Yesterday, I showed you an email question I got from someone who stumbled upon my blog. Here it is:

>>>>Hi Liza,

I came across your blog and instantly felt at home! Thank you so much for sharing your green thumb wisdom and artistry with the rest of the world.

I’m a very new green bud and live in Canada (British Columbia), the province that has an upside of warmer winters yet the downside of rather soggy, rainy weather….. What a difference with the place where you’re writing from  – desert!

Anyway, every week I’ve been going through cravings for different plants as like these were different food flavours….. And recently it became succulents. I see lots of pictures of succulents being plunked literally in everything, from the ceramic mug to the coca cola can. However, I have a burning question – don’t these containers need a hole and a good drainage??? How is it possible to grow such a gorgeous plant in something that looks completely out of place for a container or is it done for commercial purposes?

I would appreciate your advice and tips very much!

LOVE your vertical frames!!

Sincerely, [name withheld for privacy]>>>>

Here are some examples (from Pinterest) of what she means, about succulents and herbs being planted in practically anything:






Cute, sure. But are they practical?

I asked what your answer would’ve been.

Let’s see what you had to say:

Claude from Random Rants and Prickly Plants wrote, “Well, with careful watering, it’s quite possible. drainage holes make it easier though. Some containers, like coffee cans or such, a nail and hammer takes care of that rather quickly. Other containers, placing gravel, broken pretty, even Styrofoam packing peanuts in the bottom of the container to keep the roads off of standing water.”

Ginny Burton from Burton Optician in Washington DC wrote, “I know nothing about succulents, but I think Claude is right. Anything that keeps the roots from soaking in water should work. They don’t need much water, do they? Could you just mist them heavily?”

Martha from Plowing Through Life wrote, “I think it’s best that plants have drainage holes in their containers, especially cacti and succulents that will rot easily from too much dampness. But if it’s a container that is not transparent that you have your eye on, you can plant the succulent in a pot with drainage and then place that pot inside the decorative container…like a coffee can or ceramic mug or glazed vase. Remove the plant and its pot when it’s time to water it, allow it to drain and then place it back inside the decorative pot. And because these plants don’t need watering very often, it’s easy to maintain.”

Carmen wrote, “There are lots of people that also buy special drill bits that can drill holes in different types of pots that dont have drainage holes. I hear it’s difficult to learn how to do this (lots of breaking pots), but with lots of practice, you can drill holes in just about everything. Succuleants also need very good draining soil with the pots as they rot so easily. But if you really wanna use a container that has no holes and dont wanna bother with making holes in it, then like ‘plowing through life’ says, use the container as a decorative pot and just plant the succulents/cacti in a pot with drainage holes that fits in the decorative pot so you can easily pull it out for watering.”

You guys are awesome. Here’s my actual response to her:


>>>>Hi! Thanks for writing. I’m glad you like the blog. As far as succulents are concerned, they definitely prefer to have good drainage. They will be happier, and you’ll reduce your chances of root rot (succulents can rot very quickly). That said, if you are a careful waterer, you can plant them in practically any container. Most of the ones you see out there are just good photo opps, and not for long-term planting. They can live in a container with no drainage, but you have to be very, very careful on your watering so they don’t rot.

I adore succulents. They’re beautiful, they’re easy, and they’re interesting. Good luck with them! If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

It’s almost certain that all of the above photos were taken moments after the containers were planted. Which is fine – I do that often, too. But because Pinterest doesn’t necessarily allow for instructions, there’s no chance to explain that the plants’ health could be in peril from overwatering due to lack of drainage.

You all nailed it. Claude, I’m impressed, but not one bit surprised. Ginny, they need a little more than heavy misting, but you still have the right idea. Martha, I wish I had thought to tell her about the old trick of putting a growers’ pot inside a decorative pot – that’s an excellent idea. I do that all the time in my plant business but I didn’t think to mention it to her at the time. Carmen, thank you as well for your input – tiny holes make all the difference in the world.

Well done all of you! I knew you’d get it!

I’ll be back tomorrow with an all-new Ask the Experts panel. The Experts have been on break, so we welcome their return. You still have time to guess the plant puzzler – the deadline is tonight at midnight, MST (that’s 2am EST). Leave your best guess in the comments section or on my facebook wall.

I hope to see you back here tomorrow.