Got a pot with no drainage hole? Drill it, plant it, enjoy!


Wrinkled skin and all, this green elephant pot caught my eye at Barton Springs Nursery a few weeks ago. As I looked it over, I noticed it lacked something important: a drainage hole in the bottom. A drainage hole is essential to a potted plant’s health, even its survival. Without a hole, a pot’s soil gets saturated when you water it, and the plant essentially drowns. Not good. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to drill a drainage hole, even in a ceramic pot like this one.


A masonry bit and an electric drill are all you need. Masonry bits, like all bits, come in different diameters. For drainage, a bigger hole is better, but it all depends on the size of your pot. I usually keep two sizes of masonry bits tucked in the package shown here, and the one I used is probably a 1/4-inch bit, not 1/8-inch. To ensure good drainage, I drilled three holes spaced an inch or so apart.


Turn your pot upside down to drill it. If the top is uneven, as with my elephant pot, have someone brace it for you so you can drill straight down (not sideways as shown in my quick-snap illustration). If your bit slips when you start drilling, stick a piece of masking tape on the bottom and drill through that. Don’t lean on the drill, lest you break the pot. Just apply regular pressure and let the bit slowly work its way through.

If you notice heat build-up during the drilling process, turn off the drill and occasionally wet the pot bottom to cool the ceramic, especially if the pot is thick and it takes a while to drill through. This wasn’t a problem with my thin-skinned elephant pot.


I decided on a ‘Dragon’s Blood’ sedum for the elephant because its rusty red and green coloring harmonized with the pot color. I put a couple of broken shards of terracotta in the bottom to keep soil from washing out of the new drainage holes. When I pulled the sedum out of its nursery pot, I found it was too big to fit in the little elephant pot, so I pulled off about a quarter of the soil on the bottom (taking off some roots in the process, but succulents are tough) and a little around the sides as well. I popped it in the pot and filled the gaps with a fast-draining cactus potting mix I bought at the nursery.

Finally, I topped the soil with a thin layer of pea gravel for a finished look and to keep soil from splashing out. For small pots like this, you can also use aquarium gravel or vase-filler pebbles found in the home-decor aisle of stores like Target.


Ta-da! You might think of it as a dragon riding an elephant.


Once you feel confident using your masonry bit, you’ll probably find all kinds of containers that can be turned into succulent planters. Years ago, I drilled this two-piece chip-and-dip set and planted it with a variety of succulents, accented with turquoise glass beads and chunks of blue slag glass.


It’s gone through various replantings over the years, but I still love it.


While rooting around in the garage for the masonry bit, I unearthed this old frog pitcher, and now I’m wondering if it would make a good planter. What do you think? Maybe string-of-pearls senecio dripping out of his mouth?

I welcome your comments. If you’re reading this in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment link at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

I’ll be speaking on April 30, noon-12:30 pm, in Cedar Park, Texas, at Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery’s Lily Blossom Festival. My free talk is called “How to Garden Water-Wise, Not Water-Wasteful.” An old proverb reminds us that The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives. Don’t be a water-guzzling frog! I’ll be sharing my tips for making a garden that is water-wise, not water-wasteful. Stick around after my talk for a book signing, with autographed copies of Lawn Gone! and The Water-Saving Garden available for purchase.

Come see me at Festival of Flowers in San Antonio, May 28, time TBA. Learn more about water-saving gardening during my presentation at San Antonio’s 19th annual Festival of Flowers. I’ll be at the book-signing table after the talk, with copies of both The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone! available for purchase. Tickets to the all-day festival, which includes a plant sale and exchange, speakers, and a flower show, are available at the door: $6 adults; children under 10 free. Free parking.

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

New mirrored trellises add depth to a blank wall


There’s something new in the side garden. Yes, the Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), my favorite native ornamental tree, is blooming and wafting the sweet fragrance of grape Kool-Aid through the air. Does anything say springtime in Austin as much as that smell?

But something else is new. And I’m not talking about the 3-inch layer of live oak leaves on the ground.


I’ve hung five mirrored-acrylic trellises along the long brick wall at back of the garage. I’d been looking for something to liven up that boring stretch of brick and add the illusion of depth to a side garden of bowling-alley proportions when I saw these DIY trellises on Design Sponge.

I didn’t take smiling in-process pictures like author Grace Bonney did (I would have looked a lot more grumpy at certain points), but you can see hers and read her how-to if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty. My only addition to her instructions is to drill through the plexiglass very carefully so that you don’t crack it. I learned this the hard way.

I bought inexpensive wooden trellises at Home Depot and cut the legs off before painting them. Mirrored plexiglass isn’t exactly cheap, but it is lightweight and you can drill through it to attach it to the trellis, which is handy. I found it locally at Regal Plastics, where it can be sized to your exact specifications. Regal suggested coating the cut edges of the plexiglass with silicone caulk for durability outdoors, but I found it didn’t easily stick. Plus I was making an unholy mess of things. Since they’re hanging on a shady wall and under an eave, I’m hoping they’ll have sufficient protection from the elements as-is.


My plan is to stain the lattice fence that borders this space the same color as the trellises: Sherwin-Williams Black Alder. That will unify the square lattice on each side and give the whole space more depth. This is the entry to the back garden that I take visitors through (the other side is a working space with trash storage), and I want it to look as appealing as any other part of the garden, not just a pass-through. Plant choice is very simple, mainly grasses, yucca and hesperaloe, and shade-tolerant herbs and perennials due to frequent deer browsing, so I’m going with mass plantings for impact. Visible here: bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), wide-leaf giant hesperaloe (Hesperaloe funifera ssp. chiangii), Texas betony (Stachys coccinea), and Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa). Planted around the Texas mountain laurel, in the 2nd photo from the top, is inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).


I’m pleased with how it turned out and can now check one spring project off my list. I have many still to go! How about you?

Update 8/15: I’m sorry to report that the acrylic mirrors have bowed and sagged, even with plenty of screws to hold them in place, causing a slight funhouse-mirror effect. Therefore, I’m giving a thumbs-down to this project and recommend using regular glass mirrors instead. Live and learn!

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I’d love to have your vote in the Better Homes and Gardens 2015 Blogger Awards. Skip through to the Gardening category, select Digging, and then skip to the last page for your vote to be counted. You can vote as much as you like. Thanks for your support!

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Fixing a floppy Will Fleming yaupon for Foliage Follow-Up


‘Will Fleming’ yaupon (Ilex vomitoria ‘Will Fleming’), a fastigiate cultivar of our native yaupon holly, is one of my go-to vertical accent plants. It’s a green punctuation mark, ideal for adding height to a flat bed or using in multiples as a narrow hedge to screen an ugly view. In sun or shade it’ll grow to 10 or 15 feet (I like to give mine flat-top haircuts at about 6 feet tall) but only 1 to 2 feet wide. Sometimes, however, the outer branches go a bit floppy, ruining the vertical shape.


Like this — not the look I was going for.


You might think this calls for the pruners. Stop! Put the pruners down and grab a pair of scissors and a spool of fishing line instead. Tie one end of a length of fishing line loosely around a branch, leaving room for the branch to grow. Loosely wrap the fishing line in a spiral around the body of the tree, thereby creating a neat column again. Tie it off, taking care not to tie or wrap any part of the line tightly. You don’t want to strangle your tree. A gentle touch is all that’s needed.


And voila! A columnar ‘Will Fleming’ is restored.


One more time — floppy!


And fixed!

‘Will Fleming’ yaupon is my Foliage Follow-Up featured plant this month. Please join me in posting about your lovely leaves of April for Foliage Follow-Up, a way to remind ourselves of the importance of foliage in the garden on the day after Bloom Day. Leave your link to your Foliage Follow-Up post in a comment. I really appreciate it if you’ll also include a link to this post in your own post (sharing link love!). If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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