For most houseplants, drainage holes are recommended because they allow excess water to drain, preventing the problem of overwatering and root rot to a certain extent. However, is it true that all indoor plants need drainage holes? What happens if we keep a plant in a pot without drainage holes? Let’s find out!
A drainage hole is essential to most indoor plants, as it facilitates the removal of excess water, prevents concentrations of salt and fertilizer in the soil, and helps with aeration. You can still grow some plants without drainage holes if you have a light soil mix and properly water the plant.
The majority of beginners have a tendency to overwater their plants indoors. I surveyed 1000+ community members and found 78% of them ended up exterminating their plants because of overwatering. Therefore, if a pot does not have a drainage hole, the number will only go up.
Nevertheless, if you have experience keeping plants, and know exactly how much water the plants need, then you may be able to keep them in small pots without drainage.
Although most people prefer a pot with drainage holes, it is not mandatory for everyone to have one.
Did you know that drainage holes are so important? I conducted a thorough study to find out.
Can indoor plants survive without drainage?
Plants in a pot with no drainage thrive in pots with drainage, but wilt if you don’t water them properly.
If you can increase the frequency of watering your plants just enough so that the roots do not remain soaked, the plant might survive in pots with no drainage.
Check the roots of the plants immediately, however, if it appears the plant isn’t growing, if the leaves are turning yellow or brown, or if the plant is drooping.
If the roots look mushy and brown, they are probably overwatered. Repot the plant immediately and let the soil dry out if you don’t want it to die.
Why is drainage important for potted plants?
Drainage holes play a vital role in the survival of indoor plants. Let’s discuss some of the essential reasons why drainage holes are so important.
Standing water at the bottom:
The majority of house plants don’t like standing in standing water, except for a few aquatic plants.
If we do not have drainage holes the water from the top layer of the soil evaporates, and the top layer of the soil feels dry and flaky, while the bottom layer of the pot is already soaked as the excess water cannot escape.
Because of that, we need to add more water and soaking the entire soil so that it doesn’t dry out.
If your plant is staying in soggy soil, its roots start rotting and it becomes susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections.
Your plants may suffer root rot followed by wilting, which ends up destroying the entire plant.
No exchange of gases:
When the soil gets waterlogged, air pockets disappear, leaving very little oxygen and carbon dioxide dissolved in the soil.
When the roots of the plants are denied access to these gases, the plants can’t function properly, and they begin wilting.
Research has concluded the roots of plants require oxygen and carbon dioxide, just as their leaves do. In the event they are overwatered, they will drown.
Salt and fertilizer buildup:
Not only do drain holes let excess water out of the pot, but they also aid in removing salt and nutrient buildup from the soil.
When your pot does not have drainage holes, the fertilizer and salts in water will build up in the soil. That can ruin the quality of the soil, alter the pH, and damage your plants’ roots.
By removing the excess water and using a pot with drainage holes, salt from the plant escapes the pot, thus preventing salt build-up.
The salt will buildup when there is no drainage hole, causing your plants to show signs like brown tips, stagnant growth, burnt leaves, and crusty white soil.
The signs of wilting must be picked up early on, and you must take action to save your plant from wilting.
What kind of plants don’t need drainage?
Several types of plants can survive with no drainage holes in the pot. These include:
|Pothos||Snake plant||Spider plant|
|Lucky bamboo||Croton||Pineapple plant|
Aside from these, many succulents, cactus, and other small plants are able to survive without drainage. No drainage pots are not suitable for everyone in terms of keeping your plants healthy.
When you are starting out, it is recommended to use an appropriate sized pot with adequate drainage holes.
It would be best if you were cautious when watering your plants when there are no drainage holes. An important aspect is to choose a soil mix that is light and doesn’t hold on to water for long periods.
If your pot holds two gallons of soil, then water it with half as much water. For example, if your pot only holds 1/4-1/2 gallon of water, irrigate it with half the amount of water.
You should also water the plant when the soil is completely dry. You can measure the soil moisture with a hygrometer and water your plant accordingly.
How do you pot a plant in a pot without drainage?
Many of us would like to use those adorable little countertop pots, or those beautiful jute or fabric pots.
Those pots come with a challenge, namely that they do not have drainage holes. What I do to deal with this is:
I prefer to use drainage-free pots if I plan to plant succulents and other small plants in small pots that I place on countertops and other places.
These pots also prevent water leakage, which makes them an excellent addition to the interior’s beauty.
You will need to keep in mind the following things in order to keep the plant alive:
- Use a mixture that is well-draining, light, and doesn’t retain excess moisture.
- Soil must be completely dry before watering the plant.
- Do not water the soil too much, but only enough to drench it a little.
- Be on the lookout for signs that your plants are getting too much water or becoming too dry.
In general, I don’t pot the plants directly if I intend to use jute tubs, hanging pots, metal urns, and ceramic urns.
It’s easy to hide the plastic pot by putting them in a decorative pot instead of a smaller plastic pot with drainage.
The following things are important to remember when setting this setup up:
- Before returning the plastic pot to the plant, always give it a drink and let the excess water drain out.
- If you can, keep excess water in drainage trays.
The third and final way to control spills and keep large plants in your living space is by using the double pot method. It’s as simple as it sounds.
Simply use two pots, one larger than the other. For example, if you have a 6″ pot, pair it with a 4″ pot.
Take the smaller pot and put the plant in it, then take the bigger pot and fill it up with several inches of gravel. Ensure that the smaller pot is drained while the larger one is not by placing the smaller pot inside the larger pot.
Water will sip through the pebbles or gravel when you water your plant. This way, the excess water will not sit on the plant.
When doing so, remember the following:
- You should empty the large pot’s excess water every now and again.
- You should use a well-draining potting mix so that the soil does not hold too much water.
How do I improve the drainage in my pots?
Addition of rocks or gravel underneath the pot is usually thought to help with proper drainage.
But the reality is far from that. Adding a layer of gravel at the bottom will only make matters worse. Consequently, your plants will remain soaked since the soil is more likely to hold on to the water.
This can be accomplished by creating a drainage zone on the bottom of the pot by adding some coarse sand or using well-draining potting soil.
To ensure the holes do not become clogged with the soil, you can also use some drainage disks.
Additional drainage can be increased by adding some perlite and coarse sand to the soil mixture. However, do not add too much sand that will cause the soil to become compact and unbreathable.
Are drainage holes important for indoor plants? Yes, drainage holes are crucial to most plant owners. Most owners will end up with a wilting plant if the pot doesn’t have a drainage hole.
Some indoor plants such as succulents, cactus, and other small plants can survive in a pot with no drainage holes.
But one needs to take care with the soil mix and watering to make sure that their plants remain healthy and don’t die off. Beginners are generally recommended to plant in a pot with good drainage.
Once you master how to keep your plants alive in a pot without drainage, you can eventually transition to a pot with no drainage.
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