garden pots with drain holes

How to Maintain Good Drainage in Garden Pots

Last Updated on June 29, 2022 by Real Men Sow

Because it is vital for plant health, all garden pots must have good drainage. What are the best ways to ensure that your plant drainage is satisfactory? This is a crucial question, as there can be serious consequences if potted plants are not properly drained.

How can you get drainage in your pots? There are many good ways to ensure drainage in your pots. However, all of them require that the bottom of the pot has no obstructions. You can also help by following the right methods for planting, selecting the right container based on the plant’s dimensions, watering properly, and skipping any drainage materials. If a plant’s soil doesn’t drain properly, there are consequences. This includes root rot and other diseases.

What To Do To Assure Good Drainage in Garden Pots

The following guidelines should be used to ensure that pots drain well:

  1. To prevent water from pooling in containers, holes must be drilled in the bottom of all containers for planting.
  2. It is best to avoid using drainage materials, such as gravel or rocks, at the bottom of your pot which would only hinder water movement.
  3. In the containers and pots you use, make sure to use high-quality potting soil.

These three principles will ensure that a plant is unlikely to have drainage problems. It will thrive if it gets enough light and is properly watered.

Garden Pots and Other Containers Must Have Drainage Holes

Water can be a problem when you plant directly in dirt or in a garden bed. It can seep into or run from the soil. On the other hand, a potted plant is not able to do this.

To allow the soil to drain excess water from a potted plant, it must have holes in the bottom to allow water to flow out of the soil. Potted plants can suffer from root rot if water is not allowed to drain away. Unquestionably, a plant’s roots are not well served by stagnant water.

Troubleshooting Problems with Drainage Holes

There are a few options for gardeners who find that their container does not have drainage holes:

1. Clean The Drainage Holes

Before you do anything drastic, such as repotting the plant or removing it from the pot, make sure to check the drainage holes. Even if the drainage holes are partially blocked, it’s worth cleaning them rather than repotting a plant that doesn’t really need it. Also, make sure you clean your pot before you repot or reuse It. 

2. Place The Plant On A Pedestal

Sometimes drainage problems are not caused by the drainage holes. The drainage hole may become blocked if the pot is used without a saucer. A gardener can create a platform for the pot to sit on or drill holes along its sides. Small holes on the sides of the pot will give it more drainage outlets.

3. Put Your Pot in a Pot

It is possible to use the “pot within the pot” method if you have a large decorative container that doesn’t have drainage. In this case, gardeners will use smaller pots and liners with drainage holes to keep the plants in the larger pot.

This will only work if your larger pot is large enough to keep any water from touching the roots of your plants. As a medium for holding any water that has collected, you can use gravel in the bottom.

4. Drill Holes In The Container Or Pot’s Bottom

You may have seen people grow beautiful container gardens using milk jugs or other repurposed containers. To drain excess water from the soil, these people would have to drill small holes in the bottom of the container.

You can drill or cut plastic pots with a utility knife, depending on the thickness of the plastic. Ceramic pots or other ceramic containers, such as teacups and saucers, can be used to drill into them using a ceramic drill bit.

How Soil Impacts Drainage in a Potted Plant

The soil used to grow potted plants in a backyard garden does not necessarily make it thriving. Container gardens are often made up of a mixture of peat, bard, and other plant fibers. Hence, potting soil should have good drainage and aeration. It also needs to be able to retain water.

The soil from a garden or just dirt is not very good at draining potted plants. Because the water can run into the ground, or into other areas, it is able to drain well in a garden. Potted plants do not have this luxury, so they need soil with excellent drainage.

Although most gardeners prefer to use a mix of potting soil and garden soil for planting their gardens in pots or containers, it is possible to use amended garden soil. A suitable potting soil mix can be made by mixing one part garden soil and one part perlite or coarse builders’ sand. The resulting potting mix should be able to drain properly. Store-bought potting mixes have a great track record and are easier to use if you don’t have the time or patience to make your own.

Drainage Isn’t Going to Help if the Plant is Consistently Overwatered

The most problematic cultural practice is watering. Water is essential for plants. Underwatering can lead to a plant’s death or even stop growing. However, overwatering can also cause problems. It doesn’t matter how much soil is draining or how many holes there are at the bottom of the plant, if a plant is constantly overwatered it will not matter how good the soil drains.

It is important that the soil be dry before watering plants. This allows roots to rest in a moist environment and helps prevent bacteria and fungus growth. Some plants require soil that is constantly moist. However, it is very rare to find a plant that does not need its soil to remain saturated.

Researching the plant will help you determine if it needs water. Most plants can be easily identified by sticking one finger into the soil. There is no hard and fast rule about how often a plant needs to be watered. So many factors influence the rate at which a plant consumes water and the rate at which the soil will dry. These factors include:

  • Sunlight exposure
  • Temperature
  • The humidity of the environment
  • Season
  • Quality of the soil

What is Root Rot?

Root rot is a disease that affects the roots of plants, causing them to rot. Poor drainage and excessive watering are the main causes of root rot. Poor drainage can pose a grave danger to plants’ health.

Many soil fungi, including Pythium specialis and Phytophthora particularis, can cause root rot in many plant types. However, root rot can also be caused by other pathogens that cause root deterioration.

Signs of Root Rot

  1. Failure to thrive – Root rot can cause wilting or stunting of a plant if the gardener has not been taking care of it properly.
  2. Nasty odor – Root rot can be indicated by a bad odor coming from the soil around the potted plants.
  3. Rotten root – Roots with root rot are brown and soft. Roots with root rot will look wilted compared to plump, healthy roots.

Can potted plants get root rot if they are not in direct contact? It is possible. Here are ten tips that gardeners can use in order to prevent root rot.

Ten Ways to Prevent Root Rot in Potted Plants

Gardeners should follow these tips to reduce the chance of root rot. Prevention is better than any mitigation.

  1. Plants should be purchased from sources with a high reputation. Before you make a purchase, ensure that all plants are checked for root rot.
  2. Proper care should be taken when repotting houseplants.
  3. Make sure you use a pot that has drainage holes.
  4. Drainage materials should not be used at the bottom of a pot.
  5. Pasteurize a commercial potting mixture over garden soil to prevent root rot.
  6. You can add organic materials such as compost, well-rotted manure, and peat moss to heavier pots to improve the pot drainage. These materials are also known as filler materials.
  7. Avoid root rot fungi contamination by not reusing old pots or water.
  8. Root rot can be caused by a variety of factors. Make sure you disinfect all tools, surfaces, clay pots, bowls, and work surfaces. You can use either 10 percent bleach, detergent, or alcohol to clean them. Many people don’t recommend reusing plastic pots as they can be difficult to clean.
  9. The most important thing is to reduce the amount of moisture that the plant gets. Take care when watering plants. Also, be aware of how long it is possible to visually see the moisture in the soil. Plants need water to survive drought stress, but overwatering can cause damage just as much as underwatering.
  10. Referring to the previous point, do not allow potted plants to remain in drain water. Root rot fungi will always thrive in a new wet environment.

Actions To Take If Your Plant Has Root Rot

Root rot can be avoided with container gardening. Imagine a whole garden afflicted by root rot, instead of one potted plant. Most of the time, root rot is not detectable by gardeners until it has advanced to the point where it is impossible to save the plant.

The plant can be saved if it is caught in time by doing the following:

  1. Take the plant out of its container and trim any damaged roots with a pair of scissors.
  2. Get rid of as much dirt from the plant as you can, as it is contaminated with pathogens that are causing the rot.
  3. Place the new soil in a pot and don’t overwater it.
  4. Toss the pot and all tools, and place the plant somewhere far from other plants.

A potted plant with root rot is a problem that can’t be fixed by a gardener. While some plants can survive, others do not.

Is it Possible to Use a Garden Pot Without Good Drainage Holes?

It is possible to plant in a pot or another container that doesn’t have drainage holes. However, this is not recommended for an outside container garden.

Small houseplants can be grown in small pots that do not have drainage holes, provided the owner takes care to water the plants. Outdoor plants are not as fortunate because they are vulnerable to rainstorms, extreme humidity, and high temperatures.

It is difficult to use a container or pot that doesn’t have drainage holes. You’ll need the experience to know how much water plants need in particular climates. It is easy to overwater a plant and cause it to die. Without drainage holes, the plant will drown in that excess water.

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