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Tips and Tricks to Improve Drainage in Potted Plants

Any gardener will tell you that maintaining well-draining soil is essential to grow healthy plants. In this article, we will detail our tips to improve drainage in potted plants.

Aarushi Chadha
Potted plants need lots of care and management

A well-drained soil is described as a soil that allows water to percolate through the plant at a moderate rate without the water pooling or puddling. Soils that are well-draining are aerated and have enough space between their particles to allow water and oxygen to flow freely. Soil that is not well draining will cause the water to pool and will reduce the soil’s intake of oxygen.

The residual water that pools under the pot can cause issues such as root rot. This can make the plant susceptible to pests and diseases. Well-drained soil also reduces soil erosion and nutrient loss from runoff. It reduces the risk of soil slippage and helps retain valuable nutrients and water for use during periods of dry weather.

If you wish to know whether your plant is having drainage issues, then check the soil texture. A well-draining soil should not clump together when held in your hand and it should also not fall off like sand. It should crumble when touched lightly. Now that we understand why well-draining soil is important for our plants, let us dive deep into our tips for improving drainage in potted plants.

1. Pots with drainage holes- Sometimes drainage issues are caused by the pots we use for growing our plants. Many decorative pots don’t have drainage holes. Therefore, if you are noticing drainage issues in your plant, then consider getting terracotta, ceramic, or wooden pots. These pots are made from materials that are naturally porous and excess moisture can escape from them. We advise using a tray for pots with drainage holes as it will collect the excess water.

2. Improve the texture of the soil- Fine textured and well-compacted soil is not very porous. When water makes contact with such soil, it compacts it even further replacing all of the existing air in the pot. This results in water logging. To solve this issue, you can mix new soil of opposite texture along with organic compost.

3. Rocks for drainage- If you are currently using a pot with no drainage holes, then you should consider adding a layer of rocks at the bottom. The rocks will act as a reservoir and store all of the excess water. Therefore, there is a reduced risk of water logging and the plant can use that excess water at a later time.

4. Wood mulch- You can mix wood mulch into the soil to stabilize its moisture levels. Wood mulch will also break down into the soil over time and make it more fertile.

5. Perlite- Perlite is a white, lightweight, and highly porous material that is used for gardening and farming purposes. When mixed with soil, perlite improves aeration and drainage by reducing the weight of the potting medium. However, its dust is harmful if inhaled and when it is mixed with soil with low pH levels it can release toxic levels of aluminium.

6. Prepare the pot before planting- Before planting your plant, you can prepare your pot so that it is ready to drain excess moisture. For instance, start by putting a layer of hard material, such as broken terracotta or bricks, at the bottom of the pot. Then add a layer of organic matter such as dried grass or leaves. Both of these layers will help collect excess water and drain it out more effectively from the holes at the bottom.

7. Coarse sand- Coarse sand is popularly used in nurseries and greenhouses as an amendment for potting media because it increases the risk of potting mixes while improving drainage. However, coarse sand is not suitable for non-draining clay soil as the clay particles will fill in the places between the sand particles creating heavier and denser soil.

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