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Planting Succulents in Containers Without Drainage? Drill Your Own!

You know that healthy, happy succulents rely on proper watering and that drainage holes are important. But you have found the cutest pot, and just know your succulents would look great in it. The only problem is that there are no drainage holes. We gardeners seem to go through stores, turning every fun container upside down, looking for signs it will be great for our succulents. Skip the angst, and learn how to drill a hole in a ceramic pot perfectly — every time. Learning how to drill ceramic pots for drainage will open up so many opportunities to decorate your home and garden, while still ensuring your succulent plants’ health. Let’s see exactly what’s involved in drilling ceramic, and how to drill a hole in concrete, too!

How to Drill a Hole in a Ceramic Pot or Cement Bowl

{Please note, some links in this post may be affiliate links to sites that pay me a small commission if you click on the link and make a purchase. This commission is at absolutely no cost to you. I only recommend products and companies that I have worked with and truly love! ~Kat}

How to Drill a Hole in Concrete or Ceramic

how to drill a hole in a ceramic pot supplies
Supplies for drilling ceramic and concrete containers

When you are planting succulents in containers without drainage, you have two options. To plant, and then take extra care with the watering — or to drill your own drainage holes. Today, we are going to look at creating drainage in a variety of types of pots for your succulents. For wood, plastic or thin metal, use a general-purpose drill bit. For concrete, clay, porcelain, tile or glazed ceramic, you will need a specialty bit. Selecting the right drill bit for drilling ceramic or concrete is important, as is your drilling technique.

You will need:

*Always remember to wear safety glasses when drilling ceramic or concrete!

How to Drill a Hole in Concrete

use a masonry bit for how to drill a hole in a concrete pot
Use a masonry bit to drill drainage holes in concrete planters

If you have a concrete or cement container, you will need a masonry drill bit. A masonry drill bit is often tipped with carbide for longer life and durability. Unlike a general purpose bit for wood, your masonry bit will not be cutting the concrete, stone or brick, but abrading it, or wearing a hole in the material through focused friction.

To drill a hole in concrete, set the pot on a piece of scrap wood. That way, when the bit drills through the concrete, it won’t go through the top of your table. Be sure to lay the pot with the flat bottom on the wood, rather than upside down on just the rim. This way, the weight of the container, and the force of the drill bit will be spread evenly across the breadth of the container’s bottom. You won’t risk cracking or breaking the material the way you would if you drill it upside down. Set the masonry drill bit near the center, and begin to drill very slowly. To drill through concrete and avoid the risk of breaking it, slow is the key. For a small container like this, a single hole should work well. For larger containers, add additional drainage holes. Be sure to drill at least one full inch from the edge of your planter. Drain holes should be at least one inch apart.

Covering Drainage Holes in Pots
after drilling a hole in a concrete pot, use drywall mesh to cover the hole
Cover the drainage hole with drywall mesh to keep soil in and allow water to flow out.

Once you have added a drainage hole to your container, now, how to keep the soil in? While there are a number of strategies, including using broken pottery shards, or coffee filters, I like to use drywall joint tape. It is a mesh tape that comes in a roll. The mesh allows water to pass, while keeping the large, gritty particles of the soil inside the pot. Very inexpensive, with a bit of adhesive on the back to keep it in place. One roll does loads of pots, and it stores away nice and tidy in my succulent care kit.

Now, just add soil and succulents!

How to Drill a Hole in a Ceramic Pot

use a diamond grit drill bit for drilling concrete
Use a diamond grit tile drilling bit to drill drainage in ceramic pots

Learning how to drill a hole in a ceramic pot is highly rewarding — and potentially addicting! 🙂 When you will be drilling ceramic, the correct bit is crucial. Because this mug is precious to me – it was the last gift my Mother gave me – I wanted to be sure I got a good, clean hole the first time, with no breakage. So I skipped the spear point drill bits as just too iffy in their results. Instead, I selected a diamond grit tile drilling bit for drilling holes in ceramic. Not only did I get perfect results, I will be able to drill hundreds more with this same bit! Yes, I am sure my husband is thrilled! 😉

Technique for Drilling Ceramic – Start with 45 Degree Angle
technique for how to drill a hole in a ceramic pot
Begin drilling ceramic with the bit at a 45 degree angle to the surface

The technique for drilling ceramic with a diamond grit tile bit is a bit different from drilling wood or concrete. I recommend that you try it first on a piece of scrap tile or a glass jar to get the feel of it. You will want to spray water on the drill bit and on the ceramic all throughout the drilling. It is essential to keep the bit and the ceramic surface wet while you drill. The will keep both the bit and the ceramic cool, and enhance the bit’s drilling action, ensuring a smoother hole, and longer life for the drill bit. Spray water on the ceramic where you will drill. A small puddle is great*. Do not be concerned about mixing water with electricity – you’re not. The electric motor is far from the drill bit.

Set the drill bit on the ceramic pot at a 45-degree angle. Slowly, start the drill. This will be a slow process, so don’t get impatient.

*A reader, Sandy Walls, offers a terrific top! When drilling ceramic, use a small rope of plumber’s putty, or modelling clay to form a circle on the ceramic where you will be drilling. Make it into a dam of sorts, to hold a small puddle of water. This will mean you won’t have to keep spraying the entire time you are drilling. If the puddle runs dry, spray more water. Thanks, Sandy!

Drilling Ceramic
Go slowly when drilling a drainage hole in ceramic. This divot is an important stage

After drilling for about 45 seconds, stop and take a look at your progress. You will have created a divot in the ceramic where the drill bit will sit comfortably, without running around on the cup. Spray with more water, and resume drilling at the 45-degree angle. Then slowly move the drill bit into an upright position, so that you are drilling at a 90-degree angle.

Drilling Holes in Ceramic Pot
technique for how to drill a hole in a ceramic pot
After drilling at an angle for about 45 seconds, slowly straighten the drill to 90 degrees

Continue to drill slowly. This is a study in patience, but the results are well worth it. Continue to spray with water throughout the drilling.

Ceramic Drill Bit Drills Clean Hole in Ceramic for Drainage
how to drill a hole in a ceramic pot - final results
The proper bit and technique drills a smooth clean drainage hole in ceramic

I am delighted with the results! A clean, smooth hole in the ceramic mug gives me the perfect drainage hole I needed. And no damage was done to the beautiful gift from my Mom! So I added the drywall mesh tape inside, then soil and succulents…

Drilling Ceramic for Drainage Holes
succulent arrangement in a ceramic pot after drilling ceramic for drainage
Succulent arrangement in ceramic mug with drainage hole drilled

First, drilling ceramic for drainage. Now, I have fully planted succulents in the ceramic cup, and it has the drainage I wanted.

Drilling Ceramic and Concrete for Drainage Holes

succulent arrangements in a ceramic pot and concrete bowl - drilled drainage
Drainage holes drilled in concrete and ceramic planters

While it is certainly possible to water carefully enough to grow succulents without drainage, it is so much better to be able to drill your own drainage holes when and where you want them. We will cover planting succulents in containers without drainage in the future. For now – let your imagination run to all the possibilities drilling ceramic and concrete opens up for planting your succulents! I would love to know what you will drill first! Please take a moment to leave a comment and let me know!

You can do this!

P.S. Subscribe, and you will receive my FREE course, 7 Steps to Succulent Success. Enjoy!

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P.P.S. Why not join my Facebook Group for succulent-lovers? We talk succulent care, propagation, succulent identification and design. It’s a warm and welcoming group that would love to meet you!

how to drill drainage in ceramic and concrete

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This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Pam

    Thankyou for the great instructions.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Pam,
      You are most welcome!
      Have fun!

      1. Margarita garcia

        Very nice I liked so much thank you

        1. Kat McCarthy

          Thanks so much, Margarita!

          1. Deb

            For some reason I”m having trouble replying so I”ll do it here. You forgot one of the MOST important things to have when you are using a drill. SAFETY GLASSES
            I was a bit appalled.

          2. Kat McCarthy

            Hi Deb,
            Fair enough. I should have included safety glasses. I’ll add that in now.
            Thank you!

  2. Terry

    Wow! This was great information!!! Thanks so much!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Terry,
      You are most welcome! 🙂

  3. Diane Blevins

    Thank you so much for the great information. I am new to succulents and really enjoy the time I spend careing for them.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Diane,
      You are most welcome! 🙂
      Anytime you have any questions, or want to see something covered that I haven’t written about yet – just let me know! I am here to help!

  4. Kelly

    Thank you so much for this information; your guide is very helpful! What should I do if my pot is unglazed on the outside but glazed on the inside?

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Kelly,
      Just use a ceramic drill bit. I really like the diamond grit hole saw drill bit. Always – always! – be sure to keep water on the pot and the drill bit while you use it. Don’t add too much pressure. A little patience, and you will always get a smooth, regular hole without breaking or chipping your pot! 🙂

  5. Connie

    Costco or Home Depot? Home Depot to get the correct drill bit! Great information!


    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Connie,
      I got mine for drilling ceramic at Home Depot, and I found the same type for a better price on Amazon here. I would assume Costco has them, too, but I don’t know for certain.
      You will be amazed at how much you use this – suddenly, EVERYthing looks like a great planter! 🙂

  6. Ingrid

    Hi Kat,
    You mention the use of drywall mesh tape over the drilled drainage hole, but I’ve never done this. I use good draining cactus soil because I’m paranoid of drowning my succulents.
    As I repot my plants should start I using the drywall tape on all my drainage holes, whether I’ve drilled it or it already has one? If the drainage hole is particularly large do I used the clay pieces and gravel. What do you think? Thanks for all your great tips!


    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Ingrid,
      Whatever method works for you to keep too much succulent soil from dropping out of large drainage holes. I prefer using a piece of screen or mesh tape over the potting shard or gravel just because I have had both strategies get a bit clogged up, and they eventually slowed the drainage of water. In my experience, window screen and mesh tape have not blocked the flow of water while keeping the soil inside the pot.
      So long as you keep the drainage hole functioning – any approach works!

  7. Nicola

    Great idea! I’m going to have to try this. However I am wondering if you put anything under your pot to protect water from leaking out onto the table. I have a nice buffet that I would like to put these on but worried I will ruin the table. I have seen people use cork coasters cut to size…? Do you have any suggestions. It ruins the look to put these lovely pots on a saucer or plate. Thanks.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Nicola,
      Great point! I like to water over by the sink and wait til it finishes draining before I put it on a wood table. Even so, you don’t want the moisture to affect the surface, so I set it on a sandstone coaster. The sandstone absorbs moisture and the coaster has a cork backing so it doesn’t scratch. I use these a lot. If the pot looks good with it, I use one large enough to see. But under a special pot, I use a smaller one to protect without being visible.
      I hope that helps! 🙂

  8. Sandy Walls

    Hi Kat,
    Did you try my suggestion about using plumbers putty to form a dam around where the hole is going to be drilled and then filling it with water? I’ve used this technique several times now and it works every time. Now, anytime I’m out shopping, I look at glass or ceramic items and think, “that would make a great succulent planter”! Thrift stores have tons of items that would be great and they’re cheap!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Sandy,
      Yes! I have tried this with modeling clay. It worked like a charm!
      It’s such a great tip! SO glad you shared it!
      I added it to the blog post, too!

  9. CLB

    Just wanted to thank you for this! I had no idea where to start drilling holes in containers. I appreciate the link to the drill bits, and the clear how-to with photos. I’ve now drilled holes in so many pots (and one china teacup!) that my hand is sore! I’m very happy with the results.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi CLB,
      AWESOME news! Isn’t it amazing how everywhere you go now, EVERYthing looks like a potential succulent pot! <3
      So glad you found this helpful and are making such great use of it! <3
      Happy succulent gardening! 🙂

  10. Clare

    I really like the idea using a drywall joint tape. I read somewhere using coffee filter, but it seems too dense, so I used kitchen paper towel instead. but drywall joint tape sound great. thanks

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Clare,
      I have tried so many things in the past. A scrap of old screen is good too, but it is not so easy to stash in my succulent tool bag as the mesh tape. And I like how the mesh tape stays in place as I add the soil. I just re-worked an overgrown succulent arrangement after a year and I re-used the same piece of mesh tape.
      This is my favorite solution!

  11. Agnes

    I’ve done some drilling on ceramic with my late father about 40-50 years ago. If I may suggest, wear safety goggles, they might come handy!
    Your succulents look absolutely fabulous.
    Thanks for the detailed instructions.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Agnes,
      GOOD point! I should have used safety goggles, and encouraged their use!
      Thank you.

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