9 Plants That Don’t Need Drainage Holes

Nearly all plants need good drainage to survive in a container for a very long. But not all pots come equipped with drainage holes, and allowing water to flow freely from the bottom of your houseplants is bound to make a mess.

In this article, I’ll tell you about 9 plants that don’t need drainage to live. I’ll also offer some candid advice on whether it’s really worth growing these plants in non-draining containers.

Why Is Drainage Important To Plant Health?

Any plant grown in potting soil needs drainage holes in order to thrive and remain healthy for the foreseeable future. Drainage holes have the simple job of allowing excess water to flow out of the container rather than pooling at the bottom. 

While some plant species are more tolerant of damp growing conditions, soggy soil will eventually take a toll on the plant’s well-being in one or more ways. Common issues that arise from poor drainage include:

  • Insufficient oxygen — Plant roots absorb oxygen from small air pockets within the soil. When the soil is oversaturated with water, these air pockets cease to exist. If a plant is unable to take up oxygen through its roots, it will essentially ‘suffocate’ in its pot.
  • Root rot — Poor drainage encourages the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi in the soil. Some of these pathogens degrade plant roots, causing a condition called root rot. Affected plants are unable to effectively absorb moisture, oxygen, and nutrients from the soil.
  • Salt buildup — Most fertilizers contain nutrients in the form of chemical salts. Excess salts will build up in the soil if there are no drainage holes for them to exit through. Salt buildup can cause root damage and other symptoms of fertilizer burn.

Houseplants You Can Grow Without Drainage

Some popular houseplants can survive in pots without drainage holes as long as you provide the perfect amount of water. Others can be grown in water alone — no soil required.

As you read through the info below, I urge you to pay attention to the things I’ve highlighted about each plant. These include:

  • How much sunlight the plant needs to thrive.
  • How difficult it is to grow the plant in a container without drainage holes.
  • Whether or not the plant is potentially toxic to pets or small children.

Also, keep in mind that most of these plants are a lot easier to grow if you use a container with good drainage. So be sure to weigh the pros and cons before you decide to skip the drainage holes altogether.

Lucky Bamboo

1. Lucky Bamboo

Dracaena sanderiana

  • Light Needs: Bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to cats and dogs

Despite its name, Lucky Bamboo is not actually a type of bamboo. Instead, it belongs to the large genus Dracaena.

Lucky Bamboo is one of a handful of houseplants that can survive in a container filled with water. This allows Lucky Bamboo to be grown without drainage holes. 

You’ll often see these plants sold in clear, glass containers that put the intricate root system on full display. Lucky Bamboo may be grown in water alone or supported with clean pebbles arranged in the bottom of the container.

When growing Lucky Bamboo in water, it’s important to change the water at least every week. Top up the water as needed to keep the roots submerged at all times. I recommend deep-cleaning the container and pebbles (if used) every month or so, or any time you notice an odor coming from the container.

Spider Plant

2. Spider Plant

Chlorophytum comosum

  • Light Needs: Bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic, mildly hallucinogenic to cats

The Spider Plant, sometimes called an Airplane Plant, is another popular houseplant capable of growing in plain water. 

Spider Plants have long, thin leaves that look a lot like blades of grass. They also famously produce ‘baby’ plants at the end of long stems. These ‘babies’ can be separated from the parent to create additional Spider Plants.

Note that a Spider Plant is unlikely to survive in the water longer than a few months. These plants need potting soil (and a container with drainage holes) for optimal health.

Air Plant

3. Air Plant

Tillandsia spp.

  • Light Needs: Medium or bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic

The genus Tillandsia contains over 600 species of epiphytes commonly known as Air Plants. Epiphytes are plants that grow on other plants — often large trees — rather than in the ground.

Air Plants don’t need soil. They also don’t need a container filled with water! 

Caring for one of these unique houseplants instead involves soaking or misting the plant with water on a regular basis. Most Air Plants are kept in open-air terrariums or decorative containers.

Chinese Evergreen

4. Chinese Evergreen

Aglaonema spp.

  • Light Needs: Bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Expert
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to cats and dogs

The Chinese Evergreen is a tropical houseplant known for being easy to grow indoors. With some extra work, it’s even possible to grow this plant in a container without adequate drainage.

If you want to grow a Chinese Evergreen in a non-draining pot, you need to be very attentive and detail-oriented.

I recommend using loose, sandy soil and filling the bottom of the container with large pebbles to give excess water somewhere to go. Water the Chinese Evergreen sparingly to prevent too much water from collecting in the bottom of the container at one time. 

All in all, this growing method is a lot more difficult than just planting a Chinese Evergreen in well-draining soil and an appropriate container with holes.

Prayer Plant

5. Prayer Plant

Maranta leuconeura

  • Light Needs: Moderate or bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic

Prayer Plants have attractive, multi-colored leaves that automatically fold up in response to darkness. This behavior — known as nyctinasty — is what inspired the plant’s common name.

The Prayer Plant is an example of a houseplant that can be grown in water. Keep in mind, however, that these plants usually only survive for a few months at a time without soil.

You can also grow a Prayer Plant in a non-draining pot. To do so, fill the bottom of the container with a thick layer of pebbles. Fill the rest of the container with an all-purpose, slightly acidic potting soil.

The usual rule of thumb is to water your Prayer Plant whenever the top of the soil becomes dry. When caring for a plant without drainage holes, however, you need to be extra conservative with water to prevent oversaturating the soil.

Lemon Button Fern

6. Lemon Button Fern

Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’

  • Light Needs: Bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic

The Lemon Button Fern is a lesser-known variety worth considering if you’ve struggled to keep ferns alive in the past. It’s a very hardy houseplant that can survive in a container with zero drainage.

Again, this plant requires that you fill the bottom of its container with pebbles or similar material if there are no drainage holes. This step gives excess water somewhere to go away from the root system.

Lemon Button Ferns also fare well in terrariums (which rarely have significant drainage). Regardless of the container, be careful not to oversaturate the soil. Doing so will put the plant at risk of root rot.

Peace Lily

7. Peace Lily

Spathiphyllum spp.

  • Light Needs: Moderate or bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to cats and dogs

Did you know that you can grow Peace Lilies in water? While this technique is relatively uncommon, it’s an effective way to grow this houseplant in a container without drainage.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the best way to grow a Peace Lily in water is by suspending the base of the plant above the water’s surface. The roots should reach the water but the rest of the plant should be kept dry to prevent decay.

Orchid - Plants that Don't Need Drainage

8. Orchid

Orchidaceae

  • Light Needs: Bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Expert
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic

The vast majority of Orchid species are naturally epiphytic, meaning that they grow in places like tree branches instead of in soil. These varieties easily adapt to being grown in water.

Growing Orchids hydroponically is a bit more complicated than just placing the plant in a glass of water. According to Gardening Know How common varieties respond well to being soaked for 2 days and then left in the open air for 5 days.

Arrowhead

9. Arrowhead

Syngonium spp.

  • Light Needs: Bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to cats and dogs

Arrowhead plants are climbing vines with large, triangular leaves. While these plants are typically grown in potting soil, cuttings can be rooted and kept in clean water for weeks or months at a time.

For the best results, use distilled, room-temperature water that is changed out every few days. I recommend placing your Arrowhead in a clear container so you can easily monitor root health and water cleanliness.

FAQs Plants that Don’t Need Drainage

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.