Providing your succulent with a pot with good drainage capabilities is vital. Or is it? There are various types of pots available in the market, making it confusing to pick the right one. If you’re wondering whether your plant needs drainage, you should learn more about succulents.
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. To do so, you have to layer the pot with pebbles, crushed charcoal and soil.
Succulents store water in their stems, leaves, and roots, which means they don’t need abundant water to thrive. Excessively wet soil can cause issues like root rot to emerge. Therefore, drainage holes in the pots are vital as they help the plant evade such problems.
Having a pot that allows the soil to drain properly is essential. If the root gets waterlogged, the chances are that it will experience root rot.
Plants breathe primarily through the roots; that’s why letting the roots sit in water for more than 2 or 3 days will kill them or at least cause root rot, thereby 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 a few steps.
When a succulent container doesn’t have a drainage hole, the soil has to be set a bit differently than usual. Different layers will help the soil drain faster, simulating a pot with a drainage hole. The bottom-most layer has pebbles, followed by a crushed charcoal layer and soil at the top.
The following technique will help the soil stay dry because the water will accumulate at the bottom in the pebble layer, not in the soil.
When preparing such a pot, the first layer placed at the bottom consists of pebbles.
The second layer will cover half of the pot with crushed charcoal to aid water absorption and prevent fungi and bacteria from growing in the roots.
The last layer is made of well-draining soil that is appropriate for the succulent you’re planting.
When the pot doesn’t have drainage holes, it is crucial to ensure that the topmost soil is dry before watering again. The dryness can be tested using the finger test. Other signs that the plant needs water include wrinkled leaves. You can also confirm the need for water by using 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 again.
During the finger test, if the soil 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 to the succulent and water it 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 tip the container to drain the excess water.
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.
The level of moisture retained by the soil is also determined by the pot’s material. This is why when buying a pot without draining holes, the material plays an important role. Some materials 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.
Wood is beautiful and breathable, but it can crack over time.
Glass is easily breakable and won’t have any drain holes.
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.
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.
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 certain.
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 can repot 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.
If you’re new to all of this I think you should read more about succulents. I recommend you read this post about the types of succulents!
My name is Kelly 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!
You may also like: