On Vacation and Watering Houseplants

10 July 2024

Vacations are great but there always seems so much prep in advance. Not just packing but being sure the fridge is free of any food that will go bad, boarding pets, and dealing with houseplants.

There are a number of methods you can use to keep your plants from drying out to the point of demise.

Prep – Before you walk out the door, give your plants a decent drink. Don’t over water but be sure they are appropriately damp. It is also a good idea to do this in a sink or shower. That way you can clean any debris or pests that might grow while you are gone.

There is a difference between light and sunlight. The heat from the sun streaming in your window will dry out your plant more quickly. You may want to reduce the amount of sunlight by moving the plant(s) to another location, tilt the blinds, close the blinds, or drape a sheet to soften the amount of light. When you return, be sure to resume the old amount of sun but gradually so you won’t shock the plant. It might be advisable to have the blinds closed, depending on how visible your home is. In that case you might want to invest in a grow light. This can be a single bulb or a combination of tubes. Set them up on a timer and you will get the equivalent of sunlight but no one can peek in to see if you are home or not.

The material your pot is made of makes a difference. A terracotta or clay pot will absorb the water more quickly than a plastic pot. All pots, regardless of composition, should have drainage holes to prevent root rot.

watering plants

Wicking – You will need a water container and cotton cording or rope, like a clothesline. Cut a length of cording that will go from the bottom of your water container and into the soil of your houseplant. Push one end of the cord into the soil below the surface and near the roots but being careful not to harm the roots. The other end goes all the way to the bottom of your water container. Fill the container with water. The cording will absorb water from the container and migrate the H2O into the flower pot.

Drip – You may have seen watering globes on infomercials. You fill the glass and stick the probe into the soil. Water your plant as normal the day you leave and then insert the water globe. You can also DIY this. With a clean, empty water bottle, poke several holes near the neck of the bottle. Fill the bottle with water and insert it, cap down, into the soil. Be sure the drainage holes are below the surface of the soil, not too close to the plant, and the bottle will remain upright. Whether you use a store bought version or your own concoction, as the soil dries, the water will move from the bottle into the plant.

Bathtub – This is an old standby. Fill your tub with several inches of water and place your plant(s) in for a “soak”. A couple of things to be aware of. Make sure the tub’s drain is tightly sealed or the water will seep out. Know the light requirements of the particular plants you leave. If they need a fair amount of sunlight to be healthy, you are going to find some sick plants when you return.

Greenhouse Effect – This involves a clear, plastic bag large enough to accommodate your plant plus a little wiggle room. It is recommended that you put some type of stakes in the pot so the plastic won’t adhere to the plants. Water your plants as normal but don’t over water. Put the plant and its drainage dish inside the plastic bag and seal the bag at the top. You might consider a small poof of air to be sure the plastic doesn’t touch the leaves. Then put the plant where it will receive indirect light. If you put it in full sun, you could scorch the plant and possibly kill it. In the long run, this process will form an individual greenhouse and allow the condensation that forms on the inside of the bag to water your plant.

Caretaker – You can also get someone to check on your plants every couple of days. This can be a trusted friend (you will need to give them keys and security codes to your place) or hire a professional. If you go this route, be sure to give them a tour of all the locations and a list of watering needs based on each plant. Color coding is also a good idea.

Enjoy your trip and return to happy, healthy plants.

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