Why Do Some Plant Pots Come Without Holes?

Drainage holes are a common feature in planters because they allow excess water to leave the pot. Since there’s a variety of different plants that can’t tolerate sitting in water, those drainage holes are crucial to the plant’s survival. So, you may find yourself wondering why some plant pots come without drainage holes.

Some plant pots come without holes for aesthetic purposes, and they’re not recommended to pot your plants in. These plant pots are called cache pots (cache means “hide” in French); if you bought your plant from a store, it’s likely growing in a grow basket, and cache pots hide those grow baskets.

Grow baskets are usually plastic with many holes and crevices in them, which aren’t very pretty to look at, but a cache pot can carry the grow basket and still make for a beautiful indoor plant. However, some plants do come fully potted in cache pots without a grow basket. The rest of this article will discuss how to work with holeless planters.

What’s the Point of a Holeless Plant Pot?

Aside from using them as cache pots, some planters without drainage holes can still be successfully used to pot specific plants. Although some species can’t tolerate excess water, some prefer moist or wet soil, so a drainage pot isn’t mandatory for those plants.

It’s possible to use planters without drainage holes for those species that can tolerate moist or wet soil. Some of these species include:

  • Bushes. Many different types of bushes are tolerant of wet environments. The Black Chokeberry, for example, grows in bogs and wetlands. Bushes can be grown in large, holeless pots.
  • Schefflera. Schefflera plants are also called “umbrella trees.” They grow tall, and their foliage resembles an umbrella, hence the name! These plants can tolerate wet soil, but they’re not planted in huge planting pots — this can cause many other problems.
  • Snake Plants. Snake plants are straightforward plants to grow, especially for those plant owners that occasionally forget the last time they checked on it. Snake plants will absorb every drop of water and enjoy drying out entirely before their next drink. 

You can also use a holeless plant pot if you manage to get the watering schedule just right. Some of my own houseplants are potted in planters without drainage holes, but it took a few months of trial-and-error to figure out the appropriate watering schedule. 

So, there are some plants that can grow in a holeless planter, but what can you do about the plants that can’t? There are a number of things you can do to mimic the drainage system in planters without drainage holes. 

3 Ways To Mimic Drainage in a Holeless Pot

If you’re trying to grow a plant that isn’t tolerant of moist soil and has no original drainage system, have no fear — it is possible! The following three tips are all unique, tried-and-true!

1. Drill a Hole in the Plant Pot

It’s not hard to drill a hole (or a few holes) into the bottom of your planter, which is a great first step if you’ve found yourself with a holeless pot. Don’t forget to add a tray beneath the planter to avoid that excellent drained water dripping all over the floor or furniture.

To drill a hole into your planter (and depending on the material the planter is made of), you’ll need the following tools:

  • A drill with the proper bits and an empty planter
  • An Exacto knife
  • A permanent marker

If the planter is flexible plastic, all you need to do is mark the bottom of the planter where you want to add drainage holes. Carefully use an Exacto knife or other sharp tool to cut through the bottom of the planter at the marks. 

However, a hard planter will need to be drilled through. Again, marking the bottom of the planter will help to space the holes out appropriately. Ensure you’re using the correct bits for the material you’re drilling through. 

2. Add Pebbles, Rocks, and Peat Moss Beneath the Plant

A second trick is to layer the bottom of the planter with an assortment of pebbles, rocks, and peat moss to act as a makeshift drainage system. Do this before adding soil and completing the potting. A layer or two of pebbles and peat moss for larger plants will elevate the plant’s roots and prevent root rot. Smaller plants can use one layer of either material.

This form of drainage can be purchased at most gardening stores. Although excess water may still collect at the bottom of the planter, the plant’s root ball will be protected from getting soggy in it. You’ll also need to ensure the soil you use is well-draining and not compacted. 

Adding perlite into the soil is an excellent way to increase the soil’s drainage, as it absorbs water and breaks up the soil to allow for drainage passageways.

Some gardening friends of mine have also suggested putting a thin layer of activated charcoal along the bottom of the planter, which has absorbent properties when heated by the sun. All of these materials can be used to give your plant the best chance at survival in a holeless pot.

3. Create a DIY Watering System

This may sound ludicrous — but I promise, it’s worth it.

A few years into my own plant-owning journey, I started looking into automatic watering systems when I was away and couldn’t take meticulous care of my plant babies. I came across an interesting mechanism that I decided to try out on my own, and I was thoroughly impressed with the outcome.

With just a string and a jug of water, you can create a watering system that allows your plant only to take as much water as necessary, which completely eliminates the potential for overly-watered soil and root rot. The steps are simple:

  1. Bury one end of a cotton string into the plant’s soil inside the pot. Cotton is the most absorbent material, which is a critical characteristic for the watering system to work correctly. 
  2. Place the other end of the cotton string into a jug of water. Over time, the cotton string will absorb the water and transfer it to the plant as needed. 

On the same strain, a DIY drip system is another good idea for the plant to absorb water independently and avoid oversaturation.

How To Create a DIY Watering Globe

A watering globe is basically a glass or plastic bulb with a long, thin neck. The globe is filled up about three-quarters full (into the neck), and the neck is then stuck into the soil. As time passes and the plant’s soil dries, the watering globe releases water and maintains an even moisture level. 

You can use virtually any material to create a watering globe, but the bigger the plant, the bigger container you’ll want to use. A plastic bottle is recommended for medium-sized plants and a two-liter bottle for larger ones. By cutting a few holes into the lid (carefully use a nail for this), filling up the bottle, and inserting it into the plant’s soil, you’ve got your own watering globe!

These globes can also be made out of wine bottles or pop bottles, but they may require different tools to make drainage holes. 

Additionally, ensure you take the proper safety precautions when using dangerous tools such as drills, knives, or hammers. 

4. Use Perlite, Polymers, and Spaghnum Moss 

Along with perlite, specific absorbent polymers can be mixed in with the plant’s soil to help store excess water and reduce the stress on soggy roots. Polymers resemble sand or gravel when dry. However, as soon as they’re mixed with water, the polymers absorb that water and hold onto it until the plant’s soil needs more moisture.

Polymers extend the length of time needed between waterings and simultaneously prevent damage to the roots through overwatering. Or, if you’d prefer, absorbent polymer pads are pads that you place along the bottom of the planter before adding soil. These pads work in a similar way to the sands.

Lastly, sphagnum moss sticks are simple things you can stick in the plant’s soil to help absorb excess water. I have the Fusisi Moss Pole (available on Amazon.com) in my 6-year-old Monstera Deliciosa. You can also tie your larger plants to the pole, so it acts as a stabilizer for the plant as well!

Final Thoughts

Most planters that don’t contain drainage holes are cache pots, which are decorative planters that hide the original grow basket your plant may be growing in. If you need to use a holeless pot for your plant, you can add holes yourself or put pebbles or moss into the planer. 

Creating your own DIY watering system will also help to ensure your plant will thrive regardless of the planter it’s in! 

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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