Container question.

gramadea(z5 central MI)December 9, 2012

I am rather new to growing cacti/succulents and have a ? about containers. I have searched this site and learned a lot. The importance of drainage is stressed over and over but I see so many photos that show the plants growing in containers without drainage holes of any kind. So I am confused. How does one get good drainage in those closed containers? What am I missing? Thanks.


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From what I've read, you can use gravel or broken pot pieces and maybe a layer of charcoal to allow room for drainage in containers without drainage holes. I am sort of new to growing c&s myself, but I've done a lot of research and I think I'm becoming addicted! Lol

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 10:23AM
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gramadea(z5 central MI)

How deep does this layer need to be?? Thanks. I have some nice things I could use for containers but want to give the c&s proper homes.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 10:27AM
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I have become quite familiar with masonry bits and my power drill. That way, you can make any pot a drainable pot. Just take care to not break the pot while drilling the holes. I have even done this on glass jars that were candles. That's very tough but possible with patience.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 10:47AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

holes good. No holes bad. Things are not what they appear.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 10:51AM
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I wouldn't recommend using a container that didn't have drainage. I use my little Dremel to drill holes in containers that don't have any. It can take a while and the bit usually heats up but I've never had one crack while drilling it. I've never tried to drill into glass.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 11:09AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Drainage holes are a must! some people use what is called a cache pot. with another sitting inside with holes.

IMO~ using a layer of something in the bottom is just bad news waiting to happen.

I have a ton of containers needing holes and I am waiting to get the drill bit.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 11:09AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Putting cacti and succulents in pots without drainage holes is asking for trouble, Gravel and potshards don't work. They just make the pot smaller.

Of course some people make pots without holes work. I myself have some that I use, but they are essentially big fancy drip trays for in the house. The plants are in a pot with drainage and I take that pot completely out of the decorative pot to water. I then let it drain completely and put it back in the decorative pot. There is some gravel at the bottom of the decorative pot to elevate the growing pot off the bottom just in case some more water drains out it has somewhere to go. Basically what I'm getting at is that although you may see a picture of a cactus in a pot without drainage, you don't know what sort of hoops the grower is jumping through in order to make that work.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 11:21AM
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Gravel, shards, charcoal, sand - really don't help. Water still doesn't go anywhere. Just sits at the bottom, not good for plant roots.
Do not use any so-called 'drainage' material.
Get pots with drainage holes or drill as bsmith said. Use well-draining soil mix.

somethimes it's hard to tell from photos if there is drainage hole or not.
You'll find all kinds of plants in stores planted in drainage-less pots. No good, doesn't matter how pretty the pot is. Sooner or later the plant suffers.
Especially c & s.
I use any container that I like, have few different drill bits to drill drainage holes (ceramic, glass, pottery, plastic).

If interested, you can find great info on this forum about soil mixes and how water 'behaves' - here is a great post worth reading:

read here

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 11:37AM
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gramadea(z5 central MI)

Once again you all have saved my bacon. LOL This all makes wonderful sense. I have mine in un-glazed terracotta and will be looking for pretty pots to set those into. Will be rummaging through DH's tool box also for the tools mentioned.
Thanks for the education.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 11:58AM
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Just google "mason/ry bits" to get an idea of what they look like. It can get tiring very quickly trying to drill fired mason pots with a regular bit! :)

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 12:49PM
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Here is the photo of drill bits I use (there is different ones for glass, masonry etc.) - they work well on glazed & unglazed containers (I use dremmel sometimes too). You can buy just one, or a set:

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 3:36PM
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The spade bits (glass / masonry) as Rina illustrates are what I use, too, along with a spray bottle for water to keep the bits cool. You can use regular masonry bits for terra cotta, but anything glazed or ovenware-like needs these bits. Mara said it best - no hole bad, very bad indeed.

If you had a drill press to go along with these bits, that would be the cat's pajamas.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 4:07PM
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I am lucky, got a drill press from my friends...along with whole bunch of tools. Need a workshop next - have more tools than kitchen gadgets Rina

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 4:47PM
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gramadea(z5 central MI)

We have a drill press and I am sure I can find the bits.
I will be a drilling fool:)

Thanks for the soil tutorial link Rina. Very thought provoking. I know I will have a hard time finding the ingredients around here but will give it a whorl.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 7:51PM
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A drillin' fool I believe it is. ;)

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 9:07PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

I never thought about using hubby's press! I do have my own drill, just need the bits. I have all sorts of containers waiting to be used. Then have to go buy plants. ;-)


there are many variations of the gritty mix, and I'm sure someone here will be able to help you find what you need, if not...
Tapla (Al) , the person who wrote what rena linked for you is in mid MI. So if you have trouble finding what you need, maybe post for help over in the container forum, he will be more than glad to help and point you in the right direction, if members here can't.

It's well worth it in the end! The gritty mix is great for the cactus and succulents. Well, for just about anything for that matter. :-) I even have mint growing in it, and it's very happy!


    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 12:04AM
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Low fired and somewhat shallow terracotta pots with drainage holes are in my opinion the absolute best pots for succulents. They are cheap, durable, and most important of all they allow moisture to escape from from the inside of the pots. Plastic, metal, glass, concrete, wood, glazed pots, high fired pottery and many other unconventional materials can be detrimental to succulents. When you venture away from the proven pots you need to understand what the material you use will do to your plants. For example, a plastic pot will not let water through and will keep the soil wet much longer so you have to offset that effect with a less water retaining soil.

I am a hobby potter and would love to discuss the pot topic some more. But maybe I start a new thread for that...since this was only about drainage holes :)

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 12:09AM
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If you do, please link the post in this thread. There seems to be quite a few reads on poring mix/soil for our plants but not so much the pots themselves.

Also, just scored some nice Bosch masonry/glass bits the other day. Hopefully they are better than the others I had on glass/fired/glazed masonry. I like to turn the glass containers I accumulate from burning candles at the office as plant vessels. There's just something interesting about being able to see the roots and other sub-soil goings on in my opinion.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 2:44AM
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gramadea(z5 central MI)

Robin, I am new here and not real familiar with how things work put it a container thread so I don't think you are off topic. Anyway thanks for the thoughts.

B...maybe holes in the sides of your recycled containers would be a good idea. Like those orchid pots with all the holes in the sides???...just a thought. I too have many things that would make great pots if it is a viable idea.
I picked up some great tea cup saucers (no cups) for pennies that I use for drip trays.


    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 8:28AM
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Dea - I have the exact opposite problem than you! I picked up a bunch of adorable pots at the 99 cent store but they were lacking drainage holes. I bought a cheap drill and bit from Amazon and bam! Drainage holes and pots for under a buck. I would definitely suggest going with the diamond bits. I did not buy the right drill bits and it took awhile to drill through. They worked but I was nervous the whole time about cracking the pots. Now I just need to find some small plates or saucers for drip trays...

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 6:13PM
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