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Good plants for shallow container without drainage holes?

Posted by emilylime NY (My Page) on
Fri, Sep 25, 09 at 12:21

Hi all, I'm new to posting here but have been reading the forums for suggestions all summer. Lots of great advice!

I'm hoping that someone can help me with suggestions for plants I can grow indoors in a shallow glazed ceramic dish without holes. I have a southern exposure with strong light. I've had a variety of succulents and cacti in the dish throughout the summer, and while my hens and chicks faired well, the haworthia and sedum varieties definitely aren't getting enough sun or the right amount of water.

I appreciate any advice you have for me!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Good plants for shallow container without drainage holes?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Sep 25, 09 at 12:33

Best advice - drill holes in it or get another container. Even when using containers WITH holes - the shallower the container, the more critical drainage is. Additionally, all containers w/o holes almost automatically guarantee an exponential decrease in potential vitality - if not from over-watering issues then from accumulating salts from fertilizers and tap-water.

That said, I do have a (miniature) landscape planting more than 5 years old in a very shallow tray with no holes, but I've been religious about watering very carefully ...... and with only distilled water or water from the dehumidifier ...... and I've used only fish emulsion as a fertilizer, which is not my first choice.


RE: Good plants for shallow container without drainage holes?

Hi I use a plastic pot for the plant to be planted in and then just set that pot in the ceramic pot with small gravel in the bottom and plants don't tip so easy...I like the ceramic pots but I can't keep plants alive in them so I just use them as pot holders....just a idea...linda

RE: Good plants for shallow container without drainage holes?

For how you describe your wish to grow a plant, I suggest you look into forcing bulbs. The usual: daffodils, tulips, crocus, galanthus, dutch and reticulata irises, grape hyacinth, et al.
The time though is nigh....if you wish Christmas bloom, the process has to be started NOW.

Bulbs require a cold period before they are introduced to light. Twelve to fifteen weeks is the usual period of cooling.

Later on, the tender narcissus--paper whites--will be available. These are forced without cooling.

A wide ceramic dish is used with pebbles acting as the drainage area.
There are ample articles describing the methods used for forcing--here and in other journals.

RE: Good plants for shallow container without drainage holes?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Sep 27, 09 at 10:51

Since all the bulbs we are likely to force for winter blooming or early spring blooming react very poorly to saturated soil, and particularly to their feet being in stagnant water, I suggest it is not a good idea at all - to try to force bulbs in a shallow dish w/o drainage. Even in a shallow container WITH drainage, the drainage has to be exceptionally fast. That is to say that the shallow containers can hold no perched water (perched water is water that occupies the saturated layer of soil in lower part of the container when heavy soils are used) in the soil at all, lest it rot the bulbs. Deeper containers, like bulb pans or even deeper containers as opposed to shallow dishes are a better choice because the bulbs can be situated closer to the surface, above any perched water. I would also suggest that if you do not use a very coarse soil when you are forcing bulbs that you use a wick through the drain hole to help drain any perched water from the soil so there is NO soggy soil at the bottom of the container.

You can grow practically any plant you want to in shallow containers with drainage holes, but it does require a very fast soil or an experienced grower on the watering can.

If you consider any soil from a bag, it's almost certain to hold some perched water. Let's say you choose a soil that supports 3" of perched water. No matter what the size/shape/depth of the container, that soil will ALWAYS support 3" of perched water, so if you use it in a container that is 3" deep, the soil will NOT drain. It will remain 100% saturated until either the plant uses the water or the water evaporates. This, of course, is devastating to roots (rots them - as well as bulbs) and to root metabolism/function as well, so we should expect it to kill plants or cause marked decline. Containers w/o holes require a different set of watering rules, which I touched on above but won't elaborate on.

If you want to know how to drill the hole in the pot/dish, just ask ...... also, any glass company will do it for you for a few $s.


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