Making a drainage hole in ceramic pot

thyme_waits_for_meJune 27, 2007

Hi. I've been lurking and learning here for a month now and this is my first post. I'm new to (herb) gardening and have learned at least 3/4 of what I know from reading all of your wonderful highly informative posts.

All of my gardeing is done in containers on my balcony. I had been growing parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, catnip, oregano, spearmint, and french tarragon all together in a large self watering container. The parsley, the two mints, and the thyme all became gigantic; all the other mediterranean herbs have done all right, but were comparatively less slow growing, and starting to get their sunlight blocked out by the ones that were thriving. After reading numerous posts on here to educate myself, I decided to repot everything in its own container to best suit each herb's individual needs.

I placed my spearmint in an 8 inch ceramic pot with a single drainage hole in the middle. It is seriously drooping over (now I 'get' why y'all preach that those things are useless!!!) I really like the pot and would like to try using my drill to make additional drainage holes. The pot has an attached saucer. I'm looking for advice on the best way to go about doing this so that I might have success on my first try without breaking the pot (type of bit to use and anything else I should know). Also, if I should skip trying to drill and consider something else, I would like to hear your ideas on that too. Thanks in advance!

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Use a drill with a masonary bit. If you are concerned about chipping you could put masking tape over the surfaces, especially the bit exit area.

I purchased a few ceramic pots at garage sales without any drainage holes and drilled into all of them without problems.

If you have a single drainage hole you may only need a few pebbles or pieces of broken pots placed in the bottom before adding planting media. The added course material will help with drainage.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 11:43AM
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Thank you very much, bmoser. I'm going to buy a masonary bit and some masking tape today and give this a shot.

I vaguely remember having heard/read about putting pebbles or pieces of broken pots in the bottom for the purpose of assisting with drainage. For my own understanding, is the mechanism by which this works that it leaves air spaces between pebbles/pieces into which excess water can drain? (If so, it seems to me that I then would want them to be somewhat coarse, rather than fine, correct?) Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 1:34PM
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no... don't do the pebbles... the water gets in there and rots. I know this because it's happened to me. :o) I think your pot is fine.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 3:12PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Use care in drilling holes in pottery. It will usually crack before it gets a chance to drill through. Masonary drills are OK, but the pot should have nothing in it yet. Small stones are fine at the bottom. These are just for those plants that you tend to over water all the time. Avoid overwatering and the plants will thank you by growing well even if there is very little drainage.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 4:44PM
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CA Kate

Also, you need to score (deeply scratch) the spot you're going to drill.

PS: mints like damp conditions.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 2:24PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I don't think that an 8 inch container needs more than one drainage hole. As a matter of fact, I have much larger containers with only one hole.

The only thing you need to be sure of in regards to good drainage is that your potting medium is nice and porous. It should drain all of the excess water rapidly, right out that drainage hole. No gravel should be required at all, which would create problems, anyway.

If the hole is rather large, you'll need to cover it with something that keeps the potting material in but allows the water to drain. Some people use broken pottery shards for this. I've been happiest with a piece of that plastic grid used for needle point.

You've stressed your plant by separating it. A very large number of the nearly invisible root hairs have been broken off, which is why it's wilting. It will probably recover.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 3:50PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

And drill from the outside inwards, the chips usually come off around the exit hole. I hate plastic in my garden and only ever use pot pots and have done this several times. I use broken pot shards for drainage. Is your pot glazed on the inside? If so it will need an extra special amount of drainage as the sides will not breathe.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 4:23PM
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Thank you all so very much for your assistance! I've come to realize that I had thought that drainage was primarily about the container, but I now understand that the soil matters equally too. It didn't even occur to me that I had also used an entirely new soil for the first time with this transplant: MG Organic Potting Mix. I thought I was doing a good thing! But it seems that you must have to mix this with some other things (perlite, for one?). It looked to me like the plant was sitting in a fistful of muddy water even after sitting out in the sun all day so I decided I had better wait no longer and get it out of there immediately. I bought a plastic container with four drainage holes, put an unbleached coffee filter in the bottom, and then placed it in there, but this time I used plain old MG potting mix. I had no problem with drainage. I also left the MG organic mix in the ceramic container to 'study' it further. Forty eight hours later it's still an icky nasty soupy mess. Maybe a water lilly could live in there, but I'm not so sure about anything else. I don't understand how you could use this stuff straight out of the bag.

I'm going to keep the ceramic container and still buy the masonary bit and practice drilling some holes. Maybe I can use it in the future.

Thank you all again!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2007 at 11:28AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

thyme...thanks for your report on the potting mix. You are one of many who have had a very bad experience with that product. I guess they didn't 'study' their own product very well, did they?

In my humble opinion, good drainage is ALL about the potting medium. Well, maybe not all, lol. I'm not happy until I put together something that is very porous and fast draining. Let us know how your plant does.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2007 at 3:18PM
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I am new to this website, but googled my problem and up popped your comments on drainage holes. The tiny one hole at the bottom or the tiny two holes on each side are useless. What ever happened to the eight hole bottom pots. You know the ones that had 4 large holes and 4 smallers holes and drainage was not a problem. I have not been able to find any for a very long time. They work perfect for just about anything you want to plant. I too have beautiful ceramic pots that are useless for growing. I dont think drilling them would be very successful for me. Just my thoughts and if anyone knows where they still have 8 holes on bottom pots, please comment. Thanks, Mary

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 7:24AM
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I tried doing as recommended. It took a lot of drilling. My hand was aching, had to stop several times. I used a 7amp black and decker. I'm not used to drilling much. Does it usually take a while to drill a hole in a pot?? :(

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 5:03PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

I don't know how handy you tend to be around the house, but I found a much cleaner (hole-wise) way of adding holes to ceramic pots than a drill bit. After drilling one hole in a ceramic pot of mine, with a masonry bit, I ended up with the chipping and a small crack. So for the next hole I reached for my ever-so-trustworthy Dremel tool and put in a Grinding bit. It took maybe a tad bit longer to get through the pot than it did with the masonry bit, but the hole was much nicer, perfectly round, smooth and no chips or cracks. However, there was ceramic dust everywhere! I did my 'drilling' in the backyard so all the dust ended up on the grass or my clothes, but I imagine that inside the dust would end up all over the place. Still, even with all that dust, if I have to drill another hole in a ceramic pot, I'm reaching for my Dremel.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 9:25PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Drilling holes in ceramic is much easier if you have the right drill bit, and a masonry bit is not a good choice for vitrified materials like ceramic. It does a passable job for soft materials like terra cotta, but works poorly for harder materials.

You can buy spade/3-point/spear-point drills , at most hardwares and big box home improvement stores. If the material you're drilling is highly vitrified, like glass, you may need a core drill, .

Copy pasted from something I left on another thread, about drilling holes:
I have a considerable amount of experience drilling hard materials, which comes as a result of 34 yrs in the glazing contracting business (glass company). We regularly drill all sizes of holes in glass/mirrors, granite (shower door installations) and other vitrified materials (the objects people bring to us to drill holes in).

Ease of drilling varies with the hardness of the material, of course, but terra-cotta containers are not hard at all. Most containers you'll encounter can best be drilled with a "spear-point" drill. I'll link you to a picture from one of our suppliers. The drill is also called a '3-point' or 'spade' drill. Highly vitreous containers (glass, or glass-like - ceramic - clay fired at extremely high temperatures) may even require a diamond impregnated "core drill", but it's uncommon to find containers like this.

These drills (spade/spear-point) can be found at big box home improvement stores. They should be cooled with water or a 50/50 mix of water/antifreeze as you drill. An excellent strategy is to immerse the container you're drilling so it's upside down in a tub and add enough water to just cover the drilling surface as you drill. Rotating the drill clockwise while keeping it angled slightly off vertical while drilling, will greatly increase the ease of the whole operation.

Alternately (I use this method), fill a squeeze container (contact lens solution bottle is stellar) with water or a 50/50 water/antifreeze solution & squirt it at the drill/material interface as you drill. If you can't find the drill you need, you can contact me off forum & I'll be glad to help you.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 2:03PM
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