garden. We tapped into the PVC lines that water our raised garden beds to add drip for 6 nearby wine barrels. Check out the step-by-step photos below!
- ½” drip irrigation tubing (main line)
- Figure 8 clamp to end the ½” main line (unless you create a loop like we did).
- PVC glue, primer, and a pipe cutter (most likely)
- A pressure regulator, backflow preventer and filter. All drip irrigation systems must have the incoming water reduced down to 20 – 40 psi. A filter prevents debris from entering and clogging your drip system. A backflow device will stop soil and other contaminants from getting back into your household water supply. Our PVC system already had a filter, backflow preventer, and pressure regulator (40 psi) installed at the head assembly/start of the system. If your PVC system lacks these components, I suggest using this 4-in-1 adapter at your point of connection. Then you won’t need the adapter below. Note that it connects to a ¾” MHT PVC part (hose thread, not pipe thread).
- If your PVC line already has a pressure reducer, backflow preventer and filter upstream like ours, then all you need is a PVC-to-drip tubing adapter. This part will vary depending on the diameter of your PVC pipe and overall system configuration (e.g. glued vs threaded). For instance, we first attached (glued on) this 3/4″ threaded coupler to our PVC pipe. Next we screwed on this 3/4″ adapter that connects to 1/2″ tubing. Here is another adapter option with a shut-off valve included. Browse various drip tubing fittings from Drip Depot here. They’ll have what you need! If you’re new to irrigation, pay attention to hose thread versus pipe thread fittings for compatibility between parts (noted as MHT vs MPT). See photos and more details below.
- Finally, you’ll need the other supplies listed under Option 1. Such as ¼” microtubing, barbed couplings, drip emitters of choice, and optional valves for each container.
- Find a PVC irrigation line near the containers you wish to irrigate. A dead end is ideal, though you could create a tee or dead end using various PVC couplings and fittings. Bring the line up to the soil surface with a riser if needed. A good pipe cutter and PVC glue will come in handy here.
- Connect the ½” drip line using an adapter that is compatible with your system (described in the supplies sections above).
- Also add a pressure reducer, filter and backflow preventer if your system doesn’t already have those in place.
- Now run your ½” main drip line to/around the base of your containers as needed.
- Follow the instructions provided in Option 1 to add microtubing, valves and various drip emitters to each container.
And that is how to set up a drip irrigation system for containers and pots.
All in all, I understand that irrigation can feel a tad overwhelming at first. But it certainly isn’t anything to be afraid of! It’s mostly just puzzling pieces together. I hope this how-to makes you feel confident and comfortable to go set up a drip irrigation system for your containers too! We rely on ours so much. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. Also please considering sharing or pinning this article if you found it useful. Thank you so much for reading!
You may also like:
- How to Install Drip Irrigation to a Hose Bib or Faucet (video included)
- Installing Drip Irrigation for Raised Garden Beds (video included)
- Gardening in Wine Barrel Planters: The Ultimate Guide
- How to Build a Raised Garden Bed (video included)
- Rainwater Harvesting 101: How to Set up a Rainwater Collection System