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How to Plant Succulents in Pots Without Drainage Holes

This post shares all about how to plant succulents in pots without drainage holes. If you’re wondering, do succulents need drainage? The answer is yes—but that doesn’t mean you can’t plant them in pots without drainage holes. Here’s how to plant and water them.

How to Plant Succulents in Pots Without Drainage Holes

In my post about taking care of succulents indoors, I outlined one key succulent care tip: Drainage is critical for maintaining healthy succulents. Succulents haaaate being overwatered—it can lead to rot or pest infestations. Yuck. 

So why am I writing a post about how to plant succulents in pots without drainage holes? Well, because you asked. You didn’t ask me, specifically. But while I was doing some research for another post, I noticed that a lot of people have this question. And the confusion isn’t surprising—succulent care guides say that pots with good drainage are the best choice.

collage of succulents in pots

But a lot of pots don’t have drainage holes in them. Especially things you’re repurposing into planters or really cute tiny pots that are perfect for succulent babies! So let’s talk about planting succulents in pots without holes.

Want more plant care tips? You’ll also love my guides on how to take care of snake plants, how to take care of pothos plants, how to take care of rubber plants, caring for peperomia plants, and how to care for philodendron.

Do Succulent Pots Need Drainage?

I’ll just lay it out there and say something controversial: succulent pots do not need drainage. Sure, in a perfect world, all of our pots would be beautiful and have hidden drainage holes that ensured we were never over-watering our plants. But, especially if you like making DIY planters out of upcycled things, drainage holes might not always be an option.

But never fear! There is a solution. You’ll notice above that I said drainage holes help to ensure we never over-water our plants. So, if you want to plant a succulent in a pot without drainage holes, your best bet is to…avoid over-watering!

small succulents in painted pots
small succulent in a painted pot

How to Plant Succulents in Pots Without Holes

I like to call it “building in” drainage. To do this, I simple lay a layer of pebbles, rocks, or perlite in the bottom of a pot. My choice depends on what the pot is—if it’s a big pot, I might use rocks. If it’s a small pot, maybe pebbles. And if the pot is hanging, perlite is a great choice because it’s very lightweight.

I try to never overwater my succulents. However, if I get a bit overzealous with the watering, I know that the water will drain down into the “built in” drainage—the perlite.

perlite in a planter

The size of the layer depends on the size of the pot. If it’s a very big pot, I do a thicker layer. I don’t have many very large succulents (not counting my snake plant). Here’s an example of a medium-sized pot. I put about 2 inches of perlite in the bottom of this.

large trailing string of pearls plant

Also remember to always use a well-draining potting soil no matter what type of plant pot you choose. A well-draining potting soil can be made of a lot of different things, but here’s a quick and easy DIY succulent soil recipe that uses soil, perlite, and sand.

How to Water Succulents Without Drainage

I’m no expert. I just have a million thriving succulents in my life. So take of this what you will. It stands to reason that if a pot doesn’t have an area for extra water to escape, you should avoid giving the plant more water than it needs. This can be a bit tricky because, while the top of the soil might be dry, the bottom of the soil might not be. And that’s probably where the roots are…and those roots don’t want to sit in want.

Luckily, succulents are drought-tolerant plants and are very patient with watering. They would far prefer to be under-watered than over-watered. Succulents store water in their leaves, which is why the leaves begin looking sad, wrinkly, and a bit shriveled up when the plant is thirsty. They plant has gone beyond using the water in the soil to using up its emergency supply. Not good.

Plants in a row on a plant stand

To water succulents in pots without drainage, I get on a watering schedule based on the time of year. From late-March/April through October, I give my indoor succulents a drink once per week. I err on the side of underwatering. But to be honest, I know how much each plant needs now. You just get a feel for how much water you need to give them as they grow.

During November through early March, I water them sparingly—once every few weeks. They aren’t actively growing during this time, so my goal is to just keep them going until spring. No matter what time of year it is, you want to make sure the top few inches of the soil dries out before watering again. 

If it’s a smaller pot, you’ll likely be able to tell much easier if the plant is getting too dry. (Ever noticed the soil getting hard and curling away from the sides of the pot? Yep, a bit too dry.)

succulent planted in a pot without holes

Can I plant a succulent outside in a pot without drainage?

No! Don’t do this please. Since a big part of planting succulents in pots without drainage holes is monitoring its water intake, putting pots without drainage outdoors is a bad idea. (Unless it’s in a covered area.) You can’t control the rain, and a bad rainstorm could easily overwhelm your plant if the water has nowhere to go.

Your soil will also likely dry out faster outdoors in the heat and sun. For succulents outdoors, I highly recommend a pot with drainage and a well-draining potting soil. Water often, sometimes daily if it’s extremely hot and dry. The excess will drain out, and the soil will retain the rest.

succulent planted in a pot without holes
succulents on a windowsill

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collage that says how to plant succulents in pots without drainage holes including photos of plants
Brittany Goldwyn
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