I have decided to get a few plants for my office desk. However, one thing still eludes me.

Plant pots usually have a drainage hole to allow excess water to escape. If I keep the plant on my desk, how do I water it without making a mess?

I thought of putting another container (like a saucer) under the pot with gravel or pebbles to raise it up. But then, excess water would just remain in the saucer and maybe cause fungal growth. There is very little moving air in the office so I doubt whether it will all evaporate.

Will I need to regularly move my plant to drain/clean the outer container? That may be impractical given our "open" office plan and messy desks.

Am I missing something? Is there a better way that I haven't thought of?

  • 2
    You only need to empty out any excess water after 30 minutes - stand the pot on a bit of folded paper or some tissue, take the saucer to a sink, empty it, bring it back and pop back under the pot, bin the bit of paper.
    – Bamboo
    Aug 23, 2014 at 12:45
  • Saucers under pots do not usually cause mold problems. In fact, with my African violets, I water the saucer and not the plants. That's neater, and the water wicks up nicely. Dec 4, 2020 at 21:37

3 Answers 3


I assume that you yourself will be the only one watering the plant.

Most people use a saucer under the pot (without gravel) and avoid too much water build up by watering the plant only as needed.

If you do over water the plant you can carefully empty the saucer or leave it until the excess has soaked into the soil (it's very unlikely that you will get fungus or mould issues from just water). You can normally tell if a plant will need more water because the soil will be dry to the touch. Loamy soils will retain water better than sandy ones but most pot plants use potting soil which is nice and water retentive.

Different plants will need different amounts of water so if you are unsure how much to give a plant, start off pouring very slowly and evenly over the soil surface and stop when water begins to appear in the saucer. After a couple of times you'll get a feel for how much. You may have to water the plant anywhere from once a day to once a week depending on the size and water requirement.

In terms of having to regularly move your plant, you may need to upgrade it to a larger pot or prune it from time to time but otherwise as long as it has enough light you shouldn't need to do much with it.

  • 1
    I agree, if properly watering, you won't have this trouble.
    – J. Musser
    Aug 23, 2014 at 17:54

Get a cactus :) I water mine about once a month. there are some varieties that aren't too prickly. With literal rocks in the soil, there's virtually no over-flow.


There are pots for indoor plants, they don't have a hole at the bottom and can be put on a desk. When planting in such a pot you have to put something on the bottom to provide a space for any exess water - I use pieces of broken ceramic pots (many garden centres give them for free) and/or pebbles.

  • 2
    Those pots are a bad idea precisely because they don't allow drainage. Even with crocks or pebbles at the bottom, you still have a pool of water sitting there, potentially waterlogging the soil in your pot.
    – Niall C.
    Aug 28, 2014 at 13:36
  • Use such pots on the outside of the pot with holes, water and empty the pot if water stays in.
    – Willeke
    Dec 5, 2020 at 11:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.