How to Plant in Pots Without Drainage Holes?

Although it is recommended that succulents be planted in containers with drainage holes, the truth is that there are impressive pots that do not have them (including these 3D printed pots on Etsy). However, it is possible to enjoy them by learning how to plant in pots without drainage holes which we will talk about in this article. If you’d like to learn how to make a drainage hole for your pot (whether clay, ceramic or glass), read this article.

how to plant in pots without drainage holes

Determining how much and how often you should water your succulents isn’t always an easy task, and it’s even harder in pots without drainage holes.

The main consideration to consider is that succulents need their roots to dry quickly. If the roots remain wet for too long a time, they will start to rot. In a pot with drainage hole, water flows by the action of gravity and there is also better air circulation, but if the pot is without drainage holes, it will be necessary to compensate for the water retention in some other ways.

How to Plant in Pots without Drainage Holes

If you are a beginner, we will always recommend that you do your best to plant your succulents in containers with holes, but there are cases where we do not want to do so. For example, if we want to make a terrarium inside a glass case or in a fish tank it is likely that this container does not have holes. Or, if we have our succulents decorating the interior of the house and we do not want to wet the shelf or furniture in which we have them every time we water them, we will probably choose a pot without drainage holes.

So let’s look at the principles you need to follow so that your succulents stay healthy by living in pots without any drainage hole.

Choose Soil with Good Drainage and Ventilation

The soil is especially crucial if you are going to plant in a pot without drainage, as the right soil will allow the water to dry at the rate your plant needs it. Even if the water has nowhere to flow, the correct soil will allow the passage of air favoring evaporation.

What characteristics should your soil have? For starters, it should be a soil formed with large particles, ideally about 6 millimeters (1/4 inch) in diameter. In addition, it is important that it has porous materials, which prevent the soil from clumping and too much water is retained.

how to plant succulents in pots without drainage holes

In this other article we talk about the mixtures of soil that you can use with your succulents in general, although in a closed container, you can use coarse sand, or even pumice. The important thing is that it is a soil mixture that does not absorb too much water and dries easily, so that you can water the succulent with the ‘soak-and-dry’ method which is ideal. You can learn more about the right way to water in this article.

Measure the Water You Use When Watering

One of the main problems you’ll encounter when using a pot without drainage holes is knowing how much water you’ve already put in the pot. In a pot with holes you know that the soil is well soaked because you can see the water coming out underneath. In a glass container this is not a problem since you can see the water level when filling it. However, many pots are opaque and prevent you from knowing when you have already poured a considerable amount of water.

Therefore, you should experiment and when you find the right point, be sure to mark how much water you are using. One way to always water consistently is to always use the same bottle or container when watering. You can draw a mark that tells you how far you should pour the water it contains. You can also use measuring cups or a glass of the right size.

how to water succulents in pots without drainage

The key is that you know how much water to use and just water that amount. Let’s remember that the water won’t come out of the pot other than by evaporation. If you put your pot under a hose or under the kitchen tap, it’s hard to measure how much water you’re filling and you could easily give your plant too much water and can cause the roots to rot.

Determine How Much Water to Use

It is difficult to determine the correct amount of water in a pot without drainage. If you put too much water, you can use a towel to try to absorb a little, or if your pot is small, you can even tilt it so that the water comes out.

Keep in mind that each type of soil retains water in different ways, so even after deciding how much water you’re going to use, you should take a look often and make sure none of the symptoms appear to show that there is a problem with irrigation. You can learn about these dangerous symptoms in this article.

As a general rule, I recommend watering with a volume of water equal to half the size of the pot. For example, if the pot contains around a cup of soil, you water it with 1/2 cup of water.

You can use this reference as a starting point, but keep your eyes open to what your plant tells you in the coming weeks, as an adjustment may be necessary.

Determine How Often You Should Water

The answer to this question is simple:

Water only when the soil is completely dry.

Especially with pots without drainage, you can’t assume that a fixed frequency, for example once a week or twice a week, is the right one. Following the principle of only watering when the soil has already dried is crucial, as the soil dries more slowly.

Since drying will depend solely on evaporation, you may need to leave more time than usual between watering. Many factors such as temperature, humidity in the environment and ventilation will influence, so don’t trust watering at a certain frequency and always check if the soil is already dry before watering.

Tips: Planting Succulents in Containers Without Drainage

Add Rocks for Drainage in Pots

You can easily create a drainage layer by adding rocks, pebbles, or pumice to the bottom of your pot. This drainage layer will allow excess water to drain out of the soil more quickly and away from the roots so they are not damaged or rotted. Sure, the water will still stay at the bottom, but at least it won’t be in the soil or the roots.

Use Activated Carbon

Activated charcoal, in addition to being used in tons of beauty products, can also act as a medium for a drainage layer. Activated charcoal can soak up some of that excess water at the bottom of the pot, which can be a big help, especially if it’s been over-watered.

Use the Correct Pot Size

Pots without drainage holes should always be small. Never plant a large plant in a large pot without drainage holes, this will only cause more problems. More soil means more water that can collect at the bottom. For larger plants, simply opt for pots with drainage holes. Small, decorative plants should be the only plants that go in a pot without holes.

Use a Cachepot

If you feel like this may be too much work for you, but you still want to use a pot without drainage holes, there is another way to do it! Just find a plastic pot with drainage holes that will fit inside your pot without holes. So plant directly into the plastic pot and voila!