TŌRŌ Smart Self Watering Planter


phase 1 prototype

One of my favourite experiences from my recent trip to Japan earlier this year was strolling through the many gardens. Such great care goes into the design, maintenance and overall feeling of each particular garden. Intended for places of meditation, they are a serene escape from the otherwise often hectic pace of Japanese life. 

Stone lantern

In amongst the cherry trees and lush mossy landscape, I was captivated by the various stone lanterns that graced featured viewpoints. Monolithic in presence, they also seemed to fit in complete harmony with their natural surroundings. 


These traditional lanterns, Tōrō in Japanese, can be made out of stone, wood, or metal. Tōrō were originally used only in Buddhist temples, where they lined and illuminated paths. Lit lanterns were then considered an offering to Buddha. Later they started being used also in Shinto shrines and private homes. In modern gardens they have a purely ornamental function and are laid along paths, near water, or next to a structure.


The different segments of stone Tōrō represent elements of Buddhist cosmology: earth, water, fire, air and spirit. The segments express the idea that after death our physical bodies will go back to their original, elemental form.

MiMOKO Toro Planter

Building on MiMOKO’s signature self watering system where the plant feeds from a lower water reservoir via a wick, I wanted to create a completely new looking planter inspired by the elements of these Japanese stone lanterns. MiMOKO’s TŌRŌ takes on a more two dimensional form despite being completely hand thrown. It allows you to appreciate what is often not seen in ceramic vessels: negative space.

This unique circular water reservoir sends water upwards via a wick to the half moon planter sitting above. Both ceramic pieces sit atop of a cedar stand, a warm wood that contrasts well with the porcelain.

Toro planter cross section

Most excitingly, I wanted to use this new planter as an opportunity to develop something that has been on my radar for some time: a way to determine when to refill the water reservoir without having to lift the top planter to peer inside. The idea of a making floating water level sensor came about by an entrepreneurial friend of mine who was building one to put in his outdoor household water tank. He wanted this sensor to connect via WiFi directly to his phone so he knew exactly when to order more water, without having to physically look inside the tank.

MiMOKO Water level sensor

With the help of the team from MakerLabs, I built a floating sensor that connected to a battery powered microcontroller/computer. We utilized the wooden stand as a housing unit for the electronics. The tiny computer sends out an LED light signal once the sensor hits the bottom of the water reservoir, signalling that it needs to be refilled. In future developments the computer will be WiFi or bluetooth enabled and will be able to send water level information to an app on your phone. As MiMOKO’s self watering planter water reservoirs only need to be filled once every two or three weeks, these helpful phone notifications will remind you when your plant needs attention, giving you one less thing in your week to worry about.

See below for a visual representation of what the app will look like. 

  1. Welcome page
    2. Home page where you can upload your plants and where they are in the house
    3. Personal plant upload page with a handy database of common plant information
    4. A real time view on how full your planter water reservoir is
    5. Once the planter tank is empty you will get a pop up notification reminding you to refill

It has been very exciting to combine new planter technology with traditional craft and create an inspiring new way to maintain happy and healthy houseplants. 

At this stage the TŌRŌ planter is not available for retail. Developments will be made over the following months to make this a viable product for production. You can stay up to date by following MiMOKO on Instagram: @mimokoceramics

MiMOKO Toro Planter

see how it’s made behind the scenes

Making the hollow, circular water reservoir on the wheel


Assembling the half moon planter


The ones that didn’t make it…

Monique Skelton