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How to Capture Drainage Water From a Large Pot

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017

Planters must have drainage holes in the bottom so the soil doesn't become too soggy and drown the roots of the plant. Large planters pose a problem because they may not have drip trays to catch the draining water, or they are too heavy to move to empty the trays. Letting them drain freely leads to wet spots on patios that are unattractive, may lead to mold growth or may cause staining from fertilizer salts in the water. Creating a drainage system for the large planters to capture the water prevents these issues.

Measure the width of the container and add 4 inches to the measurement to determine the size of drip tray needed. Measure round containers across the widest part to find the measurement.

Purchase a separate drip tray from a garden center that fits the required measurement. Alternatively, use a water heater tray for large pots or a large plastic serving tray for small pots. Wheeled plant carts with attached drip trays are also available from garden centers and make planters easier to move.

Set the planter on top the drip tray. If possible, do this before adding the soil and plants to the planter. Otherwise, have someone help you lift the heavy planter.

Water the plant as the soil surface begins to dry. Add water until it begins dripping out of the bottom drainage holes and into the drip tray.

Use a clean turkey baster to suck the water out of the drip tray. Squeeze the water into a watering can and use it on other plants or in the garden. Most of the excess water will drain from the planter within 30 minutes of watering.


Things You Will Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Drip tray
  • Turkey baster


  • You can also fill the drip tray with a layer of rocks then set the planter on top the rocks. The excess water will evaporate out of the rocks without coming in contact with the planter.
  • Large planters with drainage hoses are available. Set the hoses so they drain into a nearby planting bed or a second pot when you water.


  • Use a new, clean turkey baster and set it aside for use only in the garden. Otherwise, soil pathogens may be transferred to your kitchen and vice versa.

About the Author


Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.