There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect pot for your home, only to turn it over and realize there are no drainage holes. Seasoned gardeners know that a pot without drainage holes is a recipe for soggy soil and dead plants.
It’s mistakenly thought that succulents like the Snake Plant don’t require drainage. Due to their minimal watering needs, their soil often stays dry for weeks. Plus, they are already potted in loose soil mediums that are sandy and well-draining.
So does a Snake Plant need drainage holes? Snake Plants benefit from drainage holes to help keep the soil aerated, prevent salt burns, and ultimately lead to a healthier plant.
Can I Plant a Snake Plant Without Drainage Holes?
Snake Plants are native to Western Africa and are used to hot, dry conditions. Snake Plants are drought-tolerant and require very minimal watering. In the summer, they only need watering once every two weeks! They can go for as long as two months between waterings in the winter.
Like many other succulents, Snake Plants like their soil to be sandy and well-draining. They have shallow roots susceptible to root rot, so well-draining soil is a must.
Watering Snake Plants from the bottom of the pot is often recommended to develop strong roots and thicker foliage. Bottom watering encourages the roots to establish themselves deeper in the soil to reach the water. Bottom watering requires a pot with drainage holes and a saucer. Simply water the Snake Plant via the saucer and let it absorb into the bottom of the soil through the drainage holes.
Due to its need for excellent drainage, and the requirement to bottom water, Snake Plants should be planted in a pot with drainage holes.
Do Plants Need Drainage Holes?
In their natural environment, plants usually have no issues with drainage. The soil naturally flushes water and excess minerals away from the roots and deep into the ground. In a closed pot, the water has nowhere to go but down, and once it hits the bottom, it just sits there.
Once the soil becomes waterlogged, air cannot reach the roots. Without aeration in the soil, the plant doesn’t get the oxygen it needs to survive.
When there are no drainage holes, it also becomes impossible to flush excess minerals like salt from the soil. Fertilizers contain salt, naturally filtered through the soil and out the drainage holes. If there’s nowhere for the excess to go, it will build up in the soil around the roots instead.
What Happens If a Plant Doesn’t Have Drainage?
In the case of waterlogged soil and salt buildup, the plant’s roots cannot get the oxygen and nutrients it needs from the soil.
Waterlogged soil is the leading cause of root rot. Soggy soil promotes the growth of fungal spores, which begin to attack the suffocating roots. Eventually, the roots turn brown and mushy and can’t deliver nutrients to the plant. Yellow leaves and mushy plant stems are tell-tale signs that you have a root rot problem.
When salt buildup occurs, the salt prevents the roots from properly absorbing water. This causes ‘salt burns,’ which take the form of yellow leaves, and burnt, dead leaf edges.
Can You Use Rocks for Drainage?
If there are no drainage holes in the pot, it may seem obvious to simply add drainage inside the pot instead. Rocks and gravel are common drainage solutions. The idea is that the water will go around the rocks and leave the soil dry.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Adding rocks to the bottom of your pot will create what is called a perched water table.
When water enters the plant pot, its natural path is downward towards the bottom of the soil. That last layer of the soil always ends up holding the most moisture. When we add rocks to the bottom of the pot, that moist layer of soil is suddenly much closer to the roots. This prevents airflow and gives the roots less room to grow, which leads to root rot.
Instead of adding rocks or any other hard material to the bottom of the pot, you’re better off using a well-draining soil mix.
How Do I Get Good Drainage in My Pots?
Besides having drainage holes, the best solution for good drainage is a good soil mix. A regular potting mix is suitable for most tropical plants in a pot with drainage. But when it comes to succulents like Snake Plants, regular potting soil doesn’t offer enough drainage.
You can buy succulent and cactus soil mix right from the store. These mixes often contain peat moss, perlite, and sand. These products help prevent soil compaction and offer excellent drainage.
Another solution is to create your own soil mix at home. Snake Plants enjoy the high level of nutrients found in potting soil. So, you can use a mix of 2/3 potting soil for nutrients and 1/3 perlite or pumice for drainage.
This soil mix can be used in a pot with or without drainage holes. The more drainage, the better!
Why Do They Sell Pots Without Drainage Holes?
It seems strange to have pots without drainage holes when practically every plant requires drainage. So why do they do this?
The simple reason is that many pots are sold for their aesthetic rather than their function. One example of this is a cachepot.
Cachepots are decorative pots meant to hide other pots that have drainage. Cachepots are often used in offices and hotels, where looks are everything! They’re also commonly used to house large floor plants to protect the floor from water damage.
If you find a beautiful pot that you want to use, simply place your existing pot (with drainage) inside the cachepot. Your plant will still get the drainage it needs, and you don’t have to sacrifice looks.
Which Plants Don’t Need Drainage?
The truth is that all plants benefit from pots with drainage holes. It makes it easier to regulate the water in the soil and lowers the chances of root rot. But it’s also true that some plants can survive in pots without drainage, most notably succulents and cacti.
Succulents and cacti are extremely drought-tolerant plants, as they store water in their foliage. They can go weeks between waterings and thrive in dry, loose soil that drains quickly. Water tends to evaporate rapidly from succulent soil, so the plants are less at risk of root rot.
How Much Should I Water My Plants Without Drainage?
When watering a typical houseplant, you ideally want to drench the soil until water runs out the drainage holes. This ensures that you are not shallow watering your plant and stunting its growth.
You should always measure out your water when you have a plant in a pot without drainage holes. You never want to drench the soil because this will cause excess water to pool at the bottom and cause root rot.
The best watering method for plants without drainage holes is to slowly water the plant until the soil is evenly moist. Keep in mind that it may take longer for the soil to dry out between waterings since there is less airflow.
The importance of drainage holes cannot be understated. Every plant, even succulents like a Snake Plant, benefits from good drainage. Snake Plants benefit from drainage holes to help keep the soil aerated, prevent salt burns, and ultimately lead to a healthier plant.
Drainage holes help drain water from the soil and provide aeration. This flow of oxygen to the roots helps prevent one of the major houseplant killers: root rot. Drainage holes also allow excess salt from fertilizers to exit the soil. Otherwise, salt will build up around the roots and prevent the proper absorption of water.
Both root rot and salt burns are issues that can and will kill your Snake Plant. Although Snake Plants can survive in pots without drainage holes, they will thrive much more in a pot with proper drainage!