How to keep houseplants alive while you’re on vacation
Do you have a growing houseplant collection that you’re not sure about taking care of when you go on vacation? The best way is to enlist a family or friend to help, but sometimes that may not be possible. Many indoor plants can survive a week without their parents’ care, but you’ll need to consider some factors, such as lighting and watering them well before leaving. There are many tips and tricks to ensure your plants manage without you. We asked Southern gardeners for their best tips for caring for plants while you’re away
- Justin Hancock He works in horticulture for Costa Farms, one of the world’s largest horticultural companies, headquartered in Florida.
- Amanda Gillahad And Mark Waldrop They are the gardeners at the Biltmore Real Estate Institute in North Carolina.
How long can you go?
The length of your vacation will affect how well your plants do without anyone monitoring them and providing them with adequate water. “Most plants will usually do well if they’ve been out for a week, but some may start to struggle if they’ve been without water for a couple of weeks,” says Justin Hancock, horticulturist at Costa Farms. Plant types, potting mix, and whether the plant is new or has been around for a while will all affect how well it does when the watering schedule changes.
The difference between a week or two in terms of plant care, according to Hancock, “depends on factors such as the types of plants – some thirstier than others, the type of potting mix – some retain moisture better than others, and how established the plant is – the more roots there are in the pot.” , the faster it absorbs moisture, and so do the growing conditions – warmer, sunnier conditions make the plants drink faster. He gives the example of having the same two plants but in different places in your home and how they can be affected. “You can have two peace lilies – one of them might be “Fine in a room with the curtains closed, but another may suffer in the same period of time if the room is brighter.”
Soak your plants before leaving
Before you head out the door, make sure your indoor plants are well watered. “One easy way to do this is to place the plant in a basin or bucket with a few inches of water,” Hancock says. “Leave the plant to absorb moisture for about half an hour or so. Then let any excess moisture drip off.
But too much of a good thing can have negative consequences for your plants. Water your plants but do not leave them in water. “If roots remain in saturated conditions for more than two hours, it can lead to root rot issues,” says Hancock. You don’t want to drown the roots in too much water. Most plants can handle dry soil rather than wet soil. “For most plants, being too wet is more harmful to them than being too dry.”
Each plant has its own preferred lighting conditions, whether direct or indirect sunlight. Sometimes adjusting the amount of light it receives daily while you are away can reduce growth and water needs. Moving your plants so they’re less exposed to sunlight, Hancock says, “can definitely be beneficial because light fuels growth and growth fuels water use.”
But you also want to avoid placing your plants in extreme situations, such as having too much or too little light. “You don’t want to keep your plants in total darkness, and overworking can be a problem for other reasons, but even just moving plants away from a window can help,” says Hancock.
Changing the light conditions slightly can help if they will be watered less frequently. “If a plant is used to being watered every two days or so during the growing season, it should be able to skip a single watering if you move it out of direct sunlight,” say gardening experts Amanda Gillahad and Mark Waldrop, gardeners. Biltmore Real Estate Institute of North Carolina.
Avoid moving plants
Changing the location of your plants may not be the best idea before you leave for vacation as this may affect how well they grow. “In general, plants should be left where they do their best,” says Gilhaad Waldrop. But if you have several houseplants, you may want to move them so they are all together.
Do you have many plants in your living room? Placing them next to each other can be helpful to conserve and maintain moisture. “If you’re asking your plants to skip several regular waterings, grouping the plants together in an area with less direct light for a few days will help maintain the humidity around each individual plant and reduce the need for water,” says Gilhaad Waldrop. . “Passing the plants on a pebbles-filled tray containing water will help add moisture around the plants.”
Hancock agrees and uses his bathroom as a place to keep his plants while he is away. “I’ve also put my plants together in the bathtub when I’ve been gone for a while and can’t find someone to check on my plants,” he says. “Packaging them together this way increases humidity and therefore reduces evaporation, and a low-light bathroom slows their growth.”
Adding an amendment to the soil gives your plants a boost of nutrients and can also hold more water and moisture in the soil. “Planting into soil that contains plenty of peat or compost will also hold water longer,” says Gilahad and Waldrop.
Another option is to use a chemical polymer that you place in the soil to keep your plants moist and the soil moist. “One way is to use a hydrogel product mixed into the soil to store water and then release it back into the dry soil,” says Gilhaad Waldrop. “(This is) suitable for plants that like a more consistent humidity level such as African violets and abutilones.”
Use a self-watering system
Want to make sure your plants get water? Consider using watering wicks. “Water wicks are a good way to extend the time between waterings,” says Gilhaad Waldrop. There are different systems that you can buy or make yourself. Use a piece of cheesecloth or wick placed in water and the other end of the wick in the soil of your plant’s pot. “If you’re going to be gone for an extended period, watering with a cotton wick in your water tank can be a great way to keep your plants hydrated,” says Hancock. “The larger the tank, the longer the plants can survive without water.”
When should you ask someone to water your plants?
If you’re going away for a long weekend or a week, you probably don’t need to worry too much about your houseplants. People often water once a week, but your watering schedule may be different if you have specialty plants that have specific watering and care needs. “Research shows that most people water their plants once a week, so take a look at how often you’re watering your plants,” Hancock says.
It will take more than a week to make sure you have some plans in place to ensure your plants are managed. According to Hancock, “If you’re going to be gone more than that time, you’ll want to do something, whether that’s wicking or lowering the light levels or finding someone to come and check on it, to ensure your plants stay healthy.”
Gilhaad and Waldrop agree and advise, “If you’re going out for two weeks, it’s best to bring a buddy into the water with you.” But if you want to be on the safe side, Hancock suggests always having someone check on your plants when you’re gone.