It may sound like an odd question when you consider it, so why would you want to know about plants that can grow without drainage? There may be many reasons: perhaps you want to grow plants indoors or don’t have any outdoor space? Or maybe you’ve seen a friend with their cacti and succulents, and thought you’d like to have some too! Succulents make a great choice as they are fascinating and, when you start to get into the routine, surprisingly easy to nurture.
As we all know, most plants like to be watered often. Succulents – and cacti – generally grow in arid areas, so are used to very little water (we will cover the subject of watering your succulents shortly). However, they do still need watering, and this is where the problems arise when growing succulents without drainage in the container. Before we talk about why this might happen, here’s a bit more about succulents, and why they make such interesting plants.
What Are Succulents?
Succulents are a group of plants that have adapted to thrive in very arid locations. While they do need water, they don’t need great amounts. Like cacti, they store water in their leaves or body areas – they are sometimes known as ‘fat plants’ – giving them a fleshy appearance.
Many succulents produce beautiful flowers, although this can be a difficult stage to reach if you are a newcomer, so it takes patience. If you want to grow plants indoors they make a good choice, and as growing plants is good for your mental health this will also benefit you in other ways. There are many suppliers of succulent plants who can help you start on what will become a satisfying and fascinating hobby, so we recommend you check them out and learn as much as you can. Now let’s consider why you may want to grow them in a container without a drainage hole.
Why Grow Succulents Without Drainage?
It is perhaps not recommended to grow succulents without a drainage hole in the pot, but it can be done. Many people like to do it this way as they have found a particular container they like, or they don’t have any available containers of the right size – another important consideration with holes. So, let’s say you want to plant the beginning of an indoor garden of succulents using pots that do not have holes in the bottom: where do you begin?
Many people start by filling the bottom of the pot with gravel., thinking that this makes a drainage bed: don’t do it! Stay away from gravel, this is not a normal plant you are growing but a succulent! All this does is give you less space in the pot, as it creates what is known as a ‘perched water table’ that will effectively stop the water from being able to drain from the soil.
Now, the major problem with succulents in this sort of pot is that it is very easy to drown a plant. It’s not necessarily too much water that is the problem – they like to be drenched so they can take it in for storage – but that the water remains in the soil for too long. This will cause the plant to rot. Remember, these are plants that come from desert areas and other places with low rainfall, and they expect to exist in similar conditions in the home.
So, you need to start by filling the pot up with soil. The soil should be – as is the case for all succulents – as free from organic matter as possible. Again, this is to replicate the succulent’s natural habitat. There are succulent soils you can buy so ask at your local plant store. Once you have the right soil in the right pot, you’re ready to go.
But you still have no drainage, so what can you do? Let’s have a look at some solutions to the problem!
How to Water Succulents with no Drainage Hole
The first option you have is to create a drainage hole! You can either do this by finding a pretty pot with a hole in, by putting one into a container, or by creating a ‘cachepot’. This is where you place a smaller pot – with a drainage hole – inside a bigger one filled with soil. The water drains from the smaller pot into the soil in the larger one – problem solved!
- Water the plant half as much as you usually would. You should water a succulent quite regularly, but sparsely. Once the soil is dry it will have taken in all the water it needs. Wait a couple of days and water it again.
- Water directly into the soil, as this way the plant can take up the water more quickly through the roots. While a few plants take in water from their leaves they are not commonly found, so watering the soil itself is the best way.
- Re-pot the plan regularly so that it has a pot that is big enough for it and give it new soil when you do so it will drain better. This helps the plant grow at its natural rate.
- Pour out excess water a few minutes after you have watered the plant. This is a tricky thing to do but if done with care can mean less chance of over-watering your succulents.
The key here is in allowing the plant to be watered but to make sure the soil dries quickly so as not to drown or rot the succulent.
Succulents are fun to grow and when you start to understand why they are different from other plants, surprisingly easy to grow too. There are many different types so you can create quite a varied indoor garden with succulents, so why not read more about them and try your hand at creating your own indoor succulent garden.