How to Provide Drainage for Potted Plants


Potted plants bring color and character to rooms, decks and porches. No matter the type of plant being grown in a container, from ornamental favorites such as orchids to container-variety vegetables and herbs, proper soil drainage is essential for the health, beauty and productivity of the plant. Choosing the right container and the right planting medium ensure that your favorite potted plants will receive just the right amount of moisture and nutrients needed to survive season after season.

Step 1

Choose only those containers that have a pre-made drainage hole located in the bottom. Pots without drainage holes leave plants susceptible to root rot or decay from excess moisture levels.

Step 2

Place a layer of charcoal and then a layer of gravel or broken pottery pieces in the bottom of the container to prevent soil from spilling out through the drainage hole. Oregon State University Extension Service notes that charcoal not only assists with drainage but also helps remove noxious gases and other detrimental materials from the water.

Step 3

Create a well-draining potting mix by combining equal amounts of potting mix and perlite or sand. This blend will allow water to flow freely around the root system and prevent waterlogging.

Step 4

Transplant potted plants when roots become crowded and begin growing through the drainage hole. The Texas Agriculture Extension service advises using a clean container no more than 2 inches larger, in circumference, than the current pot.

Tips and Warnings

  • Adding gravel or broken pottery to containers that do not have drainage holes will not improve the soil's drainage capacity, as water simply remains in the bottom of the container.

Things You'll Need

  • Containers (various sizes)
  • Potting soil
  • Perlite or coarse sand
  • Gravel or broken pottery pieces
  • Charcoal (optional)
  • Water
  • Saucer or pan


  • Texas Agricultural Extension Service: House Plants
  • Oregon State University Extension Service: Good Drainage Crucial to Any Potted Plant
Keywords: houseplant irrigation, drainage for houseplants, container plant watering

About this Author

Deborah Waltenburg has been a freelance writer since 2002. In addition to her work for Demand Studios, Waltenburg has written for websites such as Freelance Writerville and Constant Content, and has worked as a ghostwriter for travel/tourism websites and numerous financial/debt reduction blogs.