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How to Pot a Houseplant without Drainage

Posted on March 27, 2019 in House + Home, Indoor & Tropical Plants, Container Gardens

Written by Jason VanderMey

If you’re like me, you like to get creative with the potted plants in your home! There are so many unique and interesting containers that would make fantastic pots for houseplants, but not all of them have built in drainage holes. Luckily, there’s an easy way to house your indoor plants in pots, jars and other containers that don’t have drainage holes and still keep them happy and healthy.

Interesting containers can range from jars to teapots and even jugs and bowls. A good tip before you begin is to make sure your container won’t weep excess moisture when left over time. Some materials, such as clay pots or wood, are not completely airtight and water will leech through. To avoid unsightly water stains on your floors or shelving, always test your container first!

Follow along as I show you how to pot a plant in a container with no drainage below:

What You’ll Need

  • A container or jar
  • Stones (enough to fill your container  1-2″ at the bottom)
  • Horticultural Charcoal (enough to sprinkle a layer in the container)
  • Potting soil that contains perlite or chunky pieces of bark for drainage
  • A plant that is smaller than the container size, so that it will have time to grow before needing to be transplanted.


Step One

Fill 1-2″ inches at the bottom of your pot evenly with rocks. You can use gravel, landscape stones or smaller stones. This is where the excess water will go in your container, to keep it away from the roots. Plants hate having their roots sitting in soggy soil. (Imagine going to bed with wet socks on, ugh!)


Step Two

Sprinkle a light layer of horticultural charcoal over top of the rock layer. The rocks can still be seen peeking out under the charcoal. The charcoal helps to condition the soil, absorb moisture, add a bit of nutrients for the roots and also acts as a natural filter to deter odour causing bacteria.


Step Three

Add in your soil, leaving space to add in your plant. When choosing your potting soil, make sure it has perlite or chunks of bark mixed in, to create air gaps in the soil. Your plants roots require air as well as water!


Step Four

Add your plant into the container, then use more soil around and on top of it to tuck it in. Make sure to leave an inch of space at the top of your container to avoid spillage when watering.


Step Five

We love to finish off our planters with a nice layer of stones to add that little something extra! It creates a clean look for the top of your planter and also helps the soil retain moisture after watering.


Step Six

Watering! The trick to watering plants in containers without drainage is to always measure the amount of water you use. Use an amount of water equal to half the volume of the container. So for a 2 cup container, use 1 cup of water. Make sure to wait until the top inch or two of soil is dry and scratchy before giving your plant any more water.

If you fertilize your plants (and you should!) then use your plant food at half-strength for plants in pots with no drainage. This helps to prevent a build up of salts and minerals over time. Eventually your plant will outgrow your container and need replanting again, when this happens use new soil to refresh your plant’s root system.

That’s all there is to it! Now you can get creative with all the containers and pots you find, whether they were meant for plants or not. This is a great way to recycle containers you might otherwise end up throwing away. Have fun planting!