Do Succulent Pots Need Drainage?
The Perfect Guide to Proper Drainage

It's a known fact that succulent pots need drainage, but not so known that with the right techniques any pot can be the home of a healthy succulent!

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Jimena Bolívar

April 19, 2021


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Introduction

One of the funniest parts of growing new succulents is choosing its pots. There is a lot of variety, and sometimes we can get caught choosing one that isn’t quite appropriate for our new baby houseplant.

In this post, I’ll tell you why you should consider the drainage of the pots and what to do with the ones that don’t have holes– besides drilling the holes by yourself.

Succulents don’t like to sit in wet soil; their pots do need drainage holes in most cases. However, it’s also possible to grow healthy succulents in pots without drainage holes if you follow the right techniques.

pots with drainage holes

Why are Drainage Holes so Important?

Succulents are plants used to drought - and they like it. This should be considered when growing them. With the right type of soil, the right kind of pot is crucial to growing a healthy plant.

Having a pot that allows the water drained by the soil to get out of the pot is important because if the root gets waterlogged, chances are that it will experience root rot.

Plants breathe mostly through the roots; that’s why letting the roots sit in water for more than 2 or 3 days is probably killing them, or at least causing root rot and increasing the likelihood of pests and plagues.

Of course, it’s also possible to grow a succulent in a pot that doesn’t allow the succulent to drain, in this case, you’ll need to follow this post step-by-step.

How to Prepare a Pot that Doesn’t have Any Hole?

When a succulent container doesn’t have a drainage hole, the soil has to be set a bit differently than usual. Layers will help the soil to drain faster, simulating a pot with a drainage hole.

This technique will help the roots dry because the water will accumulate at the bottom, not in the soil, making your roots wet.

It consists of adding different layers. The first one is stones or pebbles, depending on the size of the pot.

The second layer will cover the pot till ½ of it and is made of crushed charcoal that will help water absorption and prevent fungi and bacteria from growing in the roots.

The last layer is made by well-draining soil that is appropriate for the succulent you’re planting.

How to Water when the Pot doesn’t Have a Drainage Hole?

When the pot doesn’t have drainage holes, the most important thing is to observe if the topmost soil is dry before watering. The dryness can be tested using the finger test or wrinkled leaves, and even a soil moisture meter.

The finger test consists of sticking your finger 2 inches down the soil and feel if it’s wet. If you think it’s dry your succulent is ready to be watered.

Pro tip

If you feel that it isn't wet, but it's colder than the topmost surface, the soil still doesn't need to be watered again.

Another option is to wait until the leaves become slightly wrinkled. This isn’t dangerous or unhealthy, as long as you pay attention and water as soon as the leaves start wrinkling.

Last but not least, you can also measure the moisture level using a soil moisture meter. You’ll wait until the soil is dry in all of these options so that you don’t overwater your succulent.

As a rule of thumb, water your plant with water equal to half of your pot’s volume. When you water the plant, wait a few minutes, and turn the container tipping the soil so the excess water doesn’t settle within the container.

Measuring how much water you’re giving to your plant with a tool will help you understand how much water your plant needs.

Keep in mind that the goal when watering is to keep the soil moisturized, not wet.

Best Materials for Pots with and without Drainage Holes

The moisture of the soil is also determined by the pot’s material. This is why when considering a pot without draining holes, the pot material plays an important role. Some are more absorbent than others.

I have a whole post on how to choose a pot here, but I assembled a list of the most common materials and their pros and cons when it comes to draining.

Terracotta is one of the most common options of pots. They are breathable, are beautiful but are heavy, which can make them a bad choice if you like to keep changing the position of your succulents.

Glazed ceramic isn’t as breathable as terracotta, so it’s better to have one with a drainage hole.

Plastic is lightweight, durable, and is a good option if you find them with draining holes.

KINGLAKE 100 Pcs 4 Inch Plastic Pots

I recommend these plastic pots wholeheartedly!

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Wood is beautiful and breathable, but it can crack over time.

Glass is easily breakable and won’t have any drain holes.

Other Options

If you have a pot that you feel is perfect for your succulent, or you want to have it in your living room, but you’re afraid of overwatering your baby succulent, you can drill drainage holes on the pot.

If the idea is appealing to you, consider the value of the pot and the cost of drilling it. If it holds a lot of worth, maybe drilling it isn’t a good idea. It may not be a good idea if it will be more expensive to drill than to buy a pot with a draining hole. In both cases, the decision is completely up to you.

If you’re into using pots without draining holes because you think all the ones with draining holes are ugly or because they will make your living room dirty, you could try using a cachepot.

It’s basically a pot with drainage holes that goes inside a bigger pot without drainage holes. This way water drains into the bigger pot, and you can keep your succulent roots dry.

Wrapping up

Even though it’s possible to grow succulents in pots without a drainage hole, I recommend you only try this when you have some experience as a succulent parent. This way, you’ll know what to do if your succulent gets overwatered, for example.

pots

I also don’t recommend doing this with rare or expensive succulents. Keep in mind that growing succulents effectively in a pot is based on trial and error; almost nothing is for sure.

If you made a poor choice and your plant is overwatered, there’s no need to fall into despair. Just take it out from the soil and place it in the shade for a few days so its roots can dry. Then you’ll re-pot it in new soil.

Parenting succulents isn’t always easy but is always delightful. I love to share my journey with fellow succulent parents, and so here are some related posts you might like.

The Perfect Soil For Your Succulent! Find Out How to Choose One.

Are you wondering what makes your succulent rot? Well, the answer is pretty simple: the wrong type of soil. Knowing that “effective drainage” is the factor that makes the soil best suited for succulents’ growth will help you choose the perfect soil for your succulent.

Jimena Bolívar Picture

By Jimena Bolívar

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Jimena and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Jimena Bolívar Picture

Jimena Bolívar

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Jimena and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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