Don’t plant a houseplant directly into a decorative pot, plant it in a grow plant and place the grow pot inside the ornamental container.

Here is a basic houseplant tip that many people either don’t seem to know… or have forgotten. Don’t plant houseplants in a decorative pot; plant them in a plain old-fashioned grow pot, then slip the now potted plant into the decorative pot. This is called double potting.

Why is this important? Because most designer pots were created to look good, not really to grow plants in.

The Downside to Decorative

Surprisingly, many pots sold as flower pots have no drainage hole!

For one thing, many designer pots don’t have a drainage hole. Do not believe people who tell you can compensate for a lack of a drainage hole by filling the pot bottom with gravel or pot shards so excess water can drain there. Excess water will still stagnate in the bottom of the pot and threaten the roots with rot. It will eventually kill your plant, mark my word.

How will you ever get this plant of its pot… without breaking the plant or the pot, that is.

Designer pots that do have a drainage hole often have a rounded or uneven shape or some sort of constriction that will make it almost impossible to remove the plant in the future without pulling off half its roots. In total contrast, grow pots were designed so you can simply turn the pot upside and thump on it to release the plant’s roots.

And in those cases where the plant simply will not come out of a grow pot (and yes, that does happen), you can just cut it open to remove the plant or even smash it apart with a hammer: it had no great value, after all. Do you really want to smash your 99$ designer pot so you can get a $20 plant out?

Some designer pots crack readily as roots expand. Others are too heavy to move readily. Many were never designed to be in contact with soil and will be hard or impossible to clean when you do repot. And there are even a few that are toxic to plant roots. They may be decorative, but they weren’t designed to grow plants in!

Double Potting Using Cachepots

These pots with an awkward shape and no drainage hole would make terrible plant pots… but great cachepots!

Designer pots are best used as a “cachepot” (a French word meaning “pot hider”). Pot up your houseplant in a plain grow pot, then put the grow pot inside the decorative container of your choice. In other words, double pot the plant. This will give your plants the look you want while making their care simpler.

Also, if the plant doesn’t look as good as you thought in its decorative pot or if it is performing badly under your growing conditions, you can replace the plant with a better choice almost instantly if it’s in a grow pot.

Finally, even a designer pot with no drainage hole can at least catch excess water and can therefore be used as a saucer!20161003a


Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

5 comments on “Double Pot your Houseplants

  1. omg! why is no one talking about this…as an ill informed beginner I just replanted 14 plants directly into decorative pots! I watched about a dozen of youtube videos that focus only on pots with drainage in them already (mostly boring looking pots), and some even recommend drilling holes in decorative pots that have no drainage!!! It made me feel like I am missing something, why would they sell something that I cannot easily use! And also, okay I just spend 15 euros on a decorative pot that I love and now I have to make a hole in it and then put an ugly plate under it, WHAT!? Thank you for this post, I feel better now…got a lot of work to do however hahah, repotting all my plants hahah

    • Sorry you learned too late, but… better late than never!

    • YES! Thankfully I had “big goals” of painting my own pots so I haven’t repotted yet. I bought 10 plain terracotta from Lowes at the start of the pandemic..
      It’s been a year and I STILL haven’t started painting – possibly because I knew in my heart it was not going to look good (I’m not an artist and I knew they would be streaked and have paint runs and don’t get me started on how the stenciling I’d plan to do would turn out. It was gonna be BAD, lol.)

      Then someone gave me a plant in a cache pot and I decided to see if this was “a thing.” OMG – why did I not know this??? Like the poster above, NOW ALL OF THESE DRAINAGE-LESS POTS MAKE SENSE.
      I am so excited and really looking forward to finding some unique pots secondhand. I think it’s going to be my new obsession!! My plant collection is now at 20, and I can’t wait!

      I do have a questions.

      1. Do you have recommendations for good nursery pots. I was looking at the mega garden center and I didn’t know if some pot-linters were better than ohters, and

      2. Do you recommend lining the cache pot with a few rocks to keep the plant from accidentally standing in water. I didn’t want to use pebbles because they displace water and it ends up being the same as without them. But 2-4 rocks to balance the pot, and leave room for water without displacing it upward.

      Thanks so much for this post!!!!

      • 1. Really, the choice is up to you.

        2. Since, ideally, you don’t want any water to be accumulating in the bottom (otherwise the roots will end up growing down into them where they could soak in water), the rocks would be mostly useful for adjusting the height of the pot (short pot in a deep cache-pot).

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