Five Things To Know About Using Pots Without Drainage Holes

If you’ve ever looked at the bottom of plant pots, you’ll likely have noticed that many have holes.

Five Things To Know About Using Pots Without Drainage Holes

Drainage holes are important for many different plants, primarily to prevent the risk of overwatering. 

Overwatering can seriously damage the life of your plants and can lead to things like root rot and other bacterial diseases. 

However, plant pots that do not have drainage holes are known as cachepots. These are commonly decorative pots or for direct growing. 

This can be confusing and lead you to question many things. Luckily though, we’re here to clear up some of this confusion and provide you with all the answers you may need. 

Read on to learn more with our five things you should know about using pots without drainage holes. 

[1] Why Do Some Pots Not Have Drainage Holes?

Cachepots do not have drainage holes typically for practical reasons.

Whilst the majority of plant pots have drainage holes, their goal is to allow the excess water to drain through and flow out for up to 24 hours. 

However, as a result – if you were to place these plant pots indoors, you could make their surfaces soaking wet and even stained.

To combat this, you could decide to move plant pots with drainage holes either outdoors, or place something underneath them to collect water. 

The problem is, a lot of commercial properties like office buildings and restaurants do not have the capacity, time and ability to frequently look after these plants and move them around. 

Therefore, most of these types of places will opt to use a cachepot to reduce the risk of stains and pooling water (which reduces the risk of poor safety!), and also reduces the need for constant movement when watering is required. 

As cachepots are often used in these types of buildings though, the designs are sought after to compliment the building’s interior – making a high demand for cachepots of this kind. 

[2] Are Drainage Holes Important?

Yes. There is a reason why drainage holes are in the vast majority of plant pots, especially when you get one from a nursery.

This is because the drainage holes allow for the free movement of built-up water in the soil.

It also helps oxygen to successfully get to the roots of the plants, which is again, critical in the life cycle of them. 

Additionally, the drainage holes allow any build-up of salts and fertilizer to flow through.

This reduces the risk of an imbalance of these things which can lead to your plant suffering and eventually dying. 

Let’s take a look at these points in a little more detail. 

Water Drainage 

Without drainage holes, plant pots will gather water and pool it at the bottom of the soil.

Apart from some aquatic plants, the majority of plants will be detrimentally affected by a pooling of water. 

This can cause root rot and other bacterial problems as we mentioned.

Sometimes, this can be irreversible and is basically a death sentence to your plants. 

Whilst the top of the soil may appear dry, water still may be present at the bottom of the pot – so this is one of the most important aspects of drainage holes. 

Preventing Build-Up 

Water build-up is a problem, but it’s not only water that can be collected and stored without the ability to drain out. 

Fertilizers contain many ingredients which can be very useful to your plants, but in large doses can be dangerous to your plant’s life.

This is also true for people that water their plants with tap water, as this can contain sodium, creating a salt build-up. 

This in turn can lead to conditions like dehydration and root rot, so it’s definitely something you should be aware of. 

Some people use a vinegar solution to try to balance the pH levels in their soil, but this will only be a temporary fix and will not fully help, whereas drainage holes will. 

[3] Using Pots Without Drainage Holes 

[3] Using Pots Without Drainage Holes 

Let’s imagine for a second that you’ve found the perfect plant pot and you really want to use it.

However, you look at the bottom and the sides to discover there are no drainage holes. Can you still use this plant pot?

We’ll examine now if you can still use this pot without worrying about the risks we mentioned in the previous section. 

Utilizing The Pot As A Cachepot 

When people use containers without drainage holes as cachepots – we call it “double potting”.

Essentially, it’s a practice whereby you use a smaller pot with at least one drainage hole and place it into a larger pot that has none. 

The larger pot will act as your decorative plant pot, whereas the smaller plant pot will be the practical side of things. 

To utilize this method, you will need to ensure that your decorative pot is larger than the original “practical” pot before you begin. 

Next, place the pot in your chosen area (check where is best for your specific plant). When the plant needs to be watered, remove the plant in its smaller pot outdoors and water it. 

Allow time for your plant to drain the water through completely which may take a few hours.

Once you have done this, simply put the smaller plant pot back into the larger plant pot. 

If your “practical” pot is larger than your decorative pot though, you may need to either propagate or repot entirely. 

Drill Your Own Drainage Hole 

If you want your plant to go directly into your cachepot however, it might be a good idea to drill your own drainage hole into the plant pot. 

Now, you may be reading this and wondering – can you do this for all plant pots? Even glass pots? You sure can!

However, it might not be a case of using the usual drill bit as you might be used to. 

Instead, the diamond drill bit could be a better option (but for precise information, it’s worth looking the information up further). 

To avoid cracks, drill at a 45 degree angle and allow the drill to do the hard work – do not apply more pressure.

It’s a good idea to add water to reduce the amount of dust from the drilling process. 

This will also reduce the risk of the drill bit from overheating. 

The Layered System 

The Layered System 

Some people are concerned about drilling holes into their plant pot and would prefer an alternative method, and this is totally understandable. 

The alternative to drilling is to employ the “layered system”. This is where you create layers within the plant pot which allows for drainage to occur within the cachepot. 

You begin by filling the plant pot with about ¼ of the pot of rocks or pebbles that are around 1 inch.

Once you’ve placed this layer down, create a second layer by placing down activated charcoal. 

This should be about an inch or so high and is very important in the process.

It will allow for drainage and the absorption of excess moisture which can reduce the risk of root rot. 

The final layer to place down is well-draining soil and this will go up to around half the pot.

If you have a larger plant pot, you may need to use more soil. 

Once every layer is placed down correctly, you can now put your plant within the pot and surround it with soil. 

It’s important to note though, that while this method will help with drainage, it does not do the same thing as a drainage hole will.

As a result, you must be careful when watering your plant. 

Do not overwater it, otherwise the risk of root rot etc. will still be present.

It’s a good idea to keep a schedule with your watering times and amount on it, with additional notes such as how dry the soil was – you can use a soil meter for this.

[4] How To Care For Plants In Pots Without Drainage Holes 

By now in this guide, you’re likely fully aware of the problems that pots without drainage holes can cause.

As a result, there are some things you should note for the care of your plants when using pots without drainage holes. 

Be Careful When Watering 

Watering your plants will still be very important, and you’re probably fully aware of how overwatering can be a problem.

But how much water should you be providing your plants in these pots… and how often?

As a good rule of thumb, you should look at adding water which is equal to roughly half the volume of the container itself. 

So, an 8 ½ inch plant pot has a volume of 2 gallons and therefore you would use 1 gallon of water. 

Remember, prior to watering – ensure that the top 2 inches of the soil are dry enough for the plant to constitute watering. It must be completely dry!

Don’t Forget The Light 

Some people get so tied down to the plant pot itself and where the pot would look good in their home or workplace, that they neglect to place the plant in a practical area. 

Most plants will need lots of bright light which allows for photosynthesis and proper water absorption. Therefore, try to avoid putting your plant pots in low-light areas. 

The only exception to this is if your plant pot is made from terracotta.

This material is very porous and can allow water to pass through it, albeit slowly. As a result, you can place terracotta pots in more shaded areas. 

Cachepots Don’t Go Outdoors

Some people place plants outdoors in cachepots. While in theory this can work, there are way too many variables for success here. 

Therefore, it’s advised that you only take your cachepot outdoors during your watering and draining process. 

Let’s say you take your cachepot outdoors one day and it rains heavily.

Your pot will quite literally drown in water, so your plant will likely be ruined irreversibly. 

Size Matters 

Oversized cachepots can promote more gathering of water and moist areas away from the roots.

All this does is increase the chances of your plant developing root rot. 

Tall cachepots can be a good idea though as they help with a drainage layer at the base of the pot. 

Organic Fertilizer Is Best 

Chemical fertilizer tends to be high in sodium which can lead to a residue of salt at the bottom of the plant pot.

When a plant pot has no drainage holes, this residue cannot escape and can lead to the plant becoming burned. 

[5] Plants That Do Well Without Drainage Holes

You may be wondering at this point what plants might do well without drainage holes. Here’s just some you may consider: 

  • ZZ plant 
  • Succulent 
  • Pothos 
  • Dumb cane
  • Spider plant 
  • Rough horsetail 
  • Chinese evergreen 
  • Monsteras 
  • Philodendrons

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most asked questions when it comes to plant pots and drainage holes. 

Can Plants Survive Without Drainage Holes In The Pot?

We are probably aware of what plants need the most to survive and thrive, but what people sometimes fall down on here is that they do not realize the amounts they provide. 

Without proper drainage, plant pots can gather water, salts and other ingredients which can lead to an unhealthy and unhappy plant – which eventually will die. 

However, some plants are battle hardened and can survive in extreme conditions, but this is rare and unlikely.

What If I Overwatered My Plant?

If you suspect you’ve overwatered your plant – do the following:

  • Increase the temperature and improve the lighting 
  • Improve the drainage 
  • Remove the plant from the pot and repot 

Note: sometimes this will not work as the plant is too far gone. Be sure to check with a professional if you are unsure. 

The Bottom Line 

If you want to use a plant pot without drainage holes, be sure to keep our guide in mind for the best possible chance of a healthy plant!

Amy Enrich