Large pots can be very difficult to keep clean, but if you can get the right drainage system in place, they can make a beautiful addition to your outdoor decor. This is especially important for succulents, which store water everywhere and are not very good at letting the soil dry out between waterings.
The first step is to make sure the plant is properly suited for the container, and that it has adequate ventilation in between waterings so that excess water will not accumulate. This is an important consideration, as wet soil can cause rot in plants that are very sensitive to water.
For most plants, a drainage hole in the bottom of the container is essential for allowing excess water to drain away quickly and effectively. Many decorative pots, including ceramic and terracotta planters, have holes in the base of them that can be drilled to release drainage.
Some gardeners believe that adding gravel to the bottom of a pot improves its drainage. This is a myth, as the bottom layer of gravel is not effective at keeping soil from being saturated when overwatering occurs. Instead, the water that would have otherwise drained out of the pot “perches” in the soil above the gravel. This can lead to root rot and is not beneficial for the plants that will be growing in the bottom of the pot.
Another way to improve a pot’s drainage is by adding a small amount of sand or stone to the soil. Sand and stone have a much larger pore size than typical potting soil, and so they create a lot more pore space for water to move through.
A little sand or stone can increase the drainage of most potting soil. Just be sure to add it in as part of the soil, not a layer on top of the soil.
Clay or plastic pots are better at evaporating water and can help to improve drainage in some types of soil. If you are repotting a plant into a clay pot, consider adding a layer of compost into the soil to help to improve the texture and introduce more organic matter.
Using a porous potting medium will also improve the drainage of your pot, as clay pots evaporate water faster than non-porous potting mediums like perlite and vermiculite. This is an especially important consideration if you are growing succulents in clay or non-porous potting medium, as these plants will not do very well if they are kept constantly wet.
It’s also important to avoid lining the bottom of your pot with rocks, pebbles or other debris as this can clog the hole and prevent water from flowing out. If you use a porous potting medium, try filling the bottom of the pot with something that will help to absorb excess water and release it more quickly into the air, such as a damp coffee filter or paper towel.
A small amount of gravel in the soil can also help to improve the drainage of your pot. But again, it’s a myth that putting gravel in the bottom of the pot will prevent water from accumulating and causing root rot or other problems. This is because the layer of gravel in the pot does not change the physical properties of the potting medium, which are primarily the capillary forces that determine the movement of water within the soil.