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I have a large (70L?) moulded plastic pot which is filled with topsoil, and has a freshly planted lilac bush in it. I had noticed this pot did not have drainage holes at the bottom, but had thought that the large volume would allow for a fair amount of water to be locked away in the soil.

I've quickly noticed that I am getting a fair amount of standing water on top of the soil, even after fairly modest watering.

Should I drill drainage holes in the bottom of this pot, or is there another suggestion on how to deal with this situation?

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

If it was me, I would most definitely drill some drainage holes in the bottom of that pot.

Standing water will greatly increase the chance of disease developing within the soil...

Standing water also greatly increases the possibility of plant root rot.

I'm sure there is the odd occasion where one might not need drainage holes in a pot, but I have personally never encountered such a circumstance.

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@Stephen - I concur with Mike's view; if water is left to accumulate in the bottom of the pot, this will almost certainly lead to root rot. Drainage holes are indispensable if the plant is to remain healthy. – Mancuniensis Jul 7 '11 at 23:53
+1 So it shall be written, so it shall be done :) Thanks! – Stephen Jul 8 '11 at 0:39
Along with the root rot, the lower levels of the pot will become anoxic (decay uses all oxygen up) which is not a chemistry you want. Anoxic soil can usually be detected by its sulphurous smell. – winwaed Jul 8 '11 at 2:37
@winwaed - Excellent point! – Mancuniensis Jul 8 '11 at 12:12
Uni-bit and put in three to five holes depending on the size of the pot. Pottery shards over the tops of the holes with a little gravel to keep dirt from plugging them. Avoid pot rot with proper drainage. – Fiasco Labs Aug 13 '13 at 23:35

I'm a master gardener, so let me just say for the future (or if you're comfortable transplanting your Lilac) always, always use a clay pot with drainage. If you aren't comfortable trying to transplant your Lilac you need to put in some drainage holes. The plant will not survive without them. Good luck, happy gardening:)

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Welcome to SE! I'm giving you a +1 to help you get started here. Tell me... why do you recommend clay pots over other materials? – Randy Aug 14 '13 at 0:07

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