Have you set your eyes on a stylish ceramic or terracotta plant pot? Make sure to check that it has drainage holes as using a flower pot without them can put your plant at risk. Here’s why:
Why pots need drainage holes
If plant roots stay in water for too long, they develop root rot. Without drainage holes, even well-draining soil may become too damp, no matter how careful you are not to overwater it.
A porous pot material such as organic fibre may reduce soil humidity. But even in warm weather (or a warm room), the water is not likely to evaporate fast enough. As the water has nowhere to go, it will stay in the soil, damaging the roots. Using pots without drainage holes outdoors is a bad idea as frequent rain will cause waterlogging.
This is true for plants that enjoy moisture as well. Often, these are most at risk since you are likely to water them often. Even moisture-loving ferns, irises and hostas have a higher risk of suffering root rot and poor health in a pot without drainage holes.
More than allowing water to drain from the soil, drainage holes can help to keep your plant healthy in other ways:
- Drainage holes promote good airflow, helping to prevent mould and fungus and deterring pests. It also helps with a more balanced distribution of humidity and heat.
- Holes help to flush out excess salts from the soil. These may build up as you fertilise your plants. Past certain levels, they may be damaging.
- Drainage holes make your life as a gardener easier. Whether your plants are indoors or out, you’ll have fewer things to worry about and generally less of a mess on your hands. You’ll also be disturbing your plants less. If you’ve ever had to drain an overwatered pot without holes, you’ll know exactly what we mean.
In the end, using a flower pot without holes can be inconvenient and messy. If you pour in too much water, you’ll have to drain it to avoid root rot. Even if you place the plant with the plastic container in which it’s sold into the pot without holes, too much water may still accumulate at the bottom. You’ll have to lift the plant out each time to check.
It may also make you underwater your plant to avoid root rot. In other words, you may end up hurting your plant for all the wrong reasons.
How to make drainage holes in a pot
Some flower pots such as clay, ceramic, or glazed pots are less likely to have drainage holes than plastic or fibreglass planters. You can make drainage holes in most flower pots with an electric drill and the right bit.
Here are some tips:
- Start with a small, ¼-inch bit and drill slowly and steadily.
- Adjust the size only if necessary.
- For plastic, any sharp bit will do.
- For ceramics and glazed terracotta, use a diamond bit. For unglazed terracotta, soak the pot overnight before drilling.
- For metal pots, a strong cobalt steel bit should work.
How to use a flower pot without drainage
Wait a minute—so is it ok to use a flower pot without drainage holes after all?
Despite all the risks and drawbacks of using a flower pot without drainage holes, you can still use one as a planter.
Turn it into a cachepot
The easiest way is to turn it into a cachepot.
- Get a plastic pot with drainage holes, you can easily find these at nurseries or garden centres. It should be small enough to fit into the flower pot planter.
- Add some pebbles or small stones to the bottom of the planter. This will create more space between the bottom of the plastic pot and the planter for excess water to drain.
- Put the plastic pot into the planter, over the pebbles or stones so that it’s entirely hidden in it.
- When watering the plant, take the plastic pot out of the planter. Let any excess water run into the sink or on the ground.
Add a drainage layer
Another way is to add pebbles or small stones to the bottom of the pot before putting in the soil. The stones will create a safety layer for excess water to drain away from the roots. Place them in a layer that’s 1-inch thick or more, depending on the size of the pot.
While pebbles or small stones add a drainage layer between the plant roots and root rot, you’ll still have to be careful not to overwater your plant.
Some gardeners regard this method as a myth, so be cautious when using it. It may work better for some pots and soils than for others.
Activated charcoal is naturally absorbent. It also has microbial properties. It can help absorb some of the excess water, hold nutrients, and kept your plant healthy. For a 4-inch pot, add a ½-inch-thick layer of activated charcoal.
No drainage flower pot FAQs
What if a flower pot I love has no drainage holes?
Turn it into a cachepot by planting the flower in a smaller plastic pot with drainage holes. Then add the plastic pot into the decorated flower pot. Optionally, you can add a small layer of pebbles or small stones between the two or you can drill your own drainage holes.
Are flower pots without holes safe for plants?
Flower pots with no drainage are bad for outdoor plants that may get rained on. You can use them indoors, provided you turn them into cachepots or add a drainage layer at the bottom and water them very carefully. Even so, a pot with drainage holes is better for just about every plant, including those that love moisture.
How can I remove excess water from a flower pot without drainage?
Tip it over the sink or ground slowly while holding the soil at the top to prevent it from spilling. If it happens more than once or twice, you may have to replace lost soil. If the plant looks unwell after too much watering, repot it in a planter with better drainage. You may also want to remove any damaged roots.
How often should I water a flower pot without drainage?
Water your plant slowly and sparingly. The water should become evenly distributed through the soil or it will pool at the bottom. Keep in mind that even plants that thrive in moist soil may become sick after too much watering.
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