How To Water Succulents Without Drainage Holes

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Rectangular arrangement of succulents; cactus succulents in a planter

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Succulents – you either love them, or you don’t. If you’re reading this guide, you most likely belong to the former category. 

Well, caring for succulents doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. They are relatively easy to care for since they don’t require as much water, sunlight, and attention as certain other demanding plants.

The best planters and pots for succulents have adequate drainage holes. That said, if you have your heart set on a planter that doesn’t feature drainage holes, don’t worry. In this guide, we will teach you how to water succulents without drainage holes. 

How To Water Succulents Without Drainage Holes

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Why Drainage Is Important For Succulents

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Before we delve into the details of how to water succulents without drainage holes, let us address another concern. You may be wondering why this particular species of plant requires planters with drainage holes while others do not.

For starters, remember that succulents are essentially drought-loving. They do not require too much water, and overwatering them can do more damage than good. These plants efficiently store water in their thick, padded leaves and stems; thus, they don’t require frequent watering. 

Succulents are commonly found in hot and arid climates, where droughts are a common occurrence. In order to survive in such climates, they have built an excellent system where they can store water for long periods in their bodies. 

Overwatering a succulent may even lead to it perishing, so be extremely cautious when watering these plants. Furthermore, it is best to keep them in slightly dry or moist soil rather than overly wet ones. 

This allows their roots to absorb the excess moisture from the soil and thrive. Otherwise, excess water in the soil can lead to root rotting. 

What Happens If Your Succulent’s Roots Start To Rot?

Unfortunately, the problem of root rot is untreatable. In most cases, if you notice your succulents’ roots starting to rot, it is already too late. More often than not, root rotting occurs below the surface, and its symptoms are not noticeable until much later. Of course, if you happen to transplant the succulent and notice certain symptoms, you may be able to save it. 

You can begin by drying out the roots as much as possible. However, this will not fix the issue entirely. You need to carefully trim out the damaged portions of the root, keeping the healthy ones intact. 

Both these solutions may work if you are lucky and have spotted the root rot at an early stage. However, keep in mind that even after taking such measures, your succulent may likely perish due to the condition. 

As a last resort, you can consider beheading your beloved succulent. Yes, it may seem like an extreme measure, but remember that this is how succulents propagate. There is a slight chance of survival, especially if you do it carefully enough to save the plant’s healthy portions. 

Watering Your Succulents Without Drainage Holes

Almost any florist or expert will tell you about the importance of getting pots with drainage holes for your succulents. That said, there are certain ways by which you can water succulents in other types of pots that do not feature drainage holes. One of the most important things to remember about these plants is not to overwater them.

In this section, we will tell you about some of the best ways to water succulents. Let’s begin!

  1. Use A Well-Draining Soil Mix

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First and foremost, ensure that you use a well-draining soil mix for your succulents. Essentially, the soil mix should allow ample airflow for the water to evaporate, enabling the succulents to absorb only the amount it requires. 

Using pots or planters without drainage holes presents a problem – there is no place for the water to flow naturally. However, a well-draining soil mix will allow the water to seep between the crevices or evaporate, preventing oversaturation of the soil with water. 

Ideally, the soil particles should be at least 6mm large, or ¼”. If you have a small pot (around 4 inches), you can use pebbles to fill the bottom layer. However, if you have a larger-sized pot, adding medium or large rocks should be ideal. 

  1. Add A Layer Of Charcoal 

Adding charcoal is not compulsory; however, it can be extremely beneficial for your succulents. Charcoal aids the absorption of water and impurities. Furthermore, it helps clean the air around the plants while efficiently absorbing odors. 

The charcoal pieces should be only slightly larger than the pebbles, rocks, or gravel you use. You can add it in an equal ratio or slightly lesser than the soil mix. 

  1. Add A Succulent And Cactus Mix

A little trick that many plant owners do not know is to add a light layer of succulent and cactus mix over the soil or charcoal. As such, the weight of your succulent causes it to sink slightly into the charcoal or soil. This increases the surface area of the roots touching the soil, which causes it to become overly wet and rot. 

To prevent this:

  1. Add a light layer of any succulent and cactus mix.
  2. Ensure that it is thick and chunky, or else it will not do the intended job well.
  3. If the mix is not chunky enough, consider adding a small amount of pumice to it. 

Tip – Add a very fine layer of worm compost to the soil. This aids plant and soil nutrition and can help your succulents thrive. Be sure to add only a thin layer of this, as it is extremely rich and will naturally break down slowly over time. 

  1. Add A Planter 

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Once you have created this beautiful mix for the succulents, add it to a planter or pot of your choice. While many plant owners often drill holes into their planters, this isn’t always a good idea, especially if you have a particularly delicate planter. 

A well-draining soil mix, topped with charcoal, pumice, and succulent mix, can slightly lift the succulent’s roots, preventing it from soaking in excess water. You can add this mix to any planter of your choice. However, always ensure that it is large enough for the succulent to grow and propagate comfortably. 

The Problem With This Method

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The method we described above sounds well and good, and in most cases, it works brilliantly. That said, every method is prone to flaws and failures, and this one isn’t any different. 

An issue with using gravel and charcoal in a planter is that the water doesn’t necessarily drain to the base of the pot. It sounds counterintuitive, but stay with us on this one. 

You may expect water to follow the simple laws of gravity and slowly trickle downwards. However, water has a mind of its own and often follows other more fascinating scientific principles. These include adhesion, cohesion, and even osmosis. 

If you don’t remember what these terms mean, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Long story short, water tends to stick to surfaces, in this case, to gravel, pebbles, and charcoal. You may expect it to trickle downwards, but it doesn’t always happen that way. 

The water that gets suspended between the gravel and charcoal is in close proximity to the succulent’s roots. Essentially, this can lead to root rot, which you want to avoid at all costs. 

So, what is the solution to this? Well, here are a few other methods you can explore. 

  1. Using The Right Size Pot 

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The bigger, the better, right? Well, not always. 

Once again, this seems like a counterintuitive solution. However, in the case of succulent pots, it is best to go small. Once your succulent outgrows its current pot, ensure that you transplant it to a larger one. 

That said, do not initially start with a large pot or planter for your succulent. As you water it, the water will naturally drain and pool towards the base of the pot. This keeps it out of reach from the succulent’s roots, preventing it from absorbing water comfortably. 

  1. Using A Cachepot 

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As you may have realized by now, succulents require adequate drainage to survive. However, you may want to use a pot that does not feature drainage holes (without it affecting your succulent adversely). Fortunately, there is a way around it. 

Have you considered using a cachepot? A cachepot is essentially a pot that consists of two pots, one inside the other. The smaller pot contains a drainage hole, while the larger one does not. This enables the smaller pot to efficiently drain water from the soil while the larger pot traps the water, preventing a mess. 

Moreover, the smaller pot is beneficial in creating a barrier around the succulent. It effectively prevents the roots from absorbing excess water and thus stops root rot. Fortunately, you will find several beautiful designs and shapes of cachepots in the market. You can explore the options and find the right one for your succulent. 

Tip – Ensure that the larger pot is at least a couple of inches wider than the cachepot. Otherwise, the functionality of the cachepot is lost. Furthermore, do not get a cachepot that is too small for your succulent, as it will create a cramped and suffocating environment for it.

Keep a close eye on your plant and transfer it to a larger cachepot once it outgrows the current one. 

  1. Measuring The Amount Of Water 

There is one general rule that you need to keep in mind with succulents – it is always better to under-water than overwater. While watering them in pots with drainage holes, you can still take a slight risk of overwatering them, as the excess water automatically drains out anyway. 

However, in the case of pots without drainage holes, there is no such relief. You need to rely on an accurate watering schedule to ensure that your succulents thrive and are not victims of root rot. 

How To Measure The Water For Succulents?

Well, there are a couple of excellent techniques you can use. 

  1. Measuring Cup

Firstly, you can opt for the measuring cup technique. Ideally, the amount of water you use should be equal to or slightly lesser than half the plant’s soil volume. Remember – underwatering is fine. Overwatering is not. 

After watering it, wait for a couple of minutes, allowing the soil to absorb the water peacefully. Now, if you have a small succulent and pot, you can easily tip it over and drain out the excess water.

Beware – do not do this in the case of cacti, or else you may end up with sharp and painful spikes in your palm. 

Tip – Measure the amount of excess water that drains out when you tip the pot. The next time you water the succulent, adjust the amount of water accordingly, so you don’t overwater it. 

  1. Soil Moisture Meter

It is vital to monitor the moisture level of the soil in order to administer water to your plants correctly. Well, a simple technique of doing this is by sticking your finger into the soil and checking its moisture. 

However, as you may soon realize, this technique is not the most efficient. It can be especially challenging in the case of tall containers. 

The solution here is to invest in a soil moisture meter. As the name suggests, this device helps you measure the moisture level of the soil. Furthermore, it can reach much lower into the soil than your finger, enabling a more accurate and efficient reading. 

You can also consider getting a more advanced tool that measures the amount of sunlight the succulent receives and the pH level of the soil. These tracking devices are excellent for those who are serious about growing healthy plants or simply don’t want their plants to perish. 

  1. Squeeze Bottle

Another excellent option to consider is using a squeeze bottle. Of course, ensure that you get one with measurement markings on its side, making it easier for you to add the appropriate amount of water. 

Use the squeeze bottle to administer the correct amount of water that will not harm your succulents. Moreover, consider using a tool like a soil moisture meter to gauge the moisture content in the soil accurately. 

Similarly, you can use a measuring spoon to administer water to succulents. Any tool will work as long as you are aware of the correct quantity of water required by the succulents. 

How Much Water Do Succulents Need?

This is a tricky question, as there is no correct answer. However, the closest we could get is to follow this simple rule – measure out water equal to half the volume of soil in the planter. 

Watering succulents without drainage holes can be slightly challenging. Add water to make the soil wet, but not enough to make it overly soggy. Moreover, it is best to add more water only when the soil dries up, rather than follow a strict watering schedule.

To do this efficiently, you need to keenly observe the succulent as well as the soil and its moisture levels. 

Another factor to consider is the climate and temperature. If you live in a humid region, you may need to water the succulent less frequently than someone who lives in a hot and dry climate. 

Furthermore, it is best to water succulents less frequently during the winters, as it takes more time for water to evaporate from the soil. 

You can consider placing the pot under a sunny window or a glow light. This will allow the soil to dry out more easily, enabling you to follow a proper watering schedule. The plant’s health and soil texture will tell you everything you need to know about how to water it. 

What To Do If You Overwater A Succulent?

Mistakes may happen, even in case of professionals. If you happen to overwater your succulent, don’t worry. There is an easy fix. 

Take a paper towel or a rag and blot the soil with it. This should soak up any excess water for the time being, in case you cannot tip over the pot and pour out the excess water.

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Final Words

Now that you have read this guide, do you feel confident about getting a pot without drainage holes?

Watering a succulent does not necessarily require any unique skills or knowledge. Keeping a keen eye on your beautiful plant is enough to know more about its needs. 

Let us know what methods you use to water succulents without drainage holes. Leave a comment below and tell us what your favorite method was.

Until next time!

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