Tips for Planting Succulents in Containers without Drainage

Succulents are low-maintenance plants and they can thrive in tough conditions including hot temperatures and drought. These plants don’t need to be watered often and this makes them a great choice if you don’t have a lot of time to attend to your plants.

Drainage is an important factor when planting or repotting a succulent. These plants are prone to root rot when overwatered or if the soil retains excess water. This means you need to grow them in well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes.

You can still plant succulents in containers without drainage but you’ll need to create a drainage layer where excess water can escape. This approach is common when creating succulent terrariums. However, watering succulents without drainage must also be done carefully to avoid the problem of root rot.

Planting succulents in pots without drainage

Do succulents need drainage holes?

The straight answer is yes. Succulents need drainage holes in their pots. These plants don’t like it when there is excess moisture around their roots. This can prevent the roots from getting enough oxygen, which makes them die and rot. Additionally, damp soil encourages fungus that causes root rot.

The problem of root rot in succulents can also be caused by overwatering. This is why watering succulents is recommended only when the soil is completely dry. Experts recommend that you check the moisture level by inserting a finger in the soil before watering your plants.

Symptoms of root rot vary but commonly you’ll see your plant wilting, leaves turning yellow, and falling off. Additionally, the root of the affected plant will become soft and mushy. So, if you suspect that your plant has root rot, you need to act fast otherwise you won’t save the plant.

Planting succulents in containers without drainage holes

While it’s recommended to use planters with drainage holes when repotting or planting a succulent, you can still be successful in using containers that don’t have drainage holes

The secrete is to include a drainage layer at the bottom of the container and water the plant minimally.

To start your project, here are things you’ll need:

  • A medium-sized container, preferably with a wide opening.
  • Gravel or small rocks preferably pebbles.
  • A piece of fine mesh.
  • Cacti or succulent potting soil.
  • Some white sand and a few decoration rocks.


  1. Wash your container with mild soap, rinse thoroughly, and then dry it out. This is to remove any contaminations.
  2. Fill the bottom of the container with pebbles or small rocks to create a drainage layer of about 2 inches. This section will collect the excess water so the soil can drain properly.
  3. Cut a piece of mesh that fits in the container and use it to cover the pebbles or rocks. You can use a few pieces of rocks to keep it in place.
  4. Add about 8 cm of the succulent potting mix on top of the mesh and spread it out to make an even layer. You may increase the volume of the potting mix if you are planting or repotting a large plant.
  5. Dig a hole in the soil and plant your succulent. If you are repotting the plant, trim out some roots to make sure the root ball fits in the soil.
  6. Sprinkle some sand on the top of the soil about 1 cm thick and add a few rocks for decoration. This is optional and you may skip the step if you don’t have the sand or any decorations.
  7. Place the plant in a place where it receives bright indirect sunlight. Most succulents prefer at least 4 hours of direct sunlight but you should introduce them gradually to prevent scorching.

How to water succulents without drainage

Watering a succulent without drainage should not be a major issue if have created a drainage layer in the container. You should also be careful not to overwater the plant. This means, watering should not be done too often, or else, you’ll end up with root rot.

Before you water your succulent, insert a finger in the soil to check if it has dried up. Don’t water if the soil feels moist. If the soil is dry, use a spray bottle to mist the soil. This way, you can control the amount of water that you are giving the plant.

Tip: Water your succulents in the morning as this will give the plant ample time to absorb the water before the night sets in.

It is important to inspect your plants regularly for signs of root rot. If detected, you can drill some holes in the container to allow the excess water to escape. If that won’t help, remove the plant from the pot, cut off the damaged roots, and repot it in a pot with drainage holes.

Final thought

Succulents can be grown in pots without drainage but it’s not recommended. Drainage holes are very important as they allow excess water to escape from the pot, which helps to prevent root rot.

If you are planting a succulent in a container without drainage holes, make sure to create a drainage layer, use succulent mix, and water the plant less often, preferably when the soil is completely dry.

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