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Potted Plants Dying? Check the Drainage

1000 Words Photos/Shutterstock

Avid gardeners will tell you how vital it is to have the right soil, a proper-sized container, and much more. Like most new hobbies, it can feel challenging to wrap your brain around all that new information. We’re here to remind you about drainage.

Sufficient drainage holes are often the determining factor in whether or not your plants make it through the season. Here’s why.

The Importance of Proper Drainage

Adequate drainage is vital, especially for a potted plant. When you water that beautifully planted work of nature, the excess water must have somewhere to go. If it becomes trapped in the container, you can drown (or rot) the plant roots—this is called water logging.

In a traditional (in-ground) garden, the surplus of water flows and drains into multiple layers of soil below your garden. However, it is essential to note the flooding and waterlogging a traditional garden is also possible as well.

Oxygen cannot reach the roots when they sit in soil saturated in water for long periods. In turn, your roots will rot, causing your pretty plants to die as well.

No Holes? Drill a Few Yourself

In search of a decorative planter, make sure to look for adequate drainage holes. Even one small hole in the center isn’t sufficient enough, but there is an easy fix.

If this is what you end up purchasing, you’ll want to drill a few holes yourself. Make sure to use precaution and wear safety goggles to protect your eyes.

Use a masonry bit to drill through a ceramic or plastic container carefully. Once you’ve drilled at least three to five holes on the bottom of the pot, cover the holes with something durable but permeable like a scrap of window screen mesh. Placing a permeable filter will keep the soil from draining through the holes you’ve created.


Potted plants are more likely to die from root rot, rather than underwatering, so be sure to check that drainage, and keep them healthy.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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