In general, we recommend against placing houseplants in pots without drainage whenever possible. You can still use a beautiful decorative pot even if it doesn’t have drainage holes. You can simply use a second interior pot that does have drainage holes. Some type of catchment will make sure you can water your plants generously without making a mess.
That said, there are plenty of examples and effective strategies for growing houseplants in pots without drainage holes. Maybe you already have the perfect size pot and the perfect size plant. Maybe you’re starting with miniature plants and pots that are impractical to layer with two different pots. Maybe you’ve heard that the need for pots with good drainage is overblown. Whatever the reason, here are our tips and advice for growing houseplants in pots without drainage.
Best Watering Practices
First, you need to know exactly what type of houseplant you have and how much soil moisture the plant likes. You need to provide enough moisture to unlock nutrients in the soil without creating standing water that leads to root rot or excess moisture that leads to mold. Even though overwatering is a constant danger, you still need to get the soil wet in every area of the pot. In fact, it’s even more important to water all sides of the pot to saturate the soil with the least amount of water. Using glass jars or other glass containers will allow you to see exactly how much water the soil is taking on and whether the soil is drying out. Using a soil moisture meter is another essential tool to get the water just right.
Pot Size and Gravel
It’s also easier to go without drainage holes for miniature pots and houseplants. Large pots with considerable potting mix take a lot longer to dry out, especially without drainage. With miniature pots, the soil is so close to the surface and the plant needs so little water to begin with, you have a better chance of success. The idea that adding gravel to the bottom of the pot is all you need for drainage is a major houseplant myth and one of the most common mistakes people make with houseplants. It also goes hand-in-hand with overwatering. One thing we do recommend is lining the bottom of the pot with activated charcoal that will help keep the water clean and free of rot.
Growing Houseplants in Water
For many types of plants, this is the easiest way to grow houseplants without drainage holes. For philodendrons, lucky bamboo, and pothos plants especially, this is a great solution. Simply put a cutting of the plant, just below a leaf node, in a glass jar with clean water and plant fertilizer. Make sure the leaves are out of the water and the node is in the water. New roots should form. So long as you keep replacing the water and adding fertilizer, these houseplants should grow and do quite well. When growing houseplants in water, it doesn’t have to be a glass jar. In fact, especially when placed in sunny spots, glass containers can encourage algae growth that threatens the plant. Learn more about propagating and growing houseplants in water.