Attention Plant Lovers: We Found a Cheap $2 Alternative to Potting Rocks

updated Sep 26, 2020
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While common house plants need water to grow, over-watering and potted plants don’t mix—literally. Stagnant water at the bottom of a pot could make your plants’ roots susceptible to disease or even death. Drainage holes, often found in store bought pots, are one way to ensure excess water can drain out of a pot, so water doesn’t pool at the bottom. 

What if your pot doesn’t have a drainage hole? You could add one. Or you can take it easy and be very deliberate with your watering. Pour slowly (and sparingly) so the water distributes evenly throughout the soil without pooling at the bottom of the pot.

And to be an extra safe plant parent, you can also add a buffer to prevent plant puddles.

Some gardening experts recommend adding a “drainage” layer of gravel of rocks to the bottom of a pot before you add the soil. Here’s the “why”: Dirt particles are pretty tiny, so water moves through them slowly. Adding a layer of larger objects, like rocks, helps water move through more quickly and efficiently, away from the roots. Yes, the water will still be in your pot, but now, there’s a layer separating the water from the actual plant.

The problem is, rocks aren’t exactly cheap—bags of rocks or gravel can cost upwards of $10 to $20 at the home improvement store. Instead of dragging a bag home, just cut up a pool noodle, which usually costs around $2, into chunks. The sturdy, styrofoam material will create a similar buffer as rocks, but at a fraction of the cost.

The noodle-cutting process is as simple as it is cheap: Just grab a sharp non-serrated knife and cut enough 2-inch chunks to create a robust layer at the bottom of your pot. For a smaller planter, you’ll likely only need a few inches’ worth of noodle. Then, fill the pot with soil, and get to planting! Make sure to hang on to whatever’s left of your noodle for other DIY projects

If you’d rather not buy a pool noodle at all, you can easily repurpose other styrofoam, like from product packaging or mailer filler (as long as it’s not the biodegradable type, for obvious reasons).

And if you have a large planter and not enough styrofoam, here’s another trick: Try layering empty plastic bottles at the bottom of your pot! Now your plants will be happy, and so will the environment.