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Potted plants

I have a number of bare bottom tanks focused on fish that I have tried
populating with potted plants.
I used short clay pots medium gravel, a little kitty litter and 1/2 a
Tetra plant tab and stopped the hole in the bottom with rock.  I got
good results for about 1 year but then the roots on the plants started
to rot.

I just removed them all and cleaned the pots and have some ideas on how
to make it better.
Cut slots in the pots - I have a rock saw that easily can put thin cuts
into the pot (cuts like butter).  They would be thin enough to keep the
gravel in but let some circulation occur.
Peat Pots - I understand these can work out nicely.  Side effects might
be some softening of the water along with coloring of the water.

What would you use for substrate?
Any details I should consider?

Chris Wells
cdwells at concentric_net