Do Succulents Need To Drain? [Grow Healthy Succulents]

do succulents need to drain

Many new succulent growers ask the question, do succulents need to drain? The simple answer is yes. Succulents really hate sitting in water and need to dry out in between waterings.

Too much moisture in the soil continuously will cause the roots to rot and your precious plants will eventually die.

In saying that, many people plant their succulents in pretty pots and glass containers that have no drainage at all. If you want to do that, we’ll have some useful tips below to keep your plants healthy and thriving.

But, let’s first look at why succulents need to dry out.

The Nature Of A Succulent

Succulents are so named because they store water in their roots, stems and leaves. This allows them to survive through periods of dry weather without rainfall.

Many succulents grow naturally in dry, arid desert regions. Although there are some that come from semi-arid areas as well. To survive in these often inhospitable environments, they’ve adapted to store their own water.

When it rains, these plants will absorb as much water as they can as quickly as they can. They then store this water in their leaves, stems and roots. As they experience long periods of no rain, they’ll use the stored water as they need it.

Therefore, if a succulent is sitting in water, the roots become saturated and can’t absorb any more water. This turns them to mush and they will eventually rot.

In addition, if the roots are oversaturated with water, they’re not getting any air either. This is detrimental to all plants but especially succulents.

The Ideal Containers For Succulents

For your succulents to thrive you really should use a container that has good drainage holes. Plus, you should never keep a saucer full of water under the pot.

You can use either plastic or ceramic pots. Terracotta pots are ideal because they’re porous and the water will evaporate much faster.

If the pot that you want to use doesn’t have drainage holes, you might be able to drill a few holes in it. But what about if you’ve found the cutest pot for your succulent and it doesn’t have drainage holes? And, what if drilling holes in the bottom of the pot might damage it?

If you want to plant your succulent in a pot with no drainage holes, here are a few tips on how to care for it.

How To Care For Your Succulents In Pots Without Drainage Holes

Many people grow succulents quite successfully in pots without drainage holes. If you want to do the same, you just have to be very vigilant with your watering.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Make sure you choose a really good potting mix that is free draining. You can purchase a proprietary cactus and succulent mix or you can make your own. Make sure the mix is quite sandy and open.
  • Consider adding some activated charcoal to the mix or place a small amount in the bottom of the pot. The charcoal can absorb excess water. Plus, it helps to prevent fungal and bacterial diseases.
  • Make sure you choose the right size of pot. Succulents don’t need a lot of room to grow. If you pot them in a container that’s too large, you’ll have more soil that will hold excess moisture.
  • Don’t water unless the soil is completely dry. Succulents really need to dry out in between watering. A good way to test if the soil is dry is to use a moisture meter. This will tell you how much moisture is in the soil. If the meter reads close to 0%, then it’s time to water.

Alternatively, you can poke a bamboo skewer or chopstick into the soil. If it comes out completely dry, then it’s fine to water. However, if there’s soil clinging to it, then there’s still moisture in the mix.

If you have none of these items handy, then just push your finger into the soil. You’ll be able to feel instantly if the soil is dry or not.

  • Measure the amount of water you add. You can do this by using a syringe or a squeeze bottle. Both these have measurements on the side. You’ll need to test this to work out how much water to add each time.

If you see water pooling in the base of the pot, reduce the amount of water next time. Of course, unless the container is glass, you won’t be able to tell. Ultimately, it’s best to add less water to start with. Remember, it’s better to underwater your succulents than to overwater them.

  • Water less in the cooler months. Most succulents are dormant over winter so they need less water. In the warmer, growing months, you might have to water once a week. But, in cooler weather, your plants may only need water once every 14 days or less.
  • Pour out any excess water. If you’ve accidentally added too much water, you can carefully pour out the excess. Make sure you hold the plant in place so it doesn’t fall out. Then gently tip the pot over so that the excess water comes out. You could also use some paper towel to mop up any excess water in the soil.

If you find your succulents are not doing well, it might be time to repot them into a container with drainage holes. Succulents are very forgiven and will bounce back when placed in the right environment.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How often should you water succulents without drainage?

You should only water when the soil is completely dry. To make this easier you can use a moisture meter. Then, if the soil is completely dry, measure the amount of water that you add. Remember, you just want to dampen the soil and not saturate it.

Can succulents live in pots without holes?

Yes, they can. But, you have to be very vigilant that you don’t overwater them.

What do you put in the bottom of a planter for drainage?

Nothing except maybe a small amount of activated charcoal. If you place things like pebbles or broken terracotta in the bottom, the water will collect there. This will cause the roots to become waterlogged and rot. It’s better to monitor exactly how much water you add each time and don’t overdo it.

Final Thoughts

In essence, succulents do need to drain. They absolutely hate sitting in water. The soil needs to dry out in between waterings. For this reason, pots with drainage holes are ideal to grow your succulents in successfully.

If you must plant your succulents in pots without drainage holes, follow our tips above and your plants should thrive and grow.

Do you grow succulents in pots without drainage holes? Have you got any other tips to share with us? Please feel free to add them in the comments below.


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