How To Drill Drainage Holes In Ceramic Pots, Planters And More

You can find a variety of ceramic containers at most thrift stores, garage sales and outlet stores. Many of them can be used as decorative planters. And they will work fine indoors, as long as you do not over water them. Try using them as planters outdoors on your deck or patio and there is a good chance that rain will drown your plants. Generally,  plants do not like soggy roots. Except for a few succulents,  most plants will not survive long without good drainage.
So how can you take advantage of cool looking ceramic pots, vases, bowls, candy dishes, punch bowls or whatever if they have no way to drain excess water? The answer is to drill your own drainage holes.
We’ve been drilling our own drainage holes in ceramic, clay and glass containers for several years. Here are a few tips showing you how you put a drain hole in all of those nice containers and not break them.

Planters Needing Drain HolesWe have tried several styles of concrete, tile, cement and glass bits. (And, no, we don’t use the twist drill or spade bit, as shown in this photo. Those are for our metal and foam/plastic containers.)Cement and Glass Bit AssortNotice the diamond tip hole saw that I have chucked up in the drill. It is a Hitachi 3/8 diamond core bit. It’s worked well for a few years. But, I wanted a little bit larger hole for this round of drilling. So, today, we are using a brand spanking new Lenox 5/8 diamond hole saw.Lenox 5/8" Diamond hole SawYou hear both terms (core bits and hole saws) for bits like these. They bore a ring in the bottom and leave a core intact.
Here are a few tips for drilling your own drainage holes.
Make sure that you keep water on the surface and on the bit. This is a must for keeping the bit cool and effective. This day I was fortunate to have a bunch of  containers that had recessed bottoms. A little bit of water from a watering can every now and then worked well. On flat bottom pieces, I dribble a garden hose continuously  A garden helper to hold the hose is really handy for this method.

A variable speed drill helps you to maintain control of the drilling angle and speed. Cordless drills take a bit longer but offer more control. Corded drills offer a lot of power, but can be a hassle around garden hoses. (That old electricity and water thing……..again.) I chose the cordless for this project.

Keep The Container Surface WetStart The Drill At An AngleSlowly Raise The Bit VerticallyWhen Vertical, Let the Bit Do The Work




Get the cooling water set up. Then start the drill at a low speed. Lay the bit at a low angle where you want the edge of the hole to be located. Increase the drill speed while maintaining the same position on the pot. (The bit will want to dance around.)
When you feel a groove beginning to bore into the surface, slowly raise the angle of the drill. Slowly but surely you will bore a larger and larger arc into the bottom. When you are completely vertical with your drill, that arc will be a circle and you will be on your way to drilling a drainage hole.
Ease up when you know that you are close to breaking through the bottom. Too much force at that point can lead to cracked and broken pots.
The trick is to be patient and let the bit do the work. Do not try to power your way thru the bottom by putting all of your weight on the drill. Keep the bit cool, apply reasonable pressure and let those diamonds do their job.
After doing lots of these, we have found that the hardness or softness of the containers being drilled varies from one extreme to the other. Some are quick and easy. Some seem to take forever. Is the next one going to be a long boring drilling process. Or will it be a “Ok, here we go….Surprise….we’re done…that was easy!”

DIY Ceramic Pot Drain Hole
Not bad for a few minutes of concentration and work
Core From Diamond Core Bit
The cores are kind of cool looking, but absolutely worthless.
One down, one to go for this pair of planters
One down, one to go for this pair.

Drilled And Ready For Cleaning And PlantingThis is most of the collection that we did in one afternoon. All of these were either hand-me-downs, yard sale finds, discount and outlet store deals or gifts. None of them could be used outside for lack of drainage holes. After a good washing, we can use them on the deck, the patio, by the front door or strategically place them throughout the garden.
So, if you find your self with a bunch a really cool looking containers that you would love to use as planters, consider drilling your own drainage holes. Did you notice the large cereal bowls (great for cacti) and the coffee cups (succulents love these)?

Two Dollar Planter for Bonsai Or Cacti

Happy Gardening,
Dave and Trish