Olla Clay Pot Irrigation

Are you looking to conserve water but still want to make sure you aren’t under watering your garden?  There is a simple way to save 50-70% of water without depriving your plants.

Olla (pronounced oy-yah) gardening is an ancient method of drip irrigation that has been used for more than 4000 years. It’s thought to have originated in Northern Africa.  It’s a very efficient watering system and takes the guessing out of when and how often to water your garden… very helpful for areas that are prone to drought and for people who may have a black thumb. It is simple, affordable and easy to implement.

How to use

1. Bury the Olla in soil leaving the neck exposed.
2. Plant seeds or plants around the Olla, radius is based on the size of the Olla. – We bought a 1.5 gallon pot for $30.  We plant our plants within an 18 inch diameter of the pots.
3. Fill the Olla with water and let it do the work.


We offer DIY clay pot rainwater layout diagrams.  Check out our Etsy site for the drawings.

How it works

The concept is simple.  Terra-cotta is porous.

Here you can see how after a few hours water slowly seeps out of the pot. The water seeps out through the clay wall of the pot, directly irrigating roots around the pots to absorb leaking moisture.

Over time the plants’ roots literally wrap around the olla. The plants sip nearly every last molecule of water, and because the water source is now in the ground, evaporation is almost nil.

The great thing is you can’t over or under water because the plants will take what they need.  We fill our pots once or twice per week.

The tops of the clay pots extend above ground so the clay pots can be refilled as water is absorbed.

Benefits of Olla Irrigation:

  • Water delivered directly to the root zone
  • Eliminates common runoff and evaporation problems
  • Provides plants with steady moisture
  • Inexpensive—makes use of local materials
  • Low tech and easy to use
  • No need for water pressure
  • No need for water filters


Did you know?

Olla’s can be very effective for plants that are prone to diseases from over watering or wetting leaves by sprinkling.

Buried clay pot irrigation should be considered wherever water conservation is important. It will probably continue to prove most valuable for producing high value crops in dry lands.

Want more info on ollas, see our blog.