Do Houseplants Need Drainage: How to Get Rid Of the Extra Moisture

Do houseplants need drainage? Overwatering is one of the main reasons that can kill your plant. But some accessory pots don’t have drainage holes. So, are these holes necessary for your plants’ survival?

Having drainage holes protects the roots from getting soaked, yet there are some tricks to follow if you want to use a pot without drainage holes. Using gravel and shredded leaves improves drainage. Moreover, some water-loving plants don’t mind the extra moisture in the soil, so they’ll thrive even without drainage holes in the pot.

This article will talk about the importance of drainage for your houseplants, how they can survive in pots with no drainage holes, and which plants can best tolerate the moist soil, so keep reading.

Do Houseplants Need Drainage?

Although plants can’t survive without water, too much water is the culprit behind root rot, the plants’ number one killer. The excessive water in the soil suffocates the roots, depriving them of water and nutrients, so your plants die. Moreover, the continuous moisture weakens your plant and makes it prone to pest infestation.

Some materials like terracotta will help. So, if you have a terracotta pot and you don’t overwater your plant, it might survive without issues. This material absorbs the water, and it slowly evaporates. But if the pot is made of plastic, you’ll have to find a way to get rid of the extra moisture.

Other than keeping your plant well-ventilated and getting rid of the extra water, drainage holes have some other advantages.

Water Your Plant Thoroughly

Instead of providing your plant with little water to avoid root rot, drainage holes allow you to water it thoroughly, ensuring all parts of the root system get the moisture they need.

Most plants love the extra water and then should be left to dry out. But, at the same time, the roots shouldn’t be soaked in water the whole time. So, the drainage holes guarantee that your soil is moist enough, but the roots aren’t soaked.

Avoid Having Your Plant Rootbound


It’s hard to predict how fast your plant will outgrow its current pot, and things can be tricky if you’ve bought a small pot in the first place. In this case, drainage holes will help you.

If you see some of the roots emerging through the drainage holes, then your plant needs to be repotted. Keeping the plant in the same pot will make it rootbound, which affects growth. In some cases, the roots will shoot out of the soil because they have no place to go.

Improve the Airflow

Air is essential to plants as much as water is. So after watering your plant, take a look at the soil.

If the water stays on the surface for a while before it runs through the soil, then your soil is too compact. In this case, you need to use a probe or a fork to move it a little and create a few air pockets to help keep the plant well-ventilated. The drainage holes in the pot will also allow some air to flow from the other side.

Get Rid of the Extra Salts

Using a fertilizer once you move your plant to a new pot and during the growing season is essential to keep it healthy. Yet, the extra salts in the fertilizer can burn the root system if it stays soaked in them.

As you water your plant, the water flushes the extra salts, keeping the root system healthy and the salt content under control. It’s essential to empty the saucer that sits under the pot because these excess salts can find their way back to the roots.

Read more: How to Make Well-Drained Soil for Houseplants

Can I Use a Pot Without Drainage Holes?

Despite all these cool advantages, growing plants in a pot with no drainage holes is possible. Other than drilling drainage holes, there are several situations where having no drainage holes is a plus.

As a matter of fact, if you want to put your plant pots in a wicker basket or on an elevated stand, having drainage holes will cause so much mess. Here are some alternative ideas to protect your plant’s roots from getting soaked.

Add Some Rocks

Adding some gravel, shredded leaves, and rocks at the bottom of your plant pot creates a layer between the excess water and the root system. It can also improve the aesthetics if you’re growing your plant in a transparent glass or plastic pot.

As the root system grows, the roots can extend to touch the water at the bottom of the pot. When this happens, it’s time to move your plant to a bigger and taller one.

Use a Nursery Pot

Since most decorative pots have no drainage holes, you can keep your plant in the nursery pot it came in. Nursery pots are made of plastic and have drainage holes to allow the extra water to pass through. Even if you feel that there aren’t enough holes, you can easily add some more.

Put this nursery pot in a decorative ceramic or terracotta pot, and you can empty it every week or so to keep the plant healthy. You can also use wooden planks to slightly elevate your plant inside the decorative pot so the extra water doesn’t get in touch with the root system. Adding a pot liner to absorb the extra water will also work.

This method provides several benefits, as you can easily move your plant from one decorative pot to another. You can also tell that it’s time to repot your plant by looking at the holes at the bottom of the nursery pot.

Do Some Plants Love the Extra Moisture?

Some plants actually thrive in extra moist conditions, so having no drainage holes won’t be a problem. These plants naturally grow in wet environments, so the excess water will be a plus. Some of them also have root balls instead of a deep root system, and these balls stay away from the excess water. Here are some plants to try.



There are several varieties of the pothos plant, and almost all of them are highly resilient. This plant loves the extra humidity and appreciates being misted, so some excess water in the soil won’t kill it.

You need to water your pothos at least once a week in warmer months, but this plant can tolerate some underwatering in the cold months. Pothos can be grown as a hanging plant from a pot or as a trailing plant, where it attaches itself to any structure.

Spider Plant

Spider plant is a beginner-friendly plant and can survive the mistakes of beginners, including overwatering. This plant doesn’t need drainage and can survive with some extra moisture in the soil.

People love this plant because it grows fast and is almost maintenance-free. It originally grows in a tropical climate, so some extra moisture won’t suffocate the roots.

Related: How to Make Houseplants Grow Faster? (6 Tips)

Chinese Evergreen

Chinese evergreen is a beautiful indoor plant with big leaves and flowers blooming in spring. This plant is easy to care for and won’t immediately suffer if you accidentally overwater it.

It prefers to grow in wet but not soaked conditions, so having no drainage can actually be a plus. Just allow the soil to dry out between waterings by keeping the plant in bright indirect sunlight.

Snake Plant

Snake plant

This plant originally grows in a tropical climate, so it’s used to being drenched in water. As a result, growing a snake plant will be an excellent choice if you tend to overwater your houseplants.

Ideally, this plant requires watering every ten days to two weeks or when the soil feels dry. But without drainage holes, it can still survive, unlike most plants.

Rough Horsetail

Rough horsetail naturally grows in wet conditions and can even grow in standing water. This means that it won’t suffer from root rot or die if you keep it in a pot without drainage holes. In addition, this plant is adaptable to various light conditions and can survive in poor sandy or gravely soil.

You might have to water your plant daily if you live in a warmer climate. Keeping the roots soaked actually helps the plant thrive, as it can survive in standing water up to a depth of four inches.

Wrap Up: Do Houseplants Need Drainage?

Most houseplants need drainage to prevent root rot, allow the extra salts to be flushed out of the soil, and have access to better ventilation. If there are no drainage holes in your decorative pot, you can either add a layer of gravel or keep your plant in a nursery pot before putting it in a decorative one.

Some plants are more forgiving and can survive in wet conditions. These plants usually grow in tropical climates or in water, so they won’t die if the soil is too moist.