How to Make a Homemade Olla

I love to garden. Which is nice, but when one lives in an area that hits triple digit temperatures throughout the summer, one finds oneself staring at dead plants more often than not.

So one does what ancient civilizations do.

No. Not human sacrifice.

Now. Before you start Googling ollas, let me give you a little info on these clay miracle workers.

Ollas, pronounced “oh-YAHS” not “oh-LAHS” are unglazed clay pots with a long neck. The premise is simple: Bury the olla near your plants and fill with water. The unglazed clay seeps water into your soil, sending the perfect amount of moisture to your plants.

At $18-$25 a pop, they’re just a bit out of my price range. So… I decided to make my own.

How to Make a Homemade Olla

You’ll need:

  • Unglazed clay pots
  • Unglazed clay saucers
  • Glass beads
  • Gorilla Glue
  • Silicone Caulk


1. I went for the 4″ x 6″ clay pots. For the double pot olla, buy two clay saucers that are just big enough to cover the bottom. For the single pot olla, buy a clay pot big enough to cover the top of the pot.

2. Wipe your clay pots clean with a damp sponge and let dry.

3. Very carefully–because this stuff is dangerous–put glue on the top lip of the clay pot.

For the single pot, place the pot on the saucer on the glue and let dry.

For the double pot, balance another clay pot on the first as shown in the picture and let dry.


Glue a small saucer to the bottom of the double olla. This will keep water the water in.

4. Decorate your olla tops. The top will help prevent water from evaporating on those hot days.

5. Time to caulk, baby.

A damp sponge will go a long ways towards smoothing out any mistakes.

Let the caulk harden.

(Get your minds out of the gutter.)

When it’s hard (stop), fill with water and check for leaks. If you find any seepage, fill with caulk. (Seriously. Stop giggling.)

6. Sink your olla in your garden between plants. Fill with water and top with your decorative topper. Keep checking your olla to be sure that it has water in it. The roots of your plants will eventually go towards the olla, seeking moisture.

Now if this all works the way it should, your watering costs will go down, you can actually put fertilizer directly into the pots and on days when the temps reach 115, there a smaller chance that your plants will die a dry and dusty death. And by making my own, it only cost me around $3 each.

Win. Win. Win. Big win.

About Anissa Mayhew

You can read more Anissa at her blog Free Anissa and as a contributing writer at Babble. She's at Twitter, FacebookG+, and Pinterest too. And yes, she's probably up to no good either.



  1. Susan says:

    For those in a hurry, or who need more ollas, this is quicker:

    Get some porous red clay pots (I like half-gallon or gallon for use in the ground, smaller for tubs and large planting pots), and some saucers that set inside the top of the pot to act as lids. Set the pots on some waxed paper and fill the bottom hole with silicone caulk or hot glue; run the glue beyond the hole a bit so it stays in place. When cool, turn the pot over and fill in any gaps, and run it over onto the pot an 1/8″ or so to secure it.

    Set the pot in the soil with about 1/2″ or so sticking above the soil, fill with water, set the saucer inside the top (right-side up) as a lid to prevent evaporation and keep small critters out.

  2. Sarah says:

    So how well did this work last summer, as far as keeping your plants from getting fried? I am gearing up for garden season this year and love this idea – store-bought ollas are insanely pricey.

  3. Zane says:

    I absolutely love this idea, thanks for doing the hard work of “designing it.”
    Got to do this for my wife’s garden this year!

  4. tracci says:

    How do you know how many to bury? Does each plant need one?

  5. Missy says:

    I used gorilla glue for my home made ollas. now I am concerned about toxicity. Does anyone have any true answers on this?

    • annette says:

      I know this reply comes long after ur question, but nobody responded…
      Gorilla glue is non-toxic after it cures. Home depot sells an Aquarium Silicone that is food grade once it cures as well. Hope this helps. Im definately gonna do this.

  6. Dee says:

    I have been thinking about the hole in the pot and instead of using glue, I am going to my local home store / hardware store I have a feeling I can buy a wooden dowel that will just fit into this hole and cut to length, yes it would seep a little probably because it is wood and I think it can be if needed sealed a bit with some clay from the hobby store or just a little sand in the bottom, then it to just seeps like the rest of the pot.

    • Sandi says:

      I would be careful with wooden dowels. The wood will swell when saturated and expand. I may expand enough to crack your clay pot.

  7. Marissa says:

    Why not just tape the hole and fill the bottom with a small layer of cement…

  8. Joe says:

    I discovered ollas at a store here in Austin and was intrigued
    .Once I went outside and one in their demo garden I was hooked
    The only thing that stopped me from getting one was the $30 price tag. I did learn that one pot will work well in a 3′ x 3′ raised bed.

  9. Scott Hanson says:

    Oh, how I am excited about this! Can’t wait to go hit some garage sales looking for boxes of terra cotta pots. I have drilled holes in these pots before with a ceramic bit and low speed. (Yes, I have shattered a few.) Perforate around the fill hole enough to punch out a larger fill hole for the hose. I’m also picturing getting to the cap when my tomatoes or cucumbers are in full jungle mode. Might glue a tall figurine on the lid so I can find it and reach it. How about a ceramic fairy? If you don’t want to glue the bottom hole you can find corks of all sizes at any Ace Hardware.

  10. Shannon says:

    I’m thinking melted wax could be a non toxic plug for those who are concerned.

  11. Anna says:

    I don’t know if you’re checking these comments still, but your paragraph about caulk had me howling. Thanks for brightening my morning. :)


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