Self Watering Wine Bottle Planters

Self Watering Wine Bottle Planters

Sorry for the delay, we’ve been scraping popcorn ceilings and then the water heater broke. Oh the joys of home ownership 🙂

First things first! I’d recommend checking this video out to see if you’re up for this project. It’s not rocket science but to get the right tools for the job it’s about a $50 investment.

Still interested? Great, lets go…

Forget about wrapping string around bottle and lighting it on fire or dropping your scored bottle into a pan full of boiling water. I’m not saying those methods can’t work, they are just extremely inconsistent.  By that I mean that the bottle doesn’t break cleanly and you end up with jagged edges or fractures in the length of the bottle.

This little project started out as Christmas Gifts for my co-workers (who wouldn’t want self watering planters in our gray cubicles).  Well, lets just say nobody actually got these by the holidays.  Turns out cutting and filing glass is not nearly as easy as everybody touts on the web.

There are tons of videos and how tos out there about cutting glass.  No joke, I’ve tried them all.  After lots of frustration and broken bottles I combined the best techniques I could find and put together the most consistent method. 

Bottle cutting supplies:

  • Glass bottles (I have a friend who runs a local Italian restaurant so he hooks me up on a regular basis. I have about 100 wine bottle on the dining room floor right now 🙂  Thanks Justin!!!)
  • Glass cutter/scorer (I recommend Generation Green Bottle Cutter, got mine on Amazon  for $20) Here is a great video on how to properly use this brand of cutter:
  • candle
  • ice cubes
  • silicon carbide file (Bought mine at a local stained glass shop $11)
  • silicon carbide powder (Bought 80 and 120 grit on Amazon. a 1lb bag is about $6)
  • glass sheet (just a plain old glass window pane, but you’ll want it to be at least 24″ x 24″
  • spray bottle
  • kitchen towel
  • protective eyewear
  • ear plugs (optional) – The sound made when sanding the bottles is similar to nails on a chalkboard

Self watering planter supplies:

  • Cotton cording (1/8″ braided cotton, you’ll find it by the rope at your hardware store)
  • Screen (Bought a roll of replacement window screen at hardware store. $5 for a huge roll)
  • scissors
  • dirt
  • plant

Step 1: Remove labels

I fill the sink full of bottles fill it with dish soap and hot water and let them soak for a few hours.  Some labels will fall off, some you’ve gotta scrape off (I use a hard plastic pot/pan scraper) You might want to have some Goof Off around for the extra tacky labels.

Step 2: Score your bottle

Figure out where your cut needs to be so that when you flip the top of the bottle over the top of the neck isn’t hitting the bottom of the bottle.  I good rule of thumb is divide your bottle into thirds and cut 1/3 of the way down. Here is the video again on how to properly use your glass cutter

*A personal tip.  Most how to videos tell you to go around the bottle one time.  I recommend scoring the bottle at least 4 times. You have to be careful to make sure you are scoring the exact same line over and over again, but it helped me to have a deeper score.

Step 3: Fire and Ice

Put your protective eyewear on! Light your candle and get a bowl of ice cubes (grab a kitchen towel too). Hold the score line on the bottle about 1/4″ above the flame slowly rotating the bottle for one minute. Stand your bottle upright and rub ice around the score line for 30 seconds. Repeat. The bottle gets pretty wet so wipe it off before your repeat the process. Sometimes it breaks in one round, sometimes it takes 5 times.  Every bottle is different. You will hear it cracking so don’t be scared 🙂

Now, a word to the wise: I haven’t actually had any bottles explode, but my motto is better safe than sorry with the eyewear. I have had bottles split in half while I was holding them over the flame, come crashing down onto the candle sending hot wax everwhere. In the panic my hand came crashing down on to the flame giving me a nice blister. So just be aware this can happen.

As the bottle starts to break along the score line you will notice that the way the light passes through the glass changes along that line. It’s a good indicator of how close you are to breaking through. It will also show you if one spot just isn’t breaking and needs some extra time over the flame. 

Step 4: Sanding

The glass cutter comes with sand paper, which is ok. I went out and bought all kinds of other wet/dry sand paers and nothing really got the edges that smooth.  I mean, I was going to give these to people as gifts. Nothing says I love you like “Here’s a present you could slice off the tip of your finger with”.

I went into a local stained glass supply store and picked their brains about the project. Turns out stained glass people are the coolest. They had tons of advice, wanted to see pictures, told me to stop back with a sample, talked me into making stained glass projects and fed me several shots of aged rum they got from some exotic island.  When all was said and done I had a buzz and was sent on me on my way with a silicon carbide hand file which works great for rounding the edges of the cut.

The how to video at the beginning of this blog shows you how to use silicon carbide powder to sand which is AMAZING. Here’s the link again So, I’m not going to go into great detail on how to use it. Buy the powder on Amazon, it’s cheap and it gets the cut edges super smooth. I got 80 grit to start, which definitely takes down any sizable lumps and bumps, but ended up getting some 120 grit to get very smooth final edge.

*Notice how in the video he also comments on the awful sound the sanding makes, I recommend ear plugs, and I definitely recommend not trying to sand your bottles when your husband is in the living room trying to watch golf.

I usually start with the 80 grit silicon power which files down the larger jagged parts. Then head over to the kitchen sink and file down the inside and outside edge under running water (to keep the glass cool and to avoid breathing in the fine glass particles that come off). I finish the bottle off by sanding with the 120 grit powder.

Alright, you know how to cut and sand a glass bottle, I’m done typing for the day.  I’ll cover the self watering planter how to soon. Sorry, but it’s Saturday and warm in Milwaukee. I’ve got to get my arse on a patio with an adult beverage ASAP.

Here’s some other planters I made for work friends:

Planters 1 photo (8)


Sorry for the delay! On to the actual planters! Ok, so you’ve got a beautifully cut and sanded wine bottle, yay!

Just a quick reminder of your supplies

Self watering planter supplies:

  • Cotton cording (1/8″ braided cotton, you’ll find it by the rope at your hardware store)
  • Screen (Bought a roll of replacement window screen at hardware store. $5 for a huge roll)
  • scissors
  • dirt
  • plant

Step 1: Cut your Screen

Cut your screen into approximately a 4″ x4″ square, with your scissors cut two small slits in screen approximately 1″ apart (be careful cutting, the wire will completely unravel if you cut too long or close of slits and your cording will fall right through). screen with cuts


Step 1: Prep the Cording

Cut a piece of your cotton cording approximately 16″ long, fold in half, tie a knot approximately 2″ down from the folded edge (this knot will be what holds the cording above the screen). Take your knotted and cording and with the knot on top slide one tail through each slit. (Remember, be gentle).

Turn the top part of the bottle upside down (with the neck facing down). Now with the knot on top push your screen down into the top portion of the wine bottle with the tails hanging down into the neck. Place the to of your bottle into the bottom part of your bottle (the tails should be long enough to reach to the bottom of the wine bottle base so it can absorb and suck up water.

Step 1: Planting

Fill the top part of the wine bottle with dirt, making sure that the loop of coding stays standing in an upward position (keeping the cording as close to the actual roots of your plant will ensure that the roots of the plant can grow and attach to the cording quickly).

Pick your plants and plant it of course!

I’ve been using lots of succulents (chicks and hens and such). Keep in mind that succulents require special soil and will not last without it!  Check out this link for good tips on succulent soil

I usually just go to Stein’s (any local garden center will do) and pick up whatever catches my eye.  I apologize that I don’t know the name of the actual succulents in the main header picture.  Speaking of the pic, how cute do three of the same plant look in a row.  That trio of plants went to wine bottle supplier as a thank you.  He has informed me that he killed all of the plants and broke one of the planters already.  Boys?!?


I’ve also used the planters to make herb gardens as gifts for friends and family too! Check out my blog about making an herb garden box out of pallets!

photo 2

If you’re like me and have been hoarding wine bottles and want more ideas, check out my blog about making wine bottle lanterns for your patio.

group of lanterns




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