When it comes to ensuring your plants thrive, it’s important to provide them with the best start.  Adding clever drainage to your planters will help keep them healthy and live longer.  In this handy guide, we share tips on what to put in the bottom of a planter for drainage.


What type of planters are best?

If you are shopping for new outside planters, always look for those that already have drainage holes.  Drainage holes allow excess water to drain away and so prevents the roots of your plants from rotting.  But, if your favourite planter designs don’t come with drainage holes, you can always drill their base several times with a masonry drill bit yourself.

There’s thousands of attractive and practical planters available to choose from, whether you have a traditional or a more contemporary outside space.  Plus, with so many different planter materials available, from wood to zinc and from stone to Poly-Terrazzo, you really are spoiled for choice.

NB Always remember to consider the size and growing potential of your favourite plants to be potted before you purchase.

What do you line the bottom of a planter with?

One of the best things to put at the bottom of a planter for drainage is broken pieces of pot.  You can use any unwanted plant pots or chipped crockery for this – simply smash them up into small to medium-sized pieces.  Adding a layer of broken pieces of pot like this will prevent compost loss out of the drainage holes.  It will also stop the drainage holes from becoming blocked.  

If you have small planters to fill, try lining their bases with old newspaper instead.  The newspaper will allow excess water to drain freely away through the drainage holes, but prevent the compost from being flushed out.For outdoor planters that will be kept outside throughout the year, it’s worth lining them with a plastic liner.  Pond liners work well for lining the bottom of a planter.  Simply push the liner into the base of the planter and cut drainage holes in the bottom using household or gardening scissors.  Fill your planter with compost and then trim away any excess liner from the top.

What can I add to potting soil to make it drain better?

There are several things you can do to help improve your potting soil.  Soil amendments such as perlite, mulch and sand will all help to prevent your potting compost and fertiliser from becoming too compacted inside your planters.  

Coco Coir is a great option for adding extra drainage to your soil mix.  Peat free and made from coconut husks, this environmentally friendly compost contains perlite and volcanic glass which will help make your soil much more porous.  Perfect for improving their drainage and for keeping your plants happy.

nicola clements

Nicola Clements has been working with brands and publications in the gardening and lifestyle sectors for many years.  As well as regularly writing for The English Garden‘s website, Nicola is also a contributing gardening editor to Wildflower magazine.  In her spare time, Nicola can be found pottering in her garden, where she hones her skills, ready to pass on her expert advice to amateur and seasoned gardeners.