You wouldn’t dream of depriving your indoor plant of well-draining soil, as drainage is a natural part of its care. After all, if the water within the soil has nowhere to go, then your plant can get root rot, right? Yet lately you’ve heard that some plants do better without drainage. Which ones are these?
13 indoor plants that don’t need drainage:
- Snake plant
- Spider plant
- Kupukupu fern
- Lucky bamboo
- Autograph tree
- Pineapple plant
These 13 Indoor Plants Thrive Without Drainage
The snake plant is frequently written about here at Indoor Plants for Beginners. If you’re interested in learning a lot more about the many types of snake plants I’d recommend checking out one of our articles specifically on snake plants, Snake Plant Care 101: “Everything You Need to Know“.
If you’ve already read that article or any of the others I’ve written, then you should know some of its basics. If you don’t, I’ll recap for you now.
The snake plant or Dracaena trifasciata hails from West Africa’s tropics, including parts of the Congo and Nigeria. It’s in the Asparagaceae family and is known for its long, blade-like leaves that stand straight up.
Although it’s not as common, you can grow your snake plant in water instead of traditional soil.
You can even plunk your snake plant cuttings into a small bowl of water and the cuttings will slowly grow up into a healthy snake plant. Just make sure to tie the base of the snake plant together when growing it in water to encourage the leaves to remain upright.
Next, we’ve got an indoor plant that’s a little less familiar. Coleus, an ex-Lamiaceae family member, has since been reclassified. Today, the coleus is recognized as being a part of the Plectranthus genus.
This beautiful houseplant has teardrop-shaped leaves with neon green patterned borders. The centers of these indoor plants are often bright pink, a dark brick red, or purple-ish, sometimes even a rare mixture of these colors.
When your coleus plant is new and young, you can start its life by growing it in water instead of soil. If you produce cuttings of this indoor plant, you can also grow them in water, at least for a few months. Then you’d have to switch them to soil for continued growth.
While in the water, avoid growing coleus in fluoride or chlorine, both of which often come from tap water. Every week or so, replace the water so algae doesn’t develop. The coleus likes a temperature of about 75 degrees Fahrenheit as well as plenty of sunlight, either from a nearby window or a grow light.
How about we change the pace with some flowers? The appealing oleander is a tree or shrub plant. It belongs in the Apocynaceae family with other dogbanes. Due to its wide cultivation, no one’s quite sure where the oleander comes from, but southwest Asia seems to be a likely origin location.
I’d like to point out that oleander plants are toxic. If you have small children or pets in the house then, the oleander might be one indoor plant to skip.
For those of you who are lucky enough to find yourselves living with a cat or cats as well as indoor plants, here’s an article on how to deter your cats from trying to munch on your indoor plants.
Should you find the conditions are right for you to grow an oleander (even in your office), they can survive with little to no drainage. This flowering plant is not even particularly picky about its soil.
Every week, feed the oleander between one and two inches of water. Give it full sun as well, but watch that the plant isn’t sunning for too long, as this may restrict growth.
The spider plant is another very common indoor plant that is relatively easy to recognize because of it’s long and thin fronds. Spider plants are generally easy to care which makes them great first plants for people who are brand new to caring for plants as well as people who struggle with keeping plants alive.
If the color of your spider plant begins to look pale or if the leaves, or “fronds”, aren’t able to stand up on their own you’ll want to read the recent article I wrote, on that common issue regarding spider plants looking pale and limp.
The spider plant or Chlorophytum comosum in the Asparagaceae family comes from southern and tropical Africa. The conditions there allow the slim, spider-like legs of this houseplant to grow long. This houseplant can even flower, and it produces stunning white blooms.
When a spider plant is still its plantlet stage, which is when it’s incredibly young, you can begin growing this indoor plant in water. Doing so later in the plant’s life may cause root rot, so please do start it early.
Check that the water you use is free of fluoride, as this can cause the spider plant’s green leaves to become brown. Bottled water is your friend over tap water then.
The cordyline, a type of monocotyledonous plant with a woody texture, has more than 20 other species in its genus. These pretty flowering plants belong to the Lomandroideae subfamily and the Asparagaceae family. They’re known for their lengthy deep red leaves with lighter red/pink details. Some are even dark green with a mix of pink or red within, making them a standout in any indoor garden.
Depending on the species of cordyline plant you’re working with, some can do well without drainage while others can’t. Make sure you know which you’re working with before bringing it home (or to your office).
It’s also best if you grow your cordyline from cuttings, as these are less picky about drainage conditions. When you do water the houseplant, once again be careful that you don’t use tap water. The salts that could be present in this water can cause leaf browning.
Both an indoor and outdoor plant, the fun Kupukupu plant or Nephrolepis cordifolia is a sword fern hailing from the warm waters of Hawaii.
Its vivid, bright green stolons (another name for a fern’s grouping of stems) can grow on fern trees or in soil. The stolons may develop tubers underground, a Kupukupu fern trademark. These tubers promote the reproduction of the houseplant as well as allow the fern to hold onto the food you give it. You know, like enjoying leftovers!
You may want to stick to one Kupukupu fern at a time, as multiples tend to try to outgrow each other. Grown indoors, this houseplant can then easily hog up your indoor garden.
Since the fern can grow on things like trees and rock walls, you have plenty of non-draining options for this houseplant. Avoid standing water though, as this could cause the leaves of the Kupukupu fern to yellow.
With roughly 1,000 different species within its Araceae family, the anthurium, also known as the laceleaf, is quite a large plant species! It’s important to know that the Anthurium also goes by the names The flamingo and Tailflower, both of which refer to the plant’s large flower with a lengthy center stalk.
The flower is actually a bract, or a specialized leaf that acts as a flower. The bract is often red, but it’s not unheard of to come across anthurium plants with pink or even white bracts.
To promote the blooming of your anthurium, provide medium to moderate light. If you can position the houseplant so that it grows beneath a bigger one, that’s ideal, since that’s how the anthurium grows out in nature. Don’t be surprised if the anthurium begins growing quickly under these conditions, the right care goes a long way with anthuriums.
Water your anthurium weekly, but pay close attention to the amount of water and I’d suggest avoiding trying to grow them in water, as the laceleaf is very prone to root rot if conditions get too wet.
This particular “bamboo” is one that can grow in water as well as it grows in soil. For more in depth care for your lucky bamboo I recommend checking out the “Houseplants you can Grow Without Soil” article we published just a few weeks ago where I included the lucky bamboo.
The Dracaena sanderiana, A.K.A. Lucky Bamboo, isn’t an actual bamboo. Rather, it’s a great mimic from the Asparagaceae family member that hails from Central Africa. Highly favored in India as a preferred houseplant, the lucky bamboo will win you over with its unique looks and interesting growing conditions.
Other care components of the lucky bamboo include providing moderate light, as the more light the plant gets, the more it grows. You also want to change out its water when you see algal growth, so depending on the amount of light and the humidity changing the water can range from every few days to every couple of months.
Just keep a close eye on the algae build up and you’ll get a feel for it’s particular fresh water needs within a few weeks.
When it comes to Lucky Bamboo, don’t use tap water if you can help it, as the leaves of the lucky bamboo may turn yellow or brown, perhaps even both. This is due to the salt and fluoride in most tap water.
Another colorful plant for your indoor garden is the croton or Codiaeum variegatum. A Euphorbiaceae family member in the Codiaeum genus, the croton comes from such parts of the world as the western Pacific Ocean Islands, Australia, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
In its natural habitat, croton tends to show up among scrub and open forests, but it does just as well as an indoor plant in your office or home. There, it may sprout its trademark green, yellow, and dark red leaves.
If you have a few croton cuttings to spare, you can take them and grow them in water, no drainage required. Each cutting should be at least six inches long for best results; if you have them, a 12-inch long cutting is even better.
Also, the cutting should be relatively thick. The thicker Croton cuttings tend to do much better in water.
Then, trim any lower leaves while leaving the growing tips as is. Put the leaves in water between 65 and 77 degrees. Within five weeks, the roots will grab hold and you’ll have a croton growing in water!
If you’re still looking for a good indoor plant that doesn’t need drainage, try the schefflera. This Araliaceae family member includes upwards of 900 species.
While not all can grow without drainage, the octopus and umbrella tree species can.
You can also potentially take cuttings of the schefflera and grow them in water. While the houseplant won’t sprout up to 60+ feet tall like it would outdoors, you can still have a healthy, appealing plant to greet you in your home or office.
The schefflera prefers direct sun, as it’s used to growing in summer-type weather. Even medium light or fine light will promote growth, although not as much as direct sunlight would. The plant only needs fertilizer about once a year, and by using general-purpose fertilizer, you might be able to increase the speed at which your schefflera grows.
Here’s a plant that may be new to you: the autograph tree or Clusia rosea. It has a lot of other nicknames too, such as the Scotch attorney, the pitch-apple, the balsam apple, the cupey, and the copey.
A Clusia genus plant, the autograph tree naturally grows in sub-tropical and tropical conditions. Also, despite its name, it’s not a tree, but just a plant.
It was introduced to Hawaii purely for decoration, where it became beloved for the fruit it produces. These fruits look like an apple in size but come in a green hue.
Give the autograph tree some shade, but make sure it gets at least some medium light as well. Try to keep the conditions in your home or office on the warmer side, maintaining a temperature no lower than 60 degrees.
If you’re in the mood to, you can even raise the thermostat to 85 degrees, as the autograph tree loves those higher temps. Induce humidity by using a gravel tray filled with water.
Did you know you can not only grow your own pineapple indoors, but in multiple container options including a pot , planter, a glass or just a container of water? It’s true!
You do need a pineapple top, often referred to as the “pineapple crown“, to start with, so head to the grocery store when this tropical, tasty fruit is in season and pick up a whole pineapple to take home to start this pineapple propagation method.
Then, take it home and remove only its crown, which is the green part with the leaves. To do this, firmly grasp the pineapple’s body and twist the leaves off one by one.
If twisting doesn’t work, then cut from the top of the pineapple and pull the leaves that way.
Next, trim each leaf so there’s no leftover fruit residue. Allow your leaves to dry out over seven days while upside down so the ends harden up.
From there, add some toothpicks to the crown so it will stay in position in your glass of water. Once the bottom of the freshly cut pineapple crown is in the water, give it full sun and within 2-4 weeks, roots from the portion of the pineapple crown that is touching the water will begin growing and sprouting roots.
Do indoor plants need saucers?
No, not all indoor plants need a saucer. If it serves one of the purposes described below or you just prefer the look of a saucer beneath your potted plant then by all means use one but they are not a necessity.
A shallow dish or a saucer beneath your houseplant serves multiple purposes. For some plants, the saucer can be used to catch excess water that leaks out of your pots drainage holes.
You can also fill the saucer with pebbles and warm water and put it beneath your houseplant’s pot, as an easy way to increase the humidity around your plant.
How do you know if your houseplant needs a saucer? If you’re growing a plant in soil, watch where the water goes after pouring it into the plant.
If it’s dribbling out of the drainage holes in large quantities, then yes, you might want to consider a saucer. Otherwise, the water can soak your flooring, wrecking hardwood, carpet, and anything around it.
As for using saucers for humidity, that will depend. If you have a humidity-loving plant, such as the autograph tree, then a saucer is a much more effective way of creating humidity than misting. Alternately, you can use a humidifier.
Why do some pots not have holes?
It’s something that has happened to many an indoor gardener. You excitedly pick out a plant, focusing more on the look of the houseplant than its pot.
Then you get it home, go to water your plant, and realize the pot has no drainage holes. Why do plant stores and other retailers even sell plant pots without drainage holes?
Hole-free pots tend to have a posh, upscale look that’s undoubtedly appealing. Unfortunately, these pots without drainage holes aren’t always as functional as containers for growing certain types of indoor plants.
The water has nowhere to go when you pour it into a pot without drain holes so be very careful with how much water you’re pouring into it. You also want to avoid planting indoor plants that a prone to root rot or generally don’t do well with standing water in containers without holes n the bottom for drainage.
The best option is to move your plant to a more porous yet smaller pot that does have drainage holes. Then, put that pot inside the original one.
You’ll still have to dump the excess water so it doesn’t linger, but hey, it’s like having your cake and eating it, too.
Can you plant succulents in pots without holes?
Yes! You can most certainly plant succulents in pots & containers without holes for drainage. While I wouldn’t recommend it to a newbie, with a little guidance and experience you can learn to keep succulents alive, in a container regardless of it having a drainage hole or not.
Succulents can hold onto a lot of water, storing it for later. While they could still develop root rot or even turn black if you over water them, if you use a really well-draining soil, then there’s enough air in the soil that this won’t happen. The soil also promotes faster water evaporation.
Whether you choose a hole-less pot for your succulents or another indoor plant, don’t add pebbles or rocks for drainage. Putting rocks or pebbles in the bottom of a container to help with drainage is something we’ve discussed before, but these pebbles don’t aerate the soil like some gardeners claim. Instead, they prevent aeration and could trap in water, leading to root rot for your poor plant.