Okay plants for pots with no holes

sshutterbugMay 26, 2011

I have two nice glazed ceramic pots which don't have drainage holes (I know this isn't ideal, but there wasn't a lot of selection at Home Depot). I have a jade plant in one and a dracena in the other. When I potted them about two years ago I used a bunch of pebbles at the bottom and some activated charcoal. Until a couple weeks ago, both plants were healthy and growing fast, but recently the jade has gotten sort of droopy and some of the leaves are yellowing and falling off. From internet research it seems like root rot or suffocation and that I need to re-pot it in a pot that will allow the water to flow through. Anyway, my question is about these hole-less ceramic pots--what kind of plants will tolerate living in them? I don't want to throw them away because they are pretty and were expensive.

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Shutterbug..what size are the pots?

One thing you can do with pots w/o drainage, 'especially large pots.'
Place a piece of sheet styrofoam inside the drainless pot..Let's say this pot is 10". Set a plant potted in an 8" (preferrably plastic growing pot) on top of the styrofoam..The styrofoam should prevent roots from sitting in water.

A plant store I worked for used to use this method all the time.

All plants, even those that prefer moister soil, will eventually have problems in pots w/o drainage.
I must admit, I have a few plants in pots w/o drainage, which might haunt me later, lol...the plants in these pots have shallow roots, so so far, no problem..(even after 10-yrs.) But I don't recommend it to others.

Try the styrofoam..If you order via mail, there's usually a ton of styrofoam per box.

BTW, you didn't mention how your Dracaena was holding up..Is it okay? Toni

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 12:57PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

You'll never be able to water properly without drainage holes.

The typical suggestion is to plant into a pot with holes and use the ornamental container as a cachepot. Then you can remove your plant to water thoroughly and replace it back into the pretty pot when it's done dripping. Other options include using the proper drill bit to make holes yourself...or to return the pots.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 1:34PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hiya Dorie (Rhizo),

I'd started writing a post abt using these pots that have as cache pots, but had some 'puter trouble here in the office & had to abandon that effort.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 5:30PM
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I had some plastic pots that didn't drain, I ended up drilling holes in the bottoms. I tend to avoid any non-draining pots as I also find it difficult to water them properly, it's hard to know when you're drowning them.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 8:44PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

I think Rhizo summed it up. :)

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 9:42PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

For drainless ceramic pots you only have a few practical long term choices, The simplist is to place a smaller pot with the plant, into the larger one and then it just catches the water draining from the planted pot. Drop a few marbles or packing peanuts in the bottom of it so the smaller pot doesn't sit in the water.

The second would be to drill a hole in the bottom with a masonary bit or better yet a diamond bit made for drilling tile or glass, Not as hard as it sounds. Some ceramics actually become harder as they heat up so dribble a little bit of water on the tip of the bit as you drill.

Or you can grow plant semi-hydroponic in them by washing all the soil off the roots and then trim the roots, and then replacing the soil with a ceramic media, rock-wool, wood chips or even sphagnum moss (Not PEAT) and only watering enough to keep an inch or so of water sitting in the bottom of the pot at all times but even with this method it is best to drill a small hole in the side of the pot at the maximum height you want the water to be so you can still flush it now and then.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 7:44AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Not that any of the above advice isn't excellent, but...

When I potted them about two years ago I used a bunch of pebbles at the bottom and some activated charcoal. Until a couple weeks ago, both plants were healthy and growing fast. The soil of plants that are unable to drain can retain salts and other chemicals from tap water and eventually reach toxic levels. You may have had a whitish orange "crust" around the top of the soil and the pot near the top of the soil. Or did something about the plant's environment recently change?

It sounds like you were caring for your plants well, and there is no reason to think that they couldn't go back into the pots. I would wash and rinse the pots well, rinse as much soil as possible from the roots, and pot them back up with fresh soil of the same type as before. Two years is a good run between repottings of a fast-growing plant even if it did have drain holes.

If you have decided to relocate these plants to other containers, you might consider some type of cactus or other desert-type plants which like to stay dry.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 5:29PM
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Can ceramic be drilled? If so, how is it done? Toni

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 6:43PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

OK, These instructions are for people who don't handle tools very often, If it is too detailed for anyone, too bad.

Ceramic pots can be drilled using a masonry bit, Diamond burrs or hole saws or carbide glass and tile bits or hole saws which can all be bought at many hardware stores and home centers. Diamond and carbide bits are sold primary for drilling tile.

Go slowly with moderate pressure letting the cutting tool do the work. You can use a regular drill, corded or cordless but cordless is safer. If you have a hammer drill make sure the it is set for regular drilling.

Stack up a bunch of small wood blocks that will fit inside of the pot and place the pot upside down with the blocks in the pot holding it up enough so that the rim of the pot is not touching the work surface. These blocks will help to keep the inside of the pot from breaking out.

Pour just enough water on the bottom surface of the pot to cover it. Start drilling, letting the weight of the drill be the only force on the cutting edge of the bit, If you push it hard or wobble it back and forth you might break the pot. The water will help keep the drill from getting too hot, some types of ceramics get harder as they heat up plus the bit can get hot enough to burn. You may need to add more water, it may splash off the pot, Take the drill off and pour a little more on it or use a small watering can and drip a little bit in a constant stream while drilling if you are comfortable holding the drill with one hand.

Stop when you feel it cut through, you may chip it up if you keep spinning the bit after the hole is cut.

Or you can just show the pots to your local tile guy (or gal) and see if they can cut them for you.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 9:55PM
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Dellis hit it right on the head. I've drilled many ceramic pots for the same reason; they were nice pots, the ideal size I wanted, and, well, I just plain out wanted them. But, as I'm sure all of us have discovered, the people who make these pots don't seem to know much about growing actual plants in them, because they never put holes in the bottom. I do exactly as Dellis said, that is using a masonry bit. I have an adjustable hammer drill, being able to adjust the hammering strength from none, to full out pounding. With no hammering power, a masonry bit isn't sharpe enough to cut, so I add just a touch of hammer action. I know though, who the heck else is gonna have such a tool? So, if I wasn't a tool guy, and work didn't give me a truck stocked with all the tools a guy could want, I would opt for the diamond hole saw/drill bit made for cutting tile.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 11:17AM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Oh yeah, one thing I forgot.

Do this outside unless you enjoy cleaning. It can throw little drops of dust filled water several feet away which may not be easy to clean off some surfaces.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 11:37AM
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Danny, thank you. Great info. We have a drill (electric and cordless) and masonary bits. I didn't know about the water, so when I attempt this project, I'll make sure to have a container of water handy.

Joe, you're lucky you have access to different tools. I'll work with what we have or go to HD and buy new bits, if they're dull.
We have wooden blocks, so I believe we have everything needed to drill holes.
If by chance the masonary drill doesn't work, 'I don't want cracked pots) I'll price the Diamond.

Joe, people who make these pots are out for the money..They could care less if someone loses their plants. Ceramics are ornate, and the average person (not plant people) buy these pots for looks..Remember, many people buy plants in spring, then toss them by fall. They want to show off their new, ceramic pots, lol.

Danny, yes, this is something that needs doing outside. But thanks for the reminder, and taking time to type out instructions. I appreciate it.

BTW, you said, "if it's too detailed for anyone," (meaning your instructions) "too bad."

We're you addressing me and if so, were you kidding? Toni

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 2:08PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Wasn't aimed towards you Toni, To anyone who already knows what to do or at least thinks they have nothing more to learn.

If what you have doesn't work and you need to buy a bit or cutting tool, look for the carbide ones, They should have a covering of hard grit on them rather than a blade or teeth. They make a cleaner hole.

There are also carbide spade bits which look like a short steel rod with a triangular flat piece of metal on one end that are pretty cheap. For smaller sizes they can make very nice, clean holes, for bigger sizes drill part way through from the bottom so the tip is through and then drill from the inside to complete the hole, you can get a very clean opening this way.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 3:41PM
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Pothos will usually be fine without drainage, as it thrives even when rooted directly in water. Many, many plants can be successfully converted to "hydroculture", which is essentially what happens in a pot with no drainage - but you'll have much better luck with an inorganic media like expanded clay (hydroton) or perlite. Any vining philodendron (like heart-shaped philodendron) will thrive like this, even when the pot is small. You can check the internet for other plants particularly suitable - just try the search terms "hydroculture", "hydroton + houseplants", "aquaculture", etc.

If you decide to try hydroculture, you should start with a very small plant or a small cutting - because the plant will essentially lose its roots and grow new "water roots" with the appropriate structure/components for growing in water. Plants with large root systems have a very hard time supporting lots of foliage with essentially useless "soil" roots.

Both dracaena and jade plant happen to really hate water-logged conditions. Dracaena in particular is really intolerant of this. however, they both can and have been grown in hydroculture - not good starters though.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 1:02AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Sorry, but I disagree about a Pothos potted up w/ no drainage holes.

I too grow cups of Pothos cuttings it in water alone, but I think once in mix, Pothos will need the drainage unless one is a very careful waterer, as ultimately the roots will become soggy & kill the plant.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 12:32PM
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Thanks Danny..I'll see how the bit works with an inexpensive, `1.00 ceramic pot to start, then go from there.
The only containers I'm worried about are bonsai and large ceramics. They were NOT a dollar, lol.

Green Tiger..Years ago, before I'd toss a cutting, it'd be rooted in water. 'Some plants.'
Pothos grow in anything. lol. I've got a few in water, in an area too shady for anything else to grow. They've never been fertilized, and water is changed whenever I think about it. (I'm not suggesting doing this.)
Two other Pothos, 'in soil' are in pots w/o drainage. It isn't that I want them to die, but they were extras, rooted, and placed in ceramic pots w/o holes.

I've rooted Dracaenas in water, then placed in soil, but don't know if they'd live long term, hydroponically.
Forget Jades in water..they're succulents..They'd turn into mush. lol.

Do you grow your plants in water?

Hey Karen..how ya doing? Toni

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 1:40PM
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chilliwin(EU DK 7)

Thank you for all these useful questions and answers. I have also one about 21 CM diameter ceramic pot without hole. I am a newbie pot gardener. This wide/length 30 cm and 31 cm height white ceramic pot has no drainage hole. I re-potted my habanero about 5 months. I did not put any thing else at the bottom of the pot such as stone or polystyrene. Once I had problems of falling leaves and flowers probably due to the over watering. This ceramic pot is very thick and I do not like to make a hole instead I would like to manage it somehow.

Most of my pots are 17 cm diameter length/wide/height are 23 cm Nectarine Ikea self-watering pots. Two of them are 21 cm diameter length/wide 30 cm and height 31 cm self-watering Nectarine Ikea. Still now I do not have any problems. I do not like to drill this pot,sorry. I will take the advice to us it as a cachepot/put small pot with drainage hole. I am also thinking about to do something like Nectarine Self-watering pot. The best thing is to put the self-watering system of Nectarine inside the ceramic pot I think.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 1:18PM
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chilliwin(EU DK 7)

The Ceramic pot and Nectarine self-watering Ikea.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 1:19PM
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chilliwin(EU DK 7)

Nectarine Ikea self-watering system

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 1:21PM
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chilliwin(EU DK 7)

The ceramic pot with Nectarine Self-watering system.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 1:23PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Err, artificial ones...

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 7:10PM
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Even though this post was created a year ago I recently stumbled across it searching for the same answers as the original poster. The solution I personally found to our similar problem was never listed.

First of all I'd to make it clear that I am specifically planting succulent type plants and have no knowledge about the plants this post was originally created for, only that we share the common interest of pots with no draining holes...

My ever so wise mother in law had been recycling water bottles by crushing them and placing them in the bottom of her planters to create drainage the same way rocks would.
Recently we found out packing peanuts were a byproduct of corn and it sort of hit us all at once. Our "theory in testing" is that the packing peanuts will create the drainage we want while storing just enough water for the plants to use when they choose.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 2:01PM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

How about the numerous papyrus var. that are dwarf and can grow indoors

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 2:54PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)


If you read up on the latest abt water drainage in containers, you'll learn this theory has been debunked & it's actually now thought to do harm, not good, to use rocks at the bottom of pots. It turns out not to aid drainage at all.

This would likely be even more of a problem for succulents (not less).

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 3:00PM
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Maybe aquatics?

A tropical water lily comes to mind. :)

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 3:18PM
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Mystic, can you please tell me a bit more about your peanuts method? How is it working? Are you placing soil on top of peanuts? Do you use a screen? How is your theory testing out? It sounds like a great solve : )

If anyone has any further ideas, can you please share them with me? I, too, am trying to solve this problem, and really don't want holes as the indoor pots are on my dining room table and are too heavy to lift for watering.

Additionally, how are you watering the potted plants? Are you pouring water? Misting? Please share! thx

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 7:18PM
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