I’ve done many posts on succulents and there’s one thing I always say: don’t keep them wet. A couple of ways to keep them from rotting is to make sure the mix drains well and the water all runs out. But what happens if you have a pot with no hole in the bottom? This is all about planting, and watering, succulents in pots with no drain holes.
Succulents hold water is their leaves and stems as well as their roots. Water them too often, and plainly put, they turn to mush. They like to dry out in between waterings and that’s why it’s best to plant them in pots with drain holes. I’m a container nut, as well as a plant addict, and every now and then find a pot I must have (yes, simply must have!) without a hole in the bottom. Ever happen to you?
At my work table planting & watering succulents in pots with no drainage holes:
I frequently drill into the bottom of pots to create or add drainage holes but I didn’t want to take a chance on the glossy red one cracking because it has a very thick bottom. My Hatiora, aka Dancing Bones or Drunkard’s Dream, prompted me to do this project. This epiphytic cactus had just been sitting in its grow pot inside the decorative one so it was high time to get it planted in. I’ll need to repot it in a year or 2 but for now, it’s just fine.
The succulents, their 2 pots & my trusted mini-trowel. I love small tools for small projects like this, both indoors & out.
The simple steps:
1.) Put a layer of gravel, rock or pebbles on the bottom of the pot.
The size & depth of the rock depends on the size of the pot. If you’re planting a 4″ pot, 1″ rock just doesn’t make sense – use pebble. Conversely, if your pot is 12″, then the larger rock would be fine. As an example, the red pot is 7″ wide x 5″ deep & I used 1/4″ pebble.
2.) Spread a 1/2″ (again this will vary depending on pot size) layer of charcoal over the rock.
This is optional but what charcoal does is improve the drainage & absorb impurities & odors. For this reason, it’s great to mix into your soil mix when doing any indoor potting project.
Here you can see the size of the pebble & charcoal I used – the little trowel gives them scale.
3.) Add a bit of succulent & cactus mix on top of the charcoal to raise the root ball up slightly higher than the rim of the pot.
The weight of the succulent will eventually pull it down in the light mix. I use a locally produced succulent & cactus mix which is very chunky & contains chunks of pumice. If you’re using a store bought succulent & cactus mix like this one, you might consider adding some pumice or perlite to further up the ante on the aeration & lightness factor.
4.) Fill in around the sides with the mix & top with a fine (1/4″) layer of worm compost.
This is optional but it’s my favorite amendment. I use this sparingly because it’s rich & breaks down slowly.
5.) I let my succulents settle in for a few days & then water them.
I love this cement log planter – It looks great with succulents in it.
How I water plantings with no drain holes:
I’ve been around plants for so long now that I water most of mine by instinct. To control how much water you give succulents in pots with no drain holes consider using a measuring tool like a cup or even a turkey baster.
I’m going to water my Hatiora (the cactus in the red pot) every 2 weeks now and will back off to every 3-4 weeks in the winter. I’ll start with a 1/4 cup of water and see how it goes. I live in the Arizona desert where temps are in the 80’s and the sun is still shining strong even in early November.
How often and how much you water your succulents depends on the light, temperature and the size of the rootball and the pot. Water even less in the winter because the plants are resting. And, don’t mist or spray succulents on a weekly basis – they don’t need it.
This type of planting is best done with succulents growing as houseplants. If you put your succulents in pots with no drain holes outside for the summer, make sure they’re protected so they don’t get rained on.
Tip: The key to keeping them alive is in the watering. It’s better to under water than over water when it comes to succulents. You want them to dry out in between waterings.
The bottom line is that plants need drainage. I don’t usually don’t encourage planting in pots with no drain hole but every blue moon you find a special pot which doesn’t have one. So, just plant appropriately, go easy on the watering and enjoy that beautiful succulent and pot!
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You can find more houseplant info in my simple and easy to digest houseplant care guide: Keep Your Houseplants Alive
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