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How to Plant in Pots Without Drainage Holes

This article shares tips about how to plant in pots without drainage holes.

How to plant in pots without drainage holes

Today’s tutorial is all about how to plant in pots without drainage holes! This should be a short and easy one—but, you know, it’s about plants. I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, and they have evolved over the years. And it’s a somewhat controversial topic among plant lovers.

pothos plant in a basket

Are pots without drainage holes bad?

Yes and no. There’s a reason that when you buy plants at a nursery, they almost always come in pots with drainage holes. Root rot from overwatering is probably the #1 houseplant killer, especially for new plant lovers. Planting in a pot with a drainage hole is one of the key ways to help prevent overwatering and root rot.

Many plant pots that are designed to hold plants have built-in drainage in either the bottom or the sides. Drainage is critical for many plants because you don’t want the water puddling in the bottom of your planter, causing problems and making for some unhappy, water-logged plant roots.

Think about it—in nature, the plants aren’t in enclosed spaces like pots. They are watered by rain, and then they dry out between mother nature’s waterings. You want to mimic that same environment for your houseplants.

drainage holes in the bottom of a pot

Can I use pots without drainage holes?

Yes! Check out my guides about how to drill drainage holes in ceramic planters for more. If you don’t have a drainage saucer, you can water plants in the sink, let the water drain fully out the bottom, and then set the pot on something like a cork landing pad.

You can also find a plastic nursery pot that has holes in the bottom and stick them right inside a pretty planter that doesn’t have drainage holes. But this isn’t always practical because you have to find just the right size plastic pot to fit comfortably inside of the pot you’re looking to fill.

Although having drainage holes is the best option, it isn’t always practical. You might want to upcycle something into a planter that isn’t meant to be one (like a teacup!). Or you might want to hang something as a planter and not have water drip out.

If you’re willing to accept the risk of overwatering, who am I to judge? I’m trying to find fewer things to get irritated about in my 30s, not more. So read on to see how I’ve planted in pots without drainage holes in the past!

drilling through the bottom of a planter

Supplies you’ll need

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  • Pebbles or perlite
  • Coffee filters, the number depends on how big your pot is
  • Soil

And here’s how you can plant in a pot without drainage!

Step 1: Grab the pebbles or perlite

Dump a layer of pebble, rocks, or perlite into your planter. I use perlite mostly because it’s super cheap and lightweight. And I always have it on hand. This is also a great option for hanging planters because perlite doesn’t add nearly as much weight as rocks do.

However, the pictures in this article show small pebbles because that’s what I had on hand when I was planting this pothos and throwing this planter together. Just keep weight in mind 🙂

Adding pebbles to a planter to create a drainage layer

Want to learn more about plant propagation? Check out my guides on propagating pothos plants, snake plants, string of pearls, and monstera deliciosa!

Step 2: Add a coffee filter

The coffee filter will obviously break down over time, and that’s fine. I use the coffee filter initially just to prevent too much soil getting packed down into the rocks. And I also think it helps to provide a barrier for the roots as the plant is growing. This is just a temporary measure to keep things tidy.

adding rocks and a coffee filter to a planter

Step 3: Add soil and plant

Add a layer of soil appropriate for your plant, pop the plant in, and then fill the soil in around the plant. It’s usually going to be a well-draining houseplant or succulent soil to facilitate water flow, and also because I don’t recommend using this method for any plant that is too finicky.

There you have it. Since there’s only a small reservoir for water to go, you have to be extra careful not to overwater these plants. Keep that in mind.

golden pothos hanging basket

What plants do well without drainage?

It’s usually best for plants with low water needs—and honestly plants that are overall pretty low maintenance. Here are a few plants that have done well without drainage holes for me:

I’ve also have a fiddle leaf fig, a few hoyas, a heart-leaf philodendron, scindapsus pictus exotica, and a euphorbia trigona. Some of those it’s probably better to have drainage for, but they are doing so well in their current pots that I don’t want to disturb them until they really need repotted!

In conclusion…

In conclusion, is planting in a pot without drainage holes my first choice? No. But if you want to do it, you can! Just make sure you use this method with a low-maintenance plant and do not overwater. Happy planting!

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Here is a link to the Dropbox folder with the guide!

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Succulents of all plants definitely need drainage! They don’t like wet roots and are very susceptible to root rot!

    • Brittany Goldwyn says:

      As I noted, it’s always better to use drainage. But I’ve had some succulents in pots without drainage holes for years. I like to live in the edge I suppose.

  2. Kimm at Reinvented says:

    I’m pretty sure I’ve killed more than a few plants because I didn’t do this. Great tip!
    Thanks for sharing at Funtastic Friday!

    • Brittany Goldwyn says:

      Thanks Kim! Yep, it’s a life saver for plants that are finicky about having wet roots!

  3. Julie says:

    I have done this before, but did not use the coffee filter. I will definitely do that in the future. Thanks for the tip!

  4. RONALD says:


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