Wondering how to keep potted plants alive? I struggled with this until I found the perfect solution. Here’s my best secret.

how to keep potted plants alive dead plants

Remember last week when I told you how much I love Dipladenias?

And that they last and bloom all through the summer.

I should have clarified that they USUALLY last and bloom all through the summer. I’ve bought them for years and watched them bloom and grow and taken care of them and trimmed them back and clipped the edges and they are still smiling and showing up with extra flowers until the first cold snap in September.


Except for last year.


Last year they looked like this.

It was one of the hottest driest summers on record in Texas and we didn’t get any rain and we were traveling quite a bit so we couldn’t water as much as we normally did and we don’t have a built-in watering or sprinkler system.

So everything suffered. The grass dried up. The boxwoods looked like they had just taken a trip across the Sahara desert. Even the hardiest plants on the block, the nandinas and the mondo grass were struggling and the Dipladenias? They didn’t have a prayer.

When we brought in all the new Dipladenias for this year, I had visions of these leaves from last year dancing ’round my head. So I decided to take action. I researched ideas and solutions for keeping potted plants alive when you have to travel during the summer and when you can’t water as much as you need to.

And I came up with this solution.

how to keep potted plants alive plant spikes

How To Keep Potted Plants Alive

These plant watering spikes.

I read up on all the solutions and I found ideas like a mini drip irrigation system and watering globes and watering bags.

But for me and my house? I think these plant watering spikes were the easiest, simplest most cost-effective way (with over 2,000 reviews on Amazon) to consistently deliver water to my potted Dipladenias outside.

You can see the plant watering spikes here (and they are 50% off right now with a $2 coupon).

how to keep potted plants alive

|| terracotta plant spikes ||

They came in a box like this

I actually ordered two boxes because there are six in each box and I have about a dozen potted plants on the two porches.

I didn’t know what to expect because I’ve never used anything like this before and they were pretty substantial so I think they would work best with larger plant pots. The spikes are 6″ long so they were perfect for my outdoor potted plants, but I think they would be a little overwhelming for smaller potted indoor house plants.

how to keep potted plants alive terracotta plant spikes

|| terracotta plant spikes ||

Why do the plant spikes work?

The reason why they work?


I didn’t really pay that much attention in physics, so I can’t explain the science of how they work, but they do. The spikes are made out of a thick terracotta.

I think the secret is in the thickness of the terracotta. If they were slimmer, the water would disperse much more quickly; however, because they are so thick, it takes about 3-4 days for an entire 20 oz water bottle to empty directly into the root of the plants.

|| terracotta plant spikes ||

How to install the plant spikes

Here’s to install the plant spikes.

It’s so easy that if you blink you’ll miss it.

You just take the plant spike and stick it into the side of the plant (aiming it at the roots).

Make sure the plant spike is inserted all the way into the plant so that the maximum amount of water can ooze out of the terracotta spike into the roots.

Then you just fill up a plastic water bottle, hold your finger over the end of it and insert it (super quickly) into the terracotta spike. It took me a couple of times to keep more water in the bottle without letting it spill out, but with a little practice it gets easier.

You don’t have to use plastic bottles if you don’t want to.

The instructions say that it works with other bottles, too, as long as the lip fits into the terracotta plant spike.

That’s it.

Do the plant spikes actually work?

I’ve been using them now once it started getting hot and they are really working well.

I started with the smaller 4 oz. water bottles and I had to add water every couple of days, so I’m using 20 oz. water bottles now and it stretches it to 4-5 days. I have my calendar set to add water on Mondays and Fridays before the weekend in case we go out of town.

For now, we aren’t watering the Dipladenias any more than that, but I think we may add extra water if the temperatures get over 100.

I think that terracotta plant spikes like this are an amazing insurance policy against a hot Texas summer and gets the water where it needs to go for plants like this.

Right in the roots.

And even better—rather than overwhelming the roots, instead the water drips out slowly over time so the roots are always hydrated.

And now we can leave for a couple of days and I don’t have to worry because I know the plants are taken care of.

And hopefully?

There won’t be any more plants that look like this.

And more plants that look like this.

Here’s to easy, simple organic solutions for prettier blooms.

Because this summer?

The plants and I are both staying hydrated. 🙂

PS You can see the terracotta plant spikes here.

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  1. Image for Debbie Debbie

    Thank you so much for sharing this great tool!! I might get brave enough to container garden again this summer thanks to you! It gets pretty darn HOT here in SC and watering every day gets old real fast. I will definitely try these great spikes and I might even head to the nursery today. Thank you friend❣️

  2. Image for Donnamae Donnamae

    Ah ha! This is where all the pink dipladenia’s went! My two favorite garden centers up here (WI) only had red…lol. Hope the spikes work for you. You might also consider hiring a high schooler in the neighborhood to keep a watchful eye if you are gone longer….that’s what we do. Everything looks lovely…..enjoy your day! ;)

  3. Image for Lisa Lisa

    Good morning, Karianne. I certainly needed to read this today. How did you know? I thank you... (and so do my struggling house plants-lol) Have a lovely day.

  4. Image for LisaH LisaH

    Hi! These definitely work. We went away for 10 days last summer and they kept our plants flourishing in August. We used coloured (green) glass bottles.

  5. Image for Jeanine Kesey Jeanine Kesey

    Thank you thank you! We always hire a high schooler to water but it’s so hard to find someone reliable. We take several trips during the summer and this is perfect! Now if I could keep the aphids off my mandevilla that looks like your dipladenia (maybe that is what it is? ) I would be set.

  6. Image for Donna Marie Donna Marie

    Nothing to do with watering, but saw the mass shooting on t.v. and a police car with McKinney on the side of it. Other than the fact that it was another mass shooting, were you affected by this? I hope not. Prayers for all of us!!!

  7. Image for Judi Judi

    Could probably use this method to fertilize plants by adding some water soluble fertilizer and shaking it before putting it into the spike. Great idea, thank you for sharing it!

  8. Image for Teresa Teresa

    I use these and yes they work. I had saved two clear glass wine bottles that work great. I had taken the labels off. Truly don't recall where I got them as had in a cabinet for several years. Even had glass stoppers. Too pretty to toss I assume. Then when I got the terracotta spikes I remembered them. I have gotten multiple compliments on the beautiful bottles with rose design bottoms. They must have been a rose' wine or rose' wine brand. When you shop check out the wine section and look at the wine bottle bottoms for the clear glass design of a rose. They are lovely. I'm on the lookout for more too.

  9. Image for Kathleen Kathleen

    Hey, KariAnne! I’ve had a few of these spikes since finding them in a small shop in Old Town Albuquerque a couple years ago! I love them, and they have saved my plants from an often “negligent keeper!” I use them in all sizes of pots (I love the look!) and they work just fine, with the plant taking the water from the spike area in the dirt. I have not yet added supplemental water in bottles to the top, but will try that when my watering time needs change.

  10. Image for Dianne Miley Dianne Miley

    Perfect! Thank you for this awesome recommendation. I ordered these! We will be traveling this summer too and I’m concerned about my vegetable garden. Hopefully this works!

  11. Image for Jan Fusco Jan Fusco

    Thanks for this idea. I ordered them and got them all set up in my pots with a water bottle. My water bottle is empty in a day! I don't know what I'm doing wrong. The pots aren't even as big as yours. I'll keep trying. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

    1. Image for KariAnne KariAnne

      Jan, Yes! I freeze the water bottles in the freezer! That way I only have to replace them every couple of days! And just because the water bottle is empty---don't worry! The water has gotten to the roots and you are already two steps ahead! Does that make sense? Happy day! KariAnne

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