Sprout Home: What You Need To Know About Container Gardening

02/27/2012 08:49 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Flickr photo by kevinzim

Q: The container that I want to pot a plant in does not have a drain hole. Is it ok to use it still? I do not want to kill the plant but I am pretty determined to use this particular pot.

A: Rarely does a plant enjoy having wet feet. With that said, it is preferential to pot a plant in a container that does have a drain hole so that you can be in complete control of your watering - making sure the plant is drinking sufficiently and also draining at the same time. I most certainly understand the situation of finding the perfect pot for the space, having to take some chances and make it work. There are some precautionary things you can do to give your plant better odds.

Q: Ill play the odds - what can I do? This container WILL be used.

A: When you plant in a container that does not have a drain hole it is advisable to use a bottom substrate of rocks (or similar medium) before adding the potting mix and plant. The rocks will act as a catch basin for the water if you happen to give it too much water once and a while. The plant can wick the water from below over time, but you still have to be careful to not continuously over pour, the rock substrate can only do so much. It is still more than possible to overfill the container.

Q: How do I know if I am overfilling it?

A: Water your plant out slowly and literally stick your finger down in the soil to see how far down the moisture has reached, making sure the planting mix is not oversaturated. If your plants leaves turn yellow it is most likely because it had or has wet feet and a watering adjustment is needed. If it is one your first ventures in plant care it could be a wise to wait on repotting it, keeping your plant in the growers pot that it came in, sitting it inside the decorative vessel. If you do decide to wait, keep a mindful eye of how much you are watering your plant as far as volume and regularity. A couple minutes after watering take the plant out and dump any water that is sitting inside the container then put the plant back in. Adjust your watering as you get to know your plant. When you do go to repot, keep in mind that the more soil there is the more water retention there will be.

Q: I am moving forward with this planting this guy but for future reference, is there any other plant safe options out there for people who just do not like the site of a saucer?

A: You could look in to various types of self watering containers that are available. There are more and more companies out there that are producing containers complete with water reservoirs for easy water separation and even with a water gauge to tell you when they are full - much easier than sticking your finger in the soil especially when your finger might not be as long as needed.