Planters and drain holes: What you need to know

One small detail that most people do not pay attention to when purchasing planters for their interior or exterior designs is that of drainage holes. Most manufacturers make the holes in their pots automatically. And most people believe that drain holes are something that must be included on all planters for all occasions. However, that’s not always the case.

Indoor Planters

Drainage holes seem like a rather simple and straight forward concept for pots; however, where there are pros to having planters with drainage holes, there are also cons. Most people want drainage holes installed in their planters without considering whether or not they are necessary. Planters used inside businesses and homes should consider alternative irrigation techniques for potted plants instead of the classic “water and drain” technique. Not only can the drained excess water potentially cause accidents but damage flooring and surrounding furniture. Even saucers used under planters with drain holes can overflow when plants are overwatered. Fortunately, if a pot has a drain hole its still possible to use an outdoor planter inside. Try filling the holes with cement, rubber stoppers, or caulking before planting. For small indoor pots with drainage holes and saucers, adding water into the saucer works better more often than watering from the top.

Outdoor Planters

Where planters really benefit from drainage holes is outdoors. Proper drainage is essential for all outdoor plants. Water should never be allowed to sit in planters for long periods of time. In nature, water falls to the ground but does not sit around the roots of plants. Instead the water keeps flowing downward and outward or evaporates as the ground is heated. This keeps plants from drowning or becoming exposed to potentially harmful molds and fungi. Potted plants have it a little harder. Water has nowhere to go in a planter that has no drainage and can possibly kill plants within 24 hours. Having drainage holes in outdoor planters is one of the best ways to keep plants happy and healthy. In most cases one drainage hole is enough. Pots that already have drainage holes are made that way by the manufacturer and have the structural integrity and functionality needed.


4509_7504__47377-1453313263-1280-1280For planters kept on outdoor patios or decks, drainage holes can be a blessing and a curse. Again, plants in these containers (especially those exposed to rain), need proper drainage. But the water flowing from the bottom of the planter can cause discoloration on flooring or furniture. This would be a good place to utilize a saucer under a planter. Slow down the drainage with a bottle cap, ball of burlap, or small stone over the hole can help if saucers are unavailable. Keep the water from being trapped under the base by using pot feet/risers under the planters. That should also help to minimize any damage/discoloration. Sitting water is what causes the most damage around businesses and homes. Lifting the base of a planter off of a flat surface will allow the water to keep moving.

Before including a potted garden anywhere, first consider the irrigation for the plants and the area around the garden. Though drainage holes are convenient and necessary in most cases, remember that the excess water from pots can and will cause damage in and around buildings. Taking into consideration some of the suggestions above should help keep plants healthy and people happy.
By: Susan Soler of the Team