How to Improve Drainage in Potted Plants?
For your potted plants to survive, they require air, light, and water. However, they need healthy roots if they are to thrive. The drainage system of your potted plant might be blocked, which may result in root rot and plant death. In this post, we explain how to improve the drainage system of your potting container.
Three main methods can be used to improve the drainage of your potted plants:
- Use the correct soil-free that is designed to drain
- Choose a deep planter or container
- Do not add stone, pebble or shards of clay
If those three steps sound easy, they will be an ideal starting point for you, but not everyone has a natural green thumb. In this article, we will guide you through the details of how to promote proper drainage so you can grow healthier plants.
Choosing The Right Soil For Your Containers
Dirt or garden soil, as it’s more commonly known, is dense and does not drain well. Don’t use 100% dirt or soil from a store or your garden in your plant container.
We may seem a little crazy, but soil and dirt is perfectly suitable for root growth for trees and plants, even your in-ground garden. Roots have ample room in the ground to grow. In ground gardens, soil can be aerated in order to allow more air to circulate so that moisture can be removed.
The soil inside containers has limited space, and traditional dirt holds on to water like a sponge, but it won’t drain. This leaves your plant waterlogged. In a container, potting mix does not contain soil or dirt. The mix is instead composed of lightweight and breathable materials such as peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. These materials allow air flow and water to drain.
You can purchase these mixes at your local nursery or garden store. There are soil-free mixes specifically designed for specific plants. You’ll be able to find the perfect match for your plant.
Deep Planters Let Your Roots Breath
By choosing a container that is taller or deeper, you allow gravity to do its job in wicking water away from your plants. The soil mix in your planter ensures better air and water circulation for the plant’s roots even if the base layer is already saturated. A shorter planter with less soil mix holds on to too much water.
If your planting container’s soil does not drain, your roots will become stressed. According to the University of Georgia Extension, too much water can cause root rot. Plants need water, but they also need air. A lack of air will cause your plants to feel smothered.
Root rot can be caused by overwatering, but excess water is likely because the soil cannot release moisture. In a too-wet environment, roots cannot breathe or absorb the nutrients they need from the soil, which results in unhealthy plants. Therefore, you must choose the right soil for your plants to prevent an early demise.
What Can I Add To Soil To Improve Drainage?
According to our discussion, traditional soil cannot provide proper drainage because it holds onto water, which makes it hard to air-aerate the soil in a small container.
For soils without soil, you could consider adding other materials to make them lighter. Let’s take a closer look at peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite as these are all viable options for soil that will not get soggy or mucky.
- Peat mosses are a fibrous material that can hold a lot of water and drip it to plants when they need it. They are super light and perform the function of wicking away water.
- Perlite is made of volcanic glass that is compressed and heated to expand many times its original size. This process creates a lightweight material that is porous, absorbing water from your plant container.
- Vermiculite is composed of minerals and is lightweight, just like perlite, so it wicks away water. This material is used for container plants because it allows air to move through the soil.
When you mix a bit of each of these substances into your dirt, you’ll preserve its lightness and make it less likely to rot.
What Can I Put In The Bottom Of A Planter For Drainage?
If you think that a layer of rocks at the bottom of your plant container will improve drainage, think again. Our research has revealed that it isn’t a good choice at all.
There is a major reason why rocks can’t improve drainage, since they don’t soak up the water. Rocks sit in a container and wait to soak up water that’s released by the soil. And, that assumes the soil does drain.
You will find several ideas provided in this article that can be used to improve the soil’s ability to release water. Additions such as wood chips or pine bark nuggets can also be used at the bottom of your container to enhance water absorption.
If you want your plants to drain well, it is important that you get the right soil-less dirt for your containers. Consider visiting a local nursery or garden store to find the ideal mix for your plants.
Will Adding Sand To Soil Improve Drainage?
It isn’t the best ingredient, but it is inexpensive and tends to improve drainage. The best kind of sand to use in your potting soil is coarse-grained, which is more conducive to drainage. Sand with fine particles is not thick enough to break up the dirt, and it’s heavy to haul around, so it’s not a good idea to use it in place of much larger rocks.
What Can I Use To Fill The Bottom Of A Large Planter?
There are many inexpensive materials that can accommodate the space at the bottom of a large container. They can reduce evaporation but have no effect on drainage. We know that potting soil can get expensive if you need to fill a large container. Here are a few inexpensive options:
Rocks Or Shards Of Pottery
The base layer for your big planting container should be rocks, gravel, brick, or broken pot fragments. The materials will not easily break down and are bulky enough to take up space, and they can hold your planter in place when the weather grows rough.
These materials can also be used in your planters. Pack them in plastic bags and fill the bottom of your planters with them. Styrofoam and packing peanuts are common materials in shipped packages.
There’s no harm in recycling your soda cans, bottles of water, and even the bag of potting mix you got with your garden. All these things will add up to fill your planter. In order to get an even surface to cover with your filling mix, you should slightly crush the cans and bottles before covering with soil.
While these items won’t help your plants to get rid of excess water, they can be cheap alternatives to fill the void.
Should Planters Always Have Drainage Holes?
Drainage holes are always a requirement for your planters. As we’ve explained, they’re crucial for keeping your plants healthy.
If your container doesn’t have a drainage hole, you should see if you can drill or punch holes into the bottom of the pot or container. If not, you will need to use two pots or containers to create a drainage system.
The containers you use should be of different sizes so that one sits inside the other, or the holes in the containers can be added. When using containers to create a drainage system, it is best to use a smaller container that has drainage holes. If you have a larger container that doesn’t drain, place the smaller pot in it and make sure it’s not filled with water. You may need to empty the larger container every few weeks or months.
How To Cover Drainage Holes In Pots
Occasionally, your soil mix and pot will drain too well. When this happens, you might notice that the water drains too fast so that the mix disappears too. If you see holes in your garden beds there is a solution to keep the water from draining. The solution is to cover the holes with a material that keeps the water off your garden bed.
Cover The Drainage Holes
Use a coffee filter, a screen or mesh, or folded cheesecloth to cover the holes before planting. These objects will do double duty as a filter while maintaining adequate water drainage.
Use A Saucer
You will need a saucer to fit under the planter. The saucer will cover the holes and collect any moisture that drains through the soil mix. Be sure to empty the saucer regularly because the plant doesn’t want to sit in too much moisture for too long.
Use Water-Absorbing Materials
Discs of coconut fiber or peat moss can also be placed over drainage holes before planting. These materials absorb and release water without blocking drainage.
Let It Flow
Plants need good drainage for their potting containers to thrive. If your pot becomes waterlogged, the roots can suffocate and kill the plant. In order to achieve proper drainage, our suggestion is to use a porous potting mix that is soil-free in your containers. Remember that regular soil and dirt are too dense for proper drainage.