How to drain you succulents properly complete from basic to advanced guide

It's a known fact that succulent pots need drainage, but not so known that with the right techniques and listening to the plant 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.

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

Succulents don’t like to sit in wet soil, its pots do need drainage holes in most cases. However, it’s also possible to grow healthy succulents on pots without drainage holes following 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. Together with the right type of soil, the right type 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 it gets on the root, chances are to get root rot.

Plants breathe mostly through the roots, that’s why sitting in water for more than 2 or 3 days is probably killing them, or at least causing them root rots and increasing the chance 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 and also don’t place your succulent in a place where it doesn’t rain or it isn’t drowned.

How to Prepare a Pot that Doesn’t have Drain Holes?

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 be drained faster, simulating a pot with a drainage hole.

This technique will help the roots being dry because the water is stored on the bottom, not in the soil, making your roots wet.

It consists of adding different layers. The first one is stones or pebbles or stones, 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 in water absorption and act preventing fungi and bacteria from growing in the roots.

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

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

When the pot doesn’t have drainage holes to avoid overwatering the succulent the most important thing is to observe if the soil is dry before watering. The dryness of the soil can be tested by the finger test, by wrinkled leaves, and by 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 feel 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 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.

At last but not least you can also measure using a soil moisture meter. In all of these options, you’ll wait until the soil is dry so you don’t overwater your succulent.

As a rule of thumb on how much water, you should put half of your container’s volume. Water, wait a few minutes and turn the container tipping the soil so the excess water doesn’t settle on the container.

Measuring how much water you’re giving to your plant with a measuring cup or any other measuring tool you prefer 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 humidity of the roots is also determined by the pot’s material. This is why when considering a pot without draining holes the material plays an important role. Some are more absorbent than others.

I have a complete 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.

Other Options

If you have a pot that you feel is perfect for your succulent, or you really 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, just 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 also if it will be more expensive to drill than to buy a pot with a draining hole that you like. 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 will be drained to the bigger pot and you can keep your succulent’s root 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 most of the experience of growing succulents on this kind of container is based on testing, almost nothing is for sure and you don’t want to lose that succulent you have dreamed about for so long.

If the worst happened and your plant is overwatered, there’s no need to despair. Just take it from the soil and place it in the shade for a few days so its roots can dry. Then you’ll just 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 here are some related posts you might like.

Zero Stress! Easy Growing Succulents To Make Life Super Simple

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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.

Are Succulents Poisonous to Cats or other Pets? No! Most of Them Aren't!

Most of the succulents are not poisonous to cats and dogs. However, some of them are. We’ve covered all succulents that don’t harm and can harm pets.

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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