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Bon Voyage! How to Keep Houseplants Alive When You’re Away

So you’ve booked your flight, packed your bags, and you’re ready for adventures. But what about your indoor garden? Who will take care of your prized plants while you’re out of town? The last thing you want to see upon your return is a bunch of wilted and crunchy leaves in place of your once verdant garden.

Even if you found a “plant-sitter” for the occasion, it’s best that you plan ahead a little. Leave them with a detailed plant watering schedule and simplify the process as much as you can. In this article, we’ll give you detailed tips to ensure your plants are alive and well while you’re traveling.

Water the plants automatically with the water-wicking method

How to Water Houseplants While You’re Away water-wicking method
Image source: Reddit

Water-wicking is one of the easiest ways to water your plants while you’re away, and it’s quite affordable too. The cotton cord will transfer water from the container into the plant’s soil drop by drop, and this will ensure that the soil remains damp but not overly wet while you’re away.

Here’s how it works:

1. Take a large water container (like a bottle or bucket) and some wick cord. A cotton clothesline works great for this method.
2. Cut up the rope into pieces that are long enough to go from the bottom of the water bottle to several inches below the surface of the soil.
3. Fill the water container with water and wet the rope.
4. Push one end of the rope deep into the soil. Try not to harm the roots while you’re doing this.
5. Stick the other end of the rope into the water bottle. The rope should touch the bottom of the bottle.

Make a self-watering pot with cotton rope

How to Water Houseplants While You’re Away DIY self-watering pot

Self-watering pots are great because they allow your plant to pull up just enough water through the capillary action of the roots. But these pots can get quite expensive. So, we’ll show you how to make a self-watering pot at home instead. Just follow these steps:

1. Find a container that would fit the diameter of the plant pot - a vase, plastic bottle with the top cut off, or even a glass will work great depending on the size of your plant. The bottom of the pot shouldn’t touch the bottom of the container.
2. Cut pieces of cotton rope - enough to go from the bottom of the water container to a few inches up the drainage hole of the pot.
3. Fill the water container with water and wet the rope. The water should not be touching the bottom of the pot.
4. Stick one end of the rope into a drainage hole, and then lower the pot into the water container (see picture above).

Related article: Plant Propagation 101 - Easy Ways to Multiply Any Plant


Use watering globes (or make your own)

How to Water Houseplants While You’re Away watering globe

Watering globes (also known as watering bulbs) are glass or plastic globes that can be stuck into the soil to gradually water plants. You can purchase these at gardening centers and home supply stores. Many watering globes look decorative, taking the shape of animals and flowers. At other times, they’re inconspicuous, and you can hide them in the foliage of a bushy plant. Just like water-wicking, watering globes slowly distribute water into the soil.

Using a watering bulb is easy - just fill it with water, make a small hole in the soil, and stick the bulb spout side down several inches into the soil at an angle.

How to Water Houseplants While You’re Away DIY watering globe
Image source: Reddit

Don’t feel like shopping for watering globes? You don’t need to buy them, make your own version out of ordinary bottles instead:

1. Take a clean, empty plastic bottle. For a small to medium potted plant, a small water bottle should suffice. 
2. Drill several drainage holes into the bottle caps. 
3. Make a hole to fit the bottle cap in the soil, then flip the bottle and plunge it into the pot.
4. Make sure that the bottle won’t fall over while you’re away. If the bottle is rather large, you can tie it to a stake that will provide extra support.

Move the plants

How to Water Houseplants While You’re Away many plants on a shelf

Changing the location of the plants is optional, but it may be beneficial if you’re going to be away for a longer period of time. All you’ve got to do is move the plants a little bit away from the window so that they don’t dry out too fast. Outdoor plants can also be moved into the shade or indoors to shield them from drying out too fast. However, if the plant is already getting indirect and dampened light, moving it may leave it with too little light and isn’t beneficial.

But there’s another reason to move your plants before you leave. If you have someone taking care of your indoor garden while you’re traveling, you may choose to group the plants together so that no plant is left underwatered. Grouping plants together will also let them retain a bit more humidity and moisture, what a great bonus while you’re away!

Your succulents will be happy as they are

How to Water Houseplants While You’re Away succulents
When choosing which plants to supply water and which to leave to their own devices, consider the type of plant. Drought-tolerant plants like succulents and cacti will do just fine on their own for a week or even longer. So just leave your echeveria, snake plants, and jade plants as they are, no change of location or supplemental water are needed.

Do some light pruning

How to Water Houseplants While You’re Away pruning
Before you set out on your journey, take a few minutes to cut off any dead or dry leaves and examine the plants for bugs. In addition, you can also trim away any buds and flowers because blooming typically requires a lot more water from a plant.

Fill up the bathtub

How to Water Houseplants While You’re Away bathtub full of plants
Image source: Reddit

Here’s one old-school trick for those cases when you need to leave and have no one to look after your plants for a week or so. Collect your plants in a bathtub, then fill the tub with 1-2 inches of water. Make sure that all the pots have a drainage hole but no saucers; this way, they can suck up the water through the drainage hole. If you don’t have a lot of water-loving plants, you can do the same trick in the kitchen sink.

What should you do if you don’t have any natural light in the bathroom? If you’ve got a kiddie pool or large containers, you can always use those instead.

Give your plants a greenhouse cover

How to Water Houseplants While You’re Away DIY greenhouse
Image source: Reddit

Greenhouse covers are clear plastic covers that can be put on top of your plants to increase the air humidity and cut down on watering. These are available for purchase, but you know what? A transparent plastic bag that’s big enough to cover the plant and the entire planter works just as well. 

Just make sure that the bag does NOT touch the leaves, otherwise, they can rot. You can add wooden stakes to the pot to prevent the plastic from clinging to the leaves. Water the plant before your departure, then cover it with the bag, sealing the edges with some string or zip-ties, and you’re ready to go. But don’t be too thorough about the last part - a tiny bit of airflow is good for your plants.

Leave tips for your friend

How to Water Houseplants While You’re Away guy examining a plant

So you found a person willing to take care of your indoor jungle? Lucky you! But you must still realize that not everyone may be as caring and knowledgeable about plants as you are. What seems like basic information to you might not be for a friend or neighbor. This is especially important if you’re going to be away for over a month. 

Be specific: say something like “Give this plant half a cup of water every Monday and Wednesday evening and dump any excess water out of the dish.”

You can leave notes next to each plant with instructions on how much water it should get, or even place different measuring cups near each plant. It’s also a good idea to show your friend your plant care routine once or twice before you leave.

H/T: CNET, House Beautiful, The Sill

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