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How to keep your plants watered while you’re on vacation

When you’re jetsetting off for vacation, you’ve got to take care of a few things: buying the ticket, updating your passport, packing your bags, and for the houseplant enthusiast, coming up with a watering plan for all of your plants! Ensuring that your plants stay hydrated is critical so they don’t die while you’re away. You’ll especially want to consider this if you leave your home during the summer or have foliage with high watering needs — hello, ferns! Luckily, there are plenty of tricks out there to keep your plants happy and hydrated when you’re off on vacation.

A woman watering a plant box
Cassidy Phillips / Unsplash

Water your plants before you leave

For short trips under a week, you can probably get away with simply watering your plants before you leave. While you don’t want to drown any roots, give your plants a thorough soaking, draining any excess water once the soil feels completely wet. If you keep your plants in a bright area, move them into a shadier spot, whether they’re inside or outside. For outdoor plants, add mulch to make sure that your plants retain moisture throughout the week.

Humidity may also be a concern, especially if you have prayer plants and ferns that need constant humidity. Since you probably won’t want to run your humidifier while you’re away, consider other alternatives. The easiest way to go about it is by leaving your plant next to or on a tray of pebbles in water. You can also create an ad hoc greenhouse by placing a glass jar or clear grocery bag over your humidity-loving plant.

Use a water globe for your plants

Water globes are essentially spherical glass bulbs with long, thin stems that you stick directly into your plant. Over time, water drips slowly into the soil, so you don’t risk overwatering. To make sure that your water globe is working, draw on the water line and see if the water level drops after a few hours. If it doesn’t, adjust the position. In lieu of a globe, you can also upcycle a water or wine bottle for the same purpose. Overall, this method should work for around one or two weeks, suitable for thirsty plants such as ferns and calatheas.

Plants using wick system
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Administer a wick system

When you go to your garden center to buy plants, you might notice strings poking from the bottom of some nursery pots. These strings are attached to help you give your plant the proper amount of water. You can mimic the same concept with twine or plastic tubing at home. Stick one end of your string a few inches down into your soil and the other end in a container of water; you might need to tape the string ends to keep them from moving around. You can also keep the plant directly above a container of water, as long as the dirt and water reservoir don’t touch. This means of watering should last you a few weeks.

Move your plant into a self-watering planter

Before you leave for vacation, move your plant into a self-watering planter! These pots have a water reservoir at the bottom where water slowly wicks up to your plant’s roots. So that plant roots don’t drown, these planters usually have a divider between the soil and the water container. With a self-watering pot, you may be able to get away with not watering your plant anywhere between two to six weeks, depending on the environment. Just keep in mind that a self-watering planter might not be the best option for plants (such as cacti) where the soil needs to dry out between waterings.

Person watering a plant using a white jug
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Ask someone to water your plants

Depending on where you live and how warm the weather gets, most plants can survive two or three weeks without water. If you’re planning on going away any longer than that, consider asking a trusted friend, neighbor, or family member to check on your plants every one or two weeks. It’ll be easiest if you enlist a fellow plant enthusiast, but you can also leave detailed instructions about how much water and fertilizer to use.

With these tips in mind, you can leave town without worrying about returning home to wilted and desiccated plants. You can go about implementing a watering plan in many different ways. If you’re willing to invest a modest amount of money, you can buy an inexpensive water globe or self-watering planter. Upcycling household items such as strings and water bottles to create watering systems will also help your plants stay hydrated without costing you a dime. Or, you can even recruit a friend or neighbor to help you out! However long you’re off for vacation, rest assured that there’s a way to keep your foliage looking lush and green.

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Stacey Nguyen
Stacey's work has appeared on sites such as POPSUGAR, HelloGiggles, Buzzfeed, The Balance, TripSavvy, and more. When she's…
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