It can be tricky trying to avoid overwatering your plants when they’re in pots, but if your soil and container are causing poor drainage, it will make things a lot more difficult. Bad drainage can lead to excess moisture collecting at the root level. Stagnant water in a damp, dark place is a recipe for rot, and that’s not something you want around your plant’s roots!
There are a few simple ways to make sure your plant pots have good drainage. If your plants seem to keep succumbing to over-watering, even if you’re certain you’ve scaled back on how much you water, it may very likely be a drainage issue.
Ensuring Good Drainage In Your Soil
While there are a few potted plants that are comfortable in consistently moist soil, most houseplants prefer their soil to dry out between watering. All-purpose potting soil typically has good drainage because it’s full of organic material like shredded bark and peat; however, some plants need something lighter and airier.
Waterlogging your soil will wash away the oxygen content and cause it to get compacted. Every year or two, it’s a good idea to repot your plants into slightly bigger pots to allow for their roots to spread. This is an awesome opportunity to replace some of that old crusty soil with fresh, loose soil. If you find compaction has been a recurring issue, you can mix in some extra peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite.
Succulents and cacti do best in a potting mix that’s made for drought-tolerant, desert-dwelling plants. These mixes typically have a much higher bark content and are very loose and chunky. The chances of this potting mix getting compacted and soggy are pretty minimal. However, you shouldn’t use a succulent potting mix for common houseplants like pothos or philodendron because the drainage is too good, and it won’t hold onto moisture long enough.
Other Ways to Improve Drainage In Plant Pots
On top of monitoring your soil drainage, there are other ways to improve the flow of moisture through your plant pots. Try out these simple hacks for preventing water buildup:
- Try using plant pots with drainage holes in the bottom. You may want to place the pot on top of a saucer or just water it over the sink. This way, when excess moisture drains out the bottom, it won’t make a mess and stain your furniture.
- Use tall planters. Plants with shallow root systems, like succulents, can be kept in smaller containers with no issue. However, many other plants will adapt well to plant pots that are taller with plenty of room for their roots to grow.
- Keep your plant in the container they came in, then pop that inside a planter. This is a great way to skip the step of repotting, and potentially stressing out your plant. You can take it out and water it over the sink, let the water drain through the drainage holes, then place it back in the planter.
- Be careful about overwatering. Going overboard with the aqua can kill a plant way faster than under-watering. If your plant pot doesn’t have drainage holes, it’s especially important to be mindful about how much water you use, and how often.
What do you put in the bottom of a planter for drainage?
Okay, time for a myth bust! Though many folks have long insisted that putting pebbles at the bottom of a plant pot will help drainage, this isn’t actually true. The same goes for other materials like broken dishes or marbles—there’s really no benefit, so just leave ’em out and stick to potting soil.
Studies show that water doesn’t actually flow through pebbles very well. In a plant pot, that moisture will accumulate on the top of the pebbles, saturating the soil with moisture, resulting in what’s called a “perched water table.” Using a high-quality soil, and being careful not to overwater will serve you much better than putting a layer of pebbles in a planter.
Caring for plants in pots is easy when you’ve got good drainage. We carry some absolutely gorgeous pots and containers at OC Succulents that are suitable for indoors and outdoors! From your basic standards to artful ceramics that look like works of art, we’ve got the perfect pots to suit your style. Visit us soon to see the whole collection!