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How to Plant Succulents in Pots Without Drainage Holes

Wondering how to plant succulents in pots without drainage holes? Here’s how!

How to plant succulents in pots without drainage holes

In my article about taking care of succulents indoors, I outlined one key succulent care tip: drainage is critical for maintaining healthy succulents. Succulents hate being overwatered—it can lead to root rot, which will kill the plant.

So why am I writing an article 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 article, I noticed that a lot of people have this question. And the confusion isn’t surprising—succulents are actually often sold in cute little pots without drainage holes!

And if you’re repurposing something into a planer—like a teacup, for example—drilling a drainage hole might not be practical. So let’s talk about planting succulents in pots without holes and what we can do to make sure our plants stay happy.

small succulents in painted pots

Overview of planting succulents in pots without holes

  • Succulents require good drainage to prevent overwatering and root rot.
  • Many succulents are sold in pots without drainage, and if you are repurposing items as planters, drainage holes may not be practical.
  • One option is to add a later of perlite in the bottom of the pot; plant in well-draining soil and do not over water; this method comes with risks, but it can be done.
  • Another option is to keep your succulent in a plastic pot and place that down inside of a decorative pot; take the plant out to water and let the excess water drain completely before putting the plant back.
  • Avoid planting succulents in pots without drainage outdoors; you cannot regulate water intake outside.
trailing succulent

How to plant succulents in pots without drainage

Succulent pots should have drainage holes. In a perfect world. But I’ll just lay something controversial out there: I have had succulents in pots without drainage holes, and they have thrived. Let’s go over two options I recommend.

Option #1: Adding in a drainage layer

This option is not often recommended, but if you’re willing to take the risk, you can try it! I have done this for many small planters and plants, and it has worked fine.

I like to “build in” drainage to planters like the small painted teacup planter pictured below in the first photo. To do this, I add in a small later of perlite into the bottom of the container. Then I plant my succulent or cactus using extremely well-draining soil.

The second picture below of the euphorbia trigona is also an example of this planting method. I have now had this plant thriving in this same pot with no drainage holes for about 4 years.

If you choose this method, one major thing to keep in mind when watering succulents in planters like this…do not overwater! Keep a light hand with that watering can. If you overwater these plants, the water will have nowhere to go.

It will sit in the bottom of the soil, and drown out the roots. Succulents are especially prone to root rot given they are drought-tolerant plants to begin with…so give the plant enough for the roots to soak it up and move along.

cactus in a teacup planter
african milk tree on a table

Option #2: Use a cache pot

One of the main reasons you might choose to plant a succulent in a pot without drainage holes is because many of the cutest decorative pots don’t have drainage holes. And guess what? That’s okay! You can still use them.

Even if you don’t want to use the first method I outlined in this article. There’s another simple approach—using the decorate pot without drainage as a cache pot—an outer pot that does not have drainage holes. The method is simple: you keep your succulent in the ugly little plastic pot it came in. These have drainage holes in the bottom of them.

And if you’re anything like me, you hoard these little plastic nursery pots in a closet somewhere in your house because you never know when you’ll need them. Every time I pot something up to a larger pot, I clean out and save the pot it came from.

All you need to do is set the plastic pot down into your decorative ceramic pot. That way, you can pop the plant and the plastic pot out of the decorative pot and water it in the sink. Let all of the excess water drain out, then put it back in the ceramic pot. If you look at the succulent below, you can see that it uses this method.

succulent in a small white pot

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. 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. I 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

In conclusion…

While succulents thrive best in well-draining conditions, it is possible to grow them successfully in pots without drainage holes. But you have to pay close attention to your watering and your soil—and expect a bit of risk. Happy planting!

Pin my tips about planting succulents in pots without drainage!

collage that says how to plant succulents in pots without drainage holes, learn the easy steps with pictures of plants

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