No Drainage Holes? Grow Rice


Close up of Black Madras foliage

What do you grow when you have a large container with no drainage holes? Rice (Oryza sativa). This annual grain can grow in containers with no drainage, full of rainwater. Rice is actually a beautiful plant for the garden and easy to grow from seed. ‘Carolina Gold’ and ‘Charleston Gold’ are used for grain production but there is nothing that says they cannot be grown in the garden for their beauty.  They have tall, arching green foliage but their seed heads shine like gold in the fall. ‘Black Madras’ is edible but usually is reserved for its ornamental, black-purple foliage.

rice seed heads

Black Madras seed heads in October

I have grown ‘Black Madras’ by seed, I sowed the seeds directly into large containers with no drainage holes. These containers were not pretty but I could not grow anything else in them without the roots rotting.

I lightly covered the seeds with potting mix and watered. They germinated quickly and the plants did well all summer long. My plants were in sun but they could have tolerated some shade, especially afternoon shade in the summer.

By July, the foliage was about 2 feet tall and a beautiful dark purple. I also sowed seed in a smaller but prettier, blue ceramic container with no drainage holes. I thought the color contrast would work well. The plants were healthy but the container was proportionately too short for the height of the rice. I soon realized that because the container was smaller, the potting mix dried faster in the heat. It is best to have a large container partly because of rice’s height and partly to prevent the mix from drying quickly. Rice cannot survive in dry soil.


Black Madras in short, blue container

Rice is a fun plant to grow in the summer. It is an annual that needs a long summer to produce the seed heads. In the fall, you can leave the seed heads for the birds or you can cut them and use them in floral arrangements and wreaths.

This plant is ideal for a place that has standing water, or a water, bog, or rain garden. You may even see rice for sale as a pond plant.

You probably will not see these for sale at your local nursery.  Southern Exposure Seed Exchange sells ‘Carolina Gold’ and ‘Charleston Gold’ seeds and John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds sells ‘Black Madras’ seeds. It is likely the seed packet will have more than you need for one summer. Don’t plant all of them, save some for next year. The seeds are viable for several years.

Try growing rice next year. Not only is it an easy ornamental annual, it will certainly pique your friends’ interest as they visit your garden.


Black Madras in large container

One response to “No Drainage Holes? Grow Rice

  1. Several of the aquatic plants are appealing for a drainage pond at work, but some either do not fit the style of the surrounding landscape, or are potentially invasive. I have seen rice only a few times. To me, it resembles an ornamental grass. Although I am not sold on the style, it does happen to be complaint with the surrounding at the pond.

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